Justice settles family case, seven West Coast mobile home parks to pay $2.2 million

In January, in the largest federal settlement in a case alleging housing discrimination against families with children, the owners of seven mobile home parks in California and Washington have agreed to pay more than $2 million in damages.

The settlement, approved late in January by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, resolves a Justice Department suit against several California partnerships that allegedly discouraged families from living in their parks or restricted their activ ities.

"Today's settlement is a victory for all families with children, particularly those of modest income who benefit most from the availability of mobile homes," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "It signals the Civil Righ ts Division's continued commitment to defend the rights of America's families to live in the homes of their choice."

In the suit filed in 1992, the Justice Department claimed that the owners violated the federal Fair Housing Act by discouraging families with children from living in the park. The suit, which a group of private plaintiffs later joined, also alleged that the owners enforced discriminatory rules against the families, such as restricting the use of the pools and other facilities to two hours per day.

Patrick noted that under the settlement, families with children found to have been deterred from renting spaces or who suffered discriminatory treatment will share in an approximately $2.2 million fund. Two named representatives of the class and three identified aggrieved persons will share $240,000. All other identified families will receive up to $5,000 each unless they can prove additional damages. Of the fund, $470,000 will cover fees of class action attorneys and another $16,000 will cover the court-related costs.

The California properties involved in the settlement are: Sierra Vista Mobile Estates in Hanford, Plantation Mobile Estates in Healdsburg, Eastridge Mobile Estates in San Jose, Plaza Mobile Estates in Santa Ana, Laurel Canyon Mobile Estates in S un Valley, and Rancho Fiesta Mobile Estates in Visalia. Mobile Estates in Bremerton, Wash. was also involved in the case.