The Cambrian

House demolished at closed Cambria trailer park

A stop-work order is seen this week on the chain link fence in front of the Rod & Reel Trailer Park on Main Street.
A stop-work order is seen this week on the chain link fence in front of the Rod & Reel Trailer Park on Main Street. ktanner@thetribunenews.com

A 1940s-era Main Street home and adjacent, detached garage were demolished recently in what appears to be the latest step toward redeveloping the former mobile-home park property.

The process has been underway since at least 2004.

It took less than an hour July 13 for the Robert Ens Construction crew to knock down the buildings at the Rod & Reel Trailer Park, 1460 Main St., according to Steve Cole, who has lived on the property as an informal caretaker for more than a decade.

Also, one by one, old mobile homes are being removed from the site, although some may have to be demolished.

Rubble resulting from the building-demo process likely would have been removed quickly, but a county Code Enforcement specialist put a stop order on the project later that afternoon because property owner Steve Miller didn’t have a county permit to demolish the structures.

At that time, none of the agencies involved knew for sure whether the old home contained asbestos, removal of which requires careful, specialized treatment.

(In recent years, Cambria Fire crews had used the house for training exercises. Before they did, they sealed suspect interior surfaces under Visqueen plastic, asbestos protection just in case, according to Fire Chief William Hollingsworth.)

Art Trinidade, county code enforcement supervisor, said Tuesday, July 19, that the stop-work order remains in effect, but that his division likely would let Miller and Ens clean up the site, since recent testing revealed no asbestos in the rubble.

An after-the-fact permit process for the demolition was launched “in error” at the county Planning Department on Monday, July 18, but was rescinded the next day, Trinidade said, because of the stop order.

The Rod & Reel property is between the Old Cambria Grammar School and the Cambria Veterinary Clinic.

Miller

For some time, The Cambrian had left messages for Miller, as well as others for his attorney and other representatives. A written answer to some questions was received right on press deadline Wednesday.

Miller, who submitted the answer through his attorney, has had a home in Cayucos for 20 years. Miller and his family members own the park.

He wrote that “the Rod and Reel mobile home park has a construction permit from the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to reconfigure the existing 20 rentable mobile home spaces and modernize the utilities and infrastructure. The park will remain as 20 rentable mobile homes on mobile home spaces. New mobile homes will replace the very outdated existing units, which are in the process of being relocated.”

“Efforts to begin work under the HCD permit were stalled when the county asserted some permitting jurisdiction over the abandoned stick-built buildings, despite the State HCD overall jurisdiction for the mobile home park. After the county placed a stop-work order on the property, work proceeded only with the clearance of county staff. All work ceased over the weekend. On Monday (July 18) a demolition permit for the buildings was issued by county building only to be retracted on Tuesday by other county staff.”

Miller, his family, contractor and consultants “are working with county staff to ascertain what permits are required from the local governments and to clean up the existing debris in the meantime.”

Confusion

The demolition-permitting process has been somewhat muddled, Trinidade said, because those two agencies — HCD and county — have some jurisdiction over the property.

The situation can be “crazy,” Trinidade said, “unnecessarily confusing, when you have two agencies not necessarily talking to each other” about the same project or plans. “For a client, it can be a little daunting.”

According to an HCD inspector, that state agency controls various aspects of the 74 mobile home parks in San Luis Obispo County, including Rod & Reel, as well as in other counties of the state.

But San Luis Obispo County has authority over Rod & Reel, too, especially for anything that has to do with the land under the mobile homes, Trinidade said.

The park will remain as 20 rentable mobile homes on mobile home spaces.

Steve Miller, property owner, via his attorney

For instance, demolishing the house, building a new one, or “if they want to expand the park … convert it from a mobile home park to mobile home estate (in which the homeowner would own or lease the land), the owner would have to come to us first.”

Any mobile homes would be inspected and licensed by the HCD, he said.

Allison Menor, HCD program technician in Riverside, said Monday, July 18, that no permit is needed to remove or demolish mobile homes, and that the Department of Motor Vehicles would issue a permit to move them on public roadways.

Demolition of the buildings or any modifications to the park requires “a conditional use permit from the local jurisdiction,” she said. That would be the county, according to Trinidade.

The Rod & Reel owner(s) would go through the county’s planning process, Menor said, “and then apply to us for a permit to operate the new project,” which would be “treated pretty much as a new park.”

History

According to historian Dawn Dunlap, Frank and Grace Sebastian (not related to owners of the historic Sebastian’s Store in Old San Simeon) built Rod & Reel in the late 1940s to accommodate sportsmen who came to Cambria to fish, collect abalone and rock-hound. Before that, Antone and Maria Periera Sebastian (Frank’s parents) ran a dairy on a small ranch that included the trailer-park property.

Eventually, the park catered to permanent residents, according to Lorraine Gomes, a Sebastian niece-in-law.

Subsequently, Ray and Carolyn Connelly owned it for about 30 years. They sold it to Miller in early 2005.

Shortly before escrow closed, the North Coast Advisory Council (NCAC) approved Miller’s initial plan to replace the mobile home units with 13 Cape-Cod-style homes of up to 1,900 square feet each, five apartments, 45 parking spaces and 10,000 square feet of office space. As part of the project, approximately 1.3 acres of permanent open space would have been dedicated.

Permitting and other problems ensued, including California Coastal Commission’s concerns about how Miller had closed the park (considered low-income housing). Those and other issues reportedly put the project on hold for a time.

In 2010, Miller and his consultants told NCAC that he was planning to build a three-phase, redesigned, 16-home Cypress Residences project there.

From then until recently, there’s been little evidence of progress, other than a “for sale” sign on the chain-link fence, touting the multifamily zoned property of 2.4 acres with water and sewage-treatment service for up to 22 units.

Recent plans for the demo and the future of the former mobile home park have been mostly under wraps and under the radar for locals, many of whom seemed surprised by the work July 13 and since.

However, for more than a month, property owner Steve Miller advertised in the Craigslist “free stuff” category that he was giving away the individual mobile homes.

The ad read, “mobile homes in park that is in process of renovation, free for removal. Eight total, 2 double-wide, 6 single-wide homes. Titles included. Suitable for renovation or for ag storage with salvage title.”

That posting has since been removed.

Conflict

Recently, caretaker Steve Cole has been at odds with property owner Miller, especially after Monday, July 11, when a 48-hour eviction notice was put on Cole’s front porch. He said later he was advised by legal counsel the notice was illegal.

Soon thereafter, Cole said, electrical lines and equipment throughout the park were cut, removed or demolished, so electrical service couldn’t be easily restored.

“I was told by deputies that created substandard housing conditions,” the Vietnam-era veteran said.

After visits to the site by various authorities, including Ian Landreth, county code enforcement resource protection specialist, and the deputies, contractor Ens brought a generator to the site to provide power to the unit in which Cole resides. On Tuesday, July 19, after neighbors complained about the noisy generator, work began to place a temporary power pole, so more permanent electrical service could be restored.

Miller wrote that power was disconnected to Cole, “as part of the construction, but temporary power was put back in place with a generator and a new electric service is being installed for the project construction, which will serve the Cole residence without interruption.”

On July 14, Cole received a properly delivered, legal 60-day eviction notice, after he had already formally notified Miller that he’d be leaving within the same time frame.

Editor’s note: Cole, who has been active for years with NCAC, is seeking another caretaking position with housing, or an inexpensive rental. Reach him at 909-9797.

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