Headlines below. Full articles follow after the Headlines
Santa Monica, CA – Trailer Park Development Approved Without Condos
Santa Maria, CA – Resource for manufactured-home owners
Hayward, CA – Hayward moves to preserve senior-only mobile home parks
Santa Barbara, CA – Jackson Bill to Give Mobile Home Residents a Voice Advances Out of Committee
Sunnyvale, CA – Sunnyvale council explores its authority in mobile home parks
Sunnyvale council explores its authority in mobile home parks
By Alia Wilson
After nearly six months of hearing from unhappy residents about the living conditions of the Fair Oaks Mobile Home Lodge, the Sunnyvale City Council voted on April 23 to explore its enforcement options to address possible code violations.
“If there is a violation that would cause us to be able to have a hearing, I want to pursue it,” Mayor Tony Spitaleri said.
The city’s hands have been tied from taking any action, however, as the state took the power to enter the park and enforce code from the city several years ago.
“Various council members have gone out to this site and observed personally what the conditions were and reported back, including Mr. Spitaleri, describing it as a situation where we’re dealing with a slumlord,” Councilman Pat Meyering said.
“The most basic function of government is to address these challenges that residents bring to our attention; that’s why city government was formed.”
Meyering suggested applying a provision in the municipal code concerning the licensing of individuals and a requirement to obey all laws. Through that provision, the city should be able to revoke the park owner’s business license, Meyering said.
According to the city manager, however, the business license is more of a revenue measure for the city, and the revocation procedure in the code is designed to deal with people who aren’t paying their taxes.
“If there is a violation of this chapter or municipal code, the tax
collector can go through a proceeding to revoke the license that can be appealed to the finance director, but there is no appeal to council, so it’s a confusion about how to deal with this very real problem. But I don’t think the answer lies there,” city attorney Joan Borger said.
Borger suggested a provision in the mobile home rent control laws that allows the city to file a nuisance action in the event that there’s some evidence that there’s a nuisance.
Borger added that the mobile home residency law is landlord/tenant law, and the enforcement mechanism is the courts.
“There’s nothing preventing residents from suing their landlord,” Borger said.
Three Fair Oaks residents spoke at the April 23 meeting, as well as two residents of neighboring Sunnyvale mobile home parks, Plaza del Rey and Casa de Amigos.
Broken windows, litter, bent porch rails, wooden shards and chipping paint have been a nuisance for residents for so long they decided to take matters into their own hands with a park-wide cleanup this month. Additionally, the park owner brought in eight new homes to replace dilapidated vacant ones.
But ongoing problems such as a lack of amenities, including no hot water for the washing machines, an unfurnished clubhouse and a closed pool, are things Councilman Dave Whittum said should still be addressed.
“These are things that don’t meet our standards as a community,” Whittum said. “The services have been stripped, the amenities have been stripped.”
Whittum recommended that the council discuss taking a position on legislation that would advocate restoring powers at a local level.
The council voted unanimously to advocate for legislation, as well as to look into what the city can do to address the situation.
Jackson Bill to Give Mobile Home Residents a Voice Advances Out of Committee
A bill by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, to prevent lawsuits and give mobile home owners more of a say when their mobile home park is being subdivided and sold passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday. The vote was 7-3.
Existing law allows mobile home park owners to subdivide and sell the individual lots on which homes are placed. This is commonly referred to as a “condo conversion.” But without clarity in current law, condo conversions have commonly left mobile home park residents without a say in the process and cities confused about how to proceed.
Senate Bill 510 would allow — but would not require — a local government to disapprove of the conversion of a mobile home park if a majority of parks residents do not support it.
“This makes the process of ‘condo conversion’ more fair, by giving residents and local governments a way to have a voice in the process, if they so choose,” Jackson said. “Mobile homes are a source of affordable home ownership. We should be as respectful of these homeowners’ rights as we are of any others. At the same time, it’s vital that we prevent costly litigation to local governments that drains limited resources.”
Current law on the issue has been unclear, and the uncertainty has led to dozens of lawsuits. The City of Goleta has spent more than $500,000 just on litigation expenses related to the conversion of the Rancho Mobilehome Park.
California has nearly 5,000 mobile home parks. Typically, residents own their mobile homes but rent the spaces in which their homes are placed.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor. It has the support of a number of groups, including the City of Ventura, the County of Santa Barbara, the County of Ventura, the Goleta Manufactured-Home Owners Coalition and the Ventura Manufactured-Home Residents Council.
Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.
Hayward moves to preserve senior-only mobile home parks
By Rebecca Parr
HAYWARD — Five of the city’s nine mobile home parks are open to senior residents only, and Hayward officials are taking steps to make sure they stay that way.
