The city of Carson was expected this week to announce a settlement on a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over its failed efforts to protect low rents at mobile home parks.
But with a legal deadline just days away, the city and park owner James Goldstein have been unable to reach a compromise. Goldstein is demanding more than $150 million in damages.
"The negotiations are complicated," said Goldstein's attorney, Richard Close. "There is a lot of money involved."
Goldstein has sought for three years to subdivide two parks in Carson: Colony Cove Mobile Estates and Carson Harbor Village. Doing so would eliminate city rent control, and allow him to profit by selling off spaces one by one.
Mobile home residents, who represent a significant voting bloc in the city, have been adamant in their opposition to the plan.
Though the City Council was advised that Goldstein was likely to prevail in court, the council rejected the subdivision of Carson Harbor Village and established a moratorium to block the subdivision of Colony Cove.
Goldstein sued and won on both counts, and is now seeking attorneys' fees and damages resulting from the delay.
On advice from the city attorney, the council finally approved the subdivision of Colony Cove on Tuesday night.
In a sign of how unpopular subdivisions remain, the initial vote failed, 2-2, with Mayor Jim Dear and Councilwoman Julie Ruiz Raber opposed and Councilman Elito Santarina abstaining.
City Attorney Bill Wynder then called for a closed session, after which the council was persuaded to approve the subdivision on a 4-0 vote, still with Santarina abstaining.
In explaining his vote, Santarina said, "I have championed the cause from the very beginning. By voting the way I did, it gave me a feeling of more confidence that in the negotiations a miracle can happen."
The council faced an administrative deadline of Oct. 26 to either approve the subdivision or reject it and face another lawsuit and increased exposure to damages.
The city had hoped to reach a deal with Goldstein in time to include the approval of Colony Cove in the broader agreement.
The deadline acted as a spur to negotiations, but with the subdivision now approved, it is unclear how long the talks will drag on.
Wynder said he expected to meet with Goldstein's attorneys next week to present revisions to the city's offer.
He also said he expected Carson Harbor Village to come up for reconsideration by the council in January.
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