Mobile Home Park Owners get $4.3 Million

Napa News
By Kevin Courtney
Owners of Valley Estates Mobile Home Park have reached a settlement with the flood control district to sell more than half of their Soscol Avenue project for $4.3 million.

The settlement, which is the most expensive so far for the flood control project, reimburses the park's owners, Victor and Pamela Smith, for the value of 2.7 acres and the loss of future profits.

The flood project last year took more than half the park, requiring the removal of 53 of 96 coaches that had provided affordable housing to low-income owners and renters.

The Smiths had challenged both the flood district's offer for their property and the district's right to transfer part of their park to Napa Valley Wine Train for a new commissary.

The district should not be able to condemn land to make way for the Wine Train's commissary relocation, argued their attorney, Michael G. Thornton, of Nossaman Guthner Knox & Elliott in San Francisco. The Wine Train is primarily a tourist operation, not a public utility, he said.

Thornton said the flood district had originally offered the Smiths $2.14 million. The final settlement of $4.3 million represents a fair resolution of the case, he said.

"They are salt of the earth people who built this property up over 15 years of hard work," Thornton said. "I expect them to continue operating and providing low income housing into the future."

Heather Stanton, flood project manager, said the district's first offer represented an appraiser's estimate of the value of the land under the mobile homes.

The settlement agreement also includes the value of lost revenue to the Smiths, who are left with a park less than half the original size, Stanton said.

The district also factored in the cost of legal fees if the case had gone to court later this month, she said.

Valley Estates, located at 533 Soscol Ave., is the most expensive of the 32 land acquisitions to date, Stanton said.

The next most costly was the former Rough Rider building on Soscol for which the district paid $4.1 million, she said.

The total cost of Valley Estates was more than $6 million, including $1.1 million in moving and relocation expenses for residents and $700,000 to buy 14 mobile homes owned by the Smiths.

The district is also obligated to build a $100,000 sound wall to protect the remaining residents from the noise of the Wine Train's operation, Thornton said.

The district needed more than half of Valley Estates as part of a plan to increase the river's water-carryingcapacity in a flood. The district plans to build a flood terrace on the east bank and move the Wine Train tracks farther from the river.

A large swath of light industrial businesses, many of them from the early 1900s, are being razed on the east bank of the river opposite downtown.

The $238 million flood project is taking 65 residences, including the 54 mobile homes at Valley Estates, Stanton said. Nine of the 11 remaining residences have been acquired by the city along Napa Creek.

When the flood control land acquisition budget was put together in 1996, costs were estimated at $35 million. Because of inflation, expenditures have turned out to be double that, she said.
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