A proposal to make it illegal to convert senior-only mobile home parks — open to those 55 and older — to all-ages parks goes before the city Planning Commission on Thursday. The zoning change, part of Hayward’s effort to preserve affordable housing for seniors, is supported by the Hayward Mobilehome Owners Association.
“We need more senior housing in Hayward, and this is a viable option to help that,” said Kathy Morris, the association’s president.
When the city’s mobile home parks were built in the 1970s, all nine were senior-only, Morris said. After four converted to allow residents of all ages, the association lobbied the city to preserve the remaining five as senior-only. The City Council agreed, and in 2010, directed staff members to come up with an ordinance.
The proposal was put on hold after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that American Canyon’s senior-only mobile home ordinance violated the federal Fair Housing Act. Then, in 2012, the 9th District Court of Appeals upheld the city of Yucaipa’s ordinance prohibiting conversion of existing senior-only parks to all-ages ones, effectively overturning the American Canyon decision, according to the staff report.
“The court’s decision opened the door for us” to move forward with
Hayward’s proposed ordinance, Morris said.
The ordinance would only apply to parks where at least 80 percent of current residents are age 55 or older. Those include New England Village, Georgian Manor, Hayward Mobile Country Club, Eden Gardens and Spanish Ranch II.
The four parks that allow all ages — Continental, Eden Roc, Pueblo Springs and Spanish Ranch I — would not be affected.
Hayward’s nine mobile home parks have about 2,500 spaces and more than 5,000 residents. The five senior-only parks have 1,230 spaces, Morris said. She did not have the number of residents living there.
None of the owners of the five senior-only parks have indicated they plan to convert the parks to allow all ages, said Maureen Conneely, assistant city attorney. However, New England Village Mobile Home Park representatives expressed concern about the ordinance, according to the staff report. Brandenburg, Staedler & Moore, which owns New England Village, has no plans to change the park from seniors-only, confirmed Rose Minasi, director of property management.
“But it does prevent us from converting to all-ages if that need ever comes up,” Minasi said. “It has certain restrictions that may or may not be beneficial to future business.”
Carol Friesen, treasurer of the mobile homeowners association, said the mobile home parks were not designed for families.
“There is no place for children to play. There are no sidewalks, no play equipment,” she said. “The only place for them to play in the streets, and that’s not safe.”
The park where Morris lives, Pueblo Springs, was converted to an all-ages park, and she estimates it has twice as many residents as it used to.
“We lost our sense of community, our sense of cohesion. We had social functions, we had potlucks. Then, boom, that all went away,” she said.
Busy families have different priorities, Morris said.
“I have nothing against families, but they have their own lives. They have soccer and stuff with the kids. We have working parents. It’s a whole different lifestyle,” she said.
Traffic has increased, making it more dangerous for seniors out walking and for children, she said.
The manager of Eden Roc, one of the parks that allows all ages, has a different perspective.
Dixie Guy said the park attracts families because of its small-community atmosphere.
“It feels safer here. And affordability has a lot to do with it, especially if you want to live in the Bay Area,” she said.
Eden Roc has a small play area for younger children, though there isn’t a lot geared toward preteens and older, she said. The children ride their bikes in the streets, but she said it hasn’t been a problem.
The City Council is scheduled to consider the planning commission’s recommendation on the proposed zoning amendment at its May 7 meeting.
Resource for Manufactured Home Owners
A woman’s frantic call for help in a recent letter, plus a shocking appeals court decision unfavorable to owners of manufactured homes in a Goleta park remind us of our unique, sometimes precarious situation in which we own our homes, but rent the spaces on which they are located.
Since mobile homes stopped being mobile years ago, and now require thousands of dollars and special equipment to relocate, most owners of manufactured homes are captive customers in a somewhat monopolistic relationship with park owners, and subject to a severe risk of economic exploitation. The risk, unique to this type of shared ownership, results in an economic imbalance of power between park owner and homeowner.
The Northern Santa Barbara County Manufactured Homeowners Team (NSBMHT) was formed several years ago to promote the welfare of owners of manufactured homes, and provide education to residents and others on matters relating to manufactured homes. The next NSBMHT meeting is Monday, March 25, 1:30 p.m., at the Casa Grande MH Estates clubhouse, 519 W. Taylor in Santa Maria. The program will feature Community Action Partnership services, including weatherization/energy savings, and minor repairs. For more information, call Jamie Rodriguez, 478-8356, or Bill Willingham, 478-0535.
Our meetings will be the fourth Monday of every other month, with an informative program open to all residents of manufactured home parks in North County.
By interacting with members of other parks, we get a broader perspective of our commonalities and differences.
NSBMHT’s mission is also to provide representation for residents of manufactured homes. NSBMHT works with federal, state, county, city and private organizations in matters that may have a bearing on conditions in manufactured-home living.
