ANALYSIS: Despite decision, Firs Mobile Home Park will close unless law changes

By Jack Mayne

The Firs Mobile Home Park real tragedy is because of poor advice from those who guided the 170 mostly Hispanic residents.

Continually ignored by attorneys and political guidance for the residents is the fact the city had absolutely no choice to allow eventual closure of the facility, and because state law directs them to do exactly what they have done: allow Jong Park to redevelop his property to its “highest and best usage.”

State law said all along – and still says – the old and crumbling mobile home park is not the highest and best usage of the land.

Potentially, the lawyers and supporters of Firs would have much better aided the people who have lived in the park for many years if they had gone to the Washington Legislature instead of the streets of SeaTac and its city hall.

The state could have helped, but the city was powerless to do so.

Just more time
King County Superior Court Judge LeRoy McCullough on June 7 gave the residents a three month extension when he ordered the city and the park’s owner to redo some of the paperwork required for the park’s closure, effectively reversing a portion of an earlier ruling and buying the residents additional time. The ruling sent the case back to the SeaTac Planning director for review.

Judge McCullough made it clear it was a technical delay and it is not a real win for the residents of Firs. They needed better help in the SeaTac Blogs’ opinion.

“So that’s where we are, I am reversing and remanding it so that the particulars that were adopted by the people of SeaTac can be followed, all right?” Judge McCullough ruled on June 7.

So most Hispanic residents have been under virtually certain eviction since October 2016. That is when park owner Jong Park said they must leave within a year because he was going to develop a hotel and apartments on the land.

Most of the mobile homes on the pads are old and cannot be moved, exacerbating the issue for the residents. Pads and the property near them are what mobile home owners rent from the park owner, and those rents have apparently been properly paid.

The real issue is the way a property owner, under state law, uses his land.

City hasn’t jurisdiction
SeaTac, and all other cities in Washington state, have no authority to not follow state law. Only the Washington Legislature can make changes in state law. Some action on the matter has been made at recent legislative sessions, but nothing to change the rules governing the Firs decision.

Jong Park followed all the rules, said Judge McCullough. But with an apparent interest in ameliorating the residents’ situation, he made some changes in its June ruling. That gave the residents a few more months before what appears to be the inevitable closure of the park.

The essential problem is what about the residents?

The judge said he was not requiring a new State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) decision in the matter.

“As I’ve indicated, the … decision timeline passed and I’m not going to undo that. Nevertheless, the plan can be revised pursuant to proper input in a proper appeal period.”

There were complaints that not all papers and required lists were property distributed to all of the residents.

Spanish not required
In addition, the major resident complaint seemed to be that the city did not publish their documents in Spanish that virtually all Firs’ residents have as their first, often only, language.

“Spanish interpretation of some of the notices is encouraged, as is City facilitation of a certified interpreter, but I will indicate that that’s not required,” Judge McCullough said in his June 7 oral decision.”

With other provisions earlier, Judge McCullough said 90 days will be enough time for the city to make its determination.

“Within 90 days, the owner will issue a mobile home park relocation plan,” and the city will have 90 days to “approve that plan, deny that plan, or require some modification.”

“If that plan is approved, the director may then follow with a certificate of approval and the process that’s been followed before will be followed again.”

That means the residents have to leave, under state law and with interpretation of Judge McCullough.

SeaTac had no choice
What bothers us is the way the residents were guided by political and legal overseers.

The law is clear and SeaTac city officials followed the law. There is absolutely no way the city of SeaTac could have acted in the manner that would have helped Firs’ residents. The state law spells out ways these matters are handled.

Judge McCullough simply gave the outcome a bit more time to come to fruition.

It is the same result as it was in the beginning, it just took longer.

Where was the action in the Legislature to get the state laws on mobile home parks changed so the inevitable outcome could be different?

Political manipulators kept Firs’ residents demanding the City of SeaTac should violate state law and deny Mr. Park’s “best and proper use” of his property.

That would have just prolonged the inevitable.

But those same people giving resident’s guidance in SeaTac did nothing about changing the state law.

What changes that were made in Olympia were not suggested or guided by South King County lawmakers because they were not asked to do so. We also note that one former city official and current state legislator kept urging Firs residents to demand city officials change the outcome of the Firs matter, even though she apparently could have been knowledgeable and helpful.

Firs’ residents should have received better help and guidance.


2 Responses to “ANALYSIS: Despite decision, Firs Mobile Home Park will close unless law changes”
  1. Vicki Lockwood says:

    Thank you Mr. Mayne for clarifying this situation. The City of SeaTac never had one ounce of responsibility for saving these homes. It was (or should have been) clear when they paid their monthly rent that they did not own the property beneath their mobile homes.

    They knew they did not own the land when they acquired these residences. This is precisely why their homes sold for about 5% of what it would cost to buy an entry level home that included the property the home sits on. We all have to shoulder the risks associated with our decisions. They chose to risk the possibility of a relocation notice. When that notice was given, whose fault was it? No one’s except those who were willing to accept that risk.

    I am sorry that this happened to the residents, and I am angry that some individuals and groups used the residents to further their own selfish political causes while prolonging the relocation date that is inevitable.

  2. Chuck D'Arielli says:

    Gosh could the “SHE” you mention as former city official and current state legislator be the ex city council member and mayor Mia Gregerson? Who has done NOTHING but try to make the city council look bad since the people removed from office. And hopefully will be voted out of her current position in the next election.