Nonprofit corporation buys North Long Beach trailer park left seriously damaged by previous owners

The roads within Friendly Village Mobile Home Park in North Long Beach are severely damaged due to shifting and sinking ground caused by an underground buildup of methane gas. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

A North Long Beach trailer home park with a history of conflict between the previous landlords and tenants was sold in March 2021 to a nonprofit corporation for $11 million.

The sale of the Friendly Village Mobile Home Park will partially fund a $56.4 million settlement won by over 100 families who sued the park’s previous owners, Friendly Village MHP Associates, Sierra Corporate Management and Kort & Scott Financial Group, in Nov. 2019 over neglectful living conditions at the property.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2017, with tenants represented by Brian S. Kabateck and Shant Karnikian with the Los Angeles law firm Kabateck LLP, and Gary Fields with the Long Beach firm FieldsLaw.

According to a Nov. 2019 article by the Long Beach Post, the trailer park was built on a former landfill, causing methane to accumulate beneath the ground until it reached dangerous levels despite warnings made to the landlords by the County and State. In 2016, the State of California recommended that the land be dug up so that the trapped gas could escape. However, this recommendation was ignored, and the continued underground buildup of gas caused the land to shift and sink.

According to a press release by Kabateck LLP, the shifting land caused “sewage backups, electrical problems and structural damage to the residents’ property.”

Upon in-person observation by the Signal Tribune on April 1, 2021, it was clearly visible that the roads within the Friendly Village Mobile Park are still heavily damaged, making it difficult to drive on the extremely uneven ground. Every few feet there is a significant bump, dip or crack in the road, with newly laid asphalt scarring the ground throughout the park, where attempts were made to patch up the worst of it.

Multiple patches of asphalt have been laid throughout Friendly Village Mobile Park to help repair the damage. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

The 2019 Long Beach Post article also mentions that the park’s previous owners cut all pest control services. This is in line with another Nov. 2019 article by ABC7, which reported that residents experienced an infestation of rodent vermin.

After it was sued by the park’s tenants, Friendly Villages MHP Associates filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Oct. 2018.

As of Monday, March 1, 2021, Friendly Village Mobile Home Park was purchased for $11 million by ACI Friendly Village, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation recently founded by Affordable Communities, Inc. and affiliated companies, which buy and manage mobile home parks as affordable housing.

The firm Force 10 Partners acted as court appointed financial advisors in the sale of the park, and contacted over 200 potential buyers.

According to a press release by Firm 10 Partners, ACI’s principal, Maurice Priest, told the court that he intends to “manage, operate, and maintain the property, so that families can continue to live there and not lose the investment they have made in their homes.”

“We knew this unique property required a unique buyer, and we are pleased that ACI, with its excellent track record of restoring dignity to distressed mobile home parks, will help start a new and brighter future,” said Michael VanderLey, a partner at Force 10 also working on the transaction.

District 8 Councilmember Al Austin spoke about the sale of Friendly Village Mobile Home Park during a virtual town hall event he hosted on Zoom and Facebook Live on Tuesday, March 30. Austin said that ACI Friendly Village has begun taking steps to correct the damage done by Friendly Village MHP Associates, Sierra Corporate Management and Kort & Scott Financial Group.

“This new owner of the mobile home park on Paramount [Boulevard] is already working to make improvements to the park and working to restore good faith relations with the residents. As you may recall, many of those residents won a multimillion dollar judgement against the previous owner of the mobile home park due to neglectful conditions at the Friendly Village Mobile Home Park, and so we welcome what looks like will be a responsible new ownership there,” Austin said.

According to the press release by Kabateck LLP, the residents of Friendly Village Mobile Home Park are low income.

“This stabilizes an affordable housing base in the district,” Austin said, “so that’s good news.”

The sign for Friendly Village Mobile Home Park in North Long Beach (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

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