We participate in the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League (GSMOL) legislative action network to promote legislation and keep informed on regulatory and judicial issues affecting manufactured-home owners.
The 2013 GSMOL legislative package includes three bills, two of which are highlighted here:
AB 1205, a manufactured-housing mediation program. Too often in manufactured-housing communities, disputes arise between homeowners and management. Homeowners have few options to resolve these disputes. Turning to the courts is costly. AB 1205 will be a vehicle for working this year to build support for replicating a successful program from the state of Washington that provides mediation services funded by a per-space fee to assist homeowners and management in informally resolving disputes, and protecting homeowners from unfair managers.
AB 692 provides for grants and loans to homeowners in need of repairs. The state Mobilehome Park Resident Ownership Program (MPROP) is funded by an annual fee on manufactured-home owners in California. GSMOL is sponsoring AB 692 to permit a portion of the existing fund to be used to assist homeowners in need of repairs or accessibility improvements to their homes.
The third bill, SB 510, is to protect homeowners from unfair condo conversions. It will be the topic of a future column.
North County MH owners have another resource to access information besides the NSBMHT meetings and legislative action network. The SLOMAP Web site — slowmap.org — contains a page of 15 agencies and organizations with kinds of assistance available to homeowners in North County. Its legislation page provides updates on legislation supported by GSMOL, including a link to the full text of bills in the Legislature.
Need help with your manufactured-home issues? Come to our meetings with your questions, check the Web site, and participate in the legislative action network.
The Santa Monica City Council votes 4-3 in favor of developing one of Santa Monica’s last remaining mobile home parks with 377 apartments, but no condominiums.
By Jenna Chandler
Village Trailer Park, one of two remaining mobile home parks in Santa Monica, will be converted into a large apartment complex with 377 units and ground-floor retail under a new development agreement approved 4-3 Tuesday night by the City Council.
Opinions on the dais differed about whether the new plan, which does not contain any condominiums, will actually make the project more affordable to future residents. The approval comes as city officials try to persuade private developers to build more “workforce” and family housing, in part to cutback on gridlock caused by commuters.
Under the new Village Trailer Park development agreement—which requires a second vote before it is officially adopted—38 of the 377 apartments will be deed restricted to tenants with “very low” and “extremely low” incomes. An earlier plan restricted 16 of 161 apartments to tenants with “very low” and “low” incomes. There would have also been 216 condos.
Also under the new plan, a small section of the park, enough for 10 of the existing 105 trailers, will remain open under the ownership of the current property owner and developer, Marc Luzzatto. He has the option to shut it down in as soon as five years.
It is “highly probably we will seek to redevelop that parcel,” Luzzatto said.
In the earlier plan, Luzzatto agreed to donate the parcel, valued at $2.5 million, to the city so it could retain the 10 trailer pads.
Tuesday’s vote was 4-3 with councilmen Tony Vazquez, Kevin McKeown and Ted Winterer dissenting. McKeown and Winterer said the new plan is “arguably worse.”
“We’re getting a few more units, but with residual parcel, it’s a worse deal,” Winterer said.
But maybe this time, the agreement will actually stick.
In December, the council rescinded its approval of an earlier deal with Luzzatto and re-opened negotiations in the hopes of securing more affordable housing at the site. The changes made to the agreement over the past few months swayed Gleam Davis’ opinion Tuesday night.
“The shift to an all rental project increases the affordability,” she said. “In this day and age… asking a young person… to save up $100,000 to purchase a condo makes that prohibitively expensive.”
There were more than a handful of young adults who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting to urge the council to approve the agreement, which requires the developer to reach out to nearby employers, such as those at the Colorado Center and Lionsgate Entertainment, when renting the units.
“The project is exactly what the city needs… we desperately need more housing,” said Luzzatto, who is a Santa Monica resident. Referring to the earliest of plans submitted to the city, he said the project used to have a much larger commercial component, which could have generated more traffic. It is now 93 percent residential.
In addition to the 38 deed restricted units, 99 have to be rent-controlled at current market rates, according to the plan. “That’s also a benefit,” Davis said.
A recent study done by the city found only 45 percent of workers in the Bergamot area—which encompases the trailer park—could afford to rent a home in Santa Monica and just 19 percent could afford to buy a condo. One percent could afford to purchase a single family home.
At 2930 Colorado Ave., just east of 26th Street, Village Trailer Park was built in 1951. It was originally one of 11 trailer parks in Santa Monica, providing residents an inexpensive option for home ownership—but is now just one of two.
In the summer of 2006, the park owners announced their intent to close the park, a community described by its residents—many of whom are elderly—as tight-knit, void of crime and altogether irreplaceable. Not wanting to lose their homes, some have fought the plans for development.