The Lazy Wheels Mobile Home Park, considered a community eyesore by the city for decades, is still not gone despite the city ordering its removal no later than 2018.
On Aug. 5, 2013 the Ceres Planning Commission approved an action to file a Notice of Nonconformance which limited the park’s use to a window of five years – meaning it had to be gone by 2018. The city determined that the park, which has been around for 73 years, is no longer a non-conforming use for its zoning and had to be abated by 2018.
According to Ceres City Manager Tom Westbrook, the governor’s response to COVID-19 froze all evictions and has staved off the dismantling of the park.
The state of California bought a chunk of land across from Ceres High School north of Whitmore Avenue to change the footprint of the Whitmore interchange as well as the link to local surface streets. The state found it easier to buy the entire property rather than pieces of what was needed for right of way. Some of that land included the low-income trailer park. The state has since sold the land to Sugarman Asset Group which invested in it to either sell or develop the freeway commercial sites.
The owner of the property was holding through the process of evictions as dictated by the state Housing and Community Development Department, then COVID-19 hit.
“As soon as the pandemic hit that process at least stopped relative to some of the state requirements where property owners couldn’t evict people,” said Westbrook.
The state’s extension of a moratorium on evictions until June means no action can be taken for a while.
Not only is the park an embarrassment for highway travelers but is occupying ground on which a tax-producing freeway frontage business could potentially thrive.
This is not the first time the state has throttled the city’s attempts to rid Ceres of the park. City officials wanted to buy and clear the site with redevelopment agency funds – until the state robbed cites of such funds and the city could not afford the purchase for economic development purposes.
The new owners of Lazy Wheels will be required to follow the specific requirements of the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for the closure of mobile home parks. That process will take at least a year or longer, and all residents will be provided with notice as prescribed by HCD. It also requires the owner to make the arrangements for any relocation of residents.
The state’s purchase of the park is what triggered the city’s move to declare it is non-conforming to zoning so that a new owner would know that the mobile home park use was not what the city intended to be long-term, even though the park has been around for seven decades.
Some of the units at the park were purchased and moved off by the state, which never had an intention to own the park for long.