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Planning Commission blocks mobile home park conversion

Country Mobile Home Park

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A plan by the owner of a Santa Rosa mobile home park to stop renting spaces and start selling them was panned by angry senior citizens Thursday and unanimously rejected by the Santa Rosa Planning Commission.

In a 6-0 vote, commission members cited the strong opposition by mostly low-income residents and the apparent motive of the owner to sidestep rent control as reasons for blocking the plan.

“This is a slam dunk for me,” said Commissioner Erin Carlstrom. “I don’t intend to make an entire community of seniors essentially homeless.”

The out-of-area investment group that owns the 178-unit Country Mobile Home Park off Fulton Road has been seeking the conversion for four years. A 2007 city ordinance aimed at protecting residents of the city’s 14 mobile home parks from such conversions was repealed after the courts shot down a similar county law. That paved the way for the owner to again push the project this spring.

But city planners and attorneys have taken a dim view of the plan, calling it a sham conversion not for the benefit of the residents but rather aimed at avoiding rent control.

After attorneys for both sides jousted about the complex legal and legislative history of laws governing such conversions, City Attorney Mike Casey told the commissioners they had a limited, but important, say in the matter.

“Our hands are tied, but they are not tied so much that you can’t exercise a little bit of discretion here,” Casey said.

Contrary to the park owners’ contention, Casey said commissioners could consider a survey of residents when trying to determine if the conversion was bona fide. That survey found that 138 households, or 77 percent, opposed conversion, while only nine, or 5 percent, wanted it.

The residents’ attorney, Will Constantine, told the commission it was the park owners’ refusal to even discuss the prices residents would need to pay to buy their lots that brought such strong opposition.

“Never once have they made a serious attempt to get resident support,” Constantine said.

Resident Suzanne Angeo told the commission that she and her husband are “just above low income” and therefore would lose protection from state rent control laws if the conversion passed.

Since they can’t afford to buy their space, their rent would go up to the market rate of more than $1,000 a month, double what they pay now. They said they would be forced to move, sell their home at a loss, leaving them with nothing, she said.

“That’s economic displacement,” Angeo said.

Resident Bill Sleet said the conversion would erode the city’s stock of low-income senior housing “sorely needed for our rapidly aging population.”

He called the plan little more than a “scheme to circumvent rent control and at the same time make the owners a lot of money.”

Residents applauded several speakers and erupted in cheers as the commissioners voted.

Constantine, who specializes in helping mobile home communities throughout the state oppose such conversions, said he expects the owners to appeal the decision to the City Council, and to the courts if necessary.





6 Responses to “Planning Commission blocks mobile home park conversion”

  1. This should cause those who object to Santa Rosa being labeled anti-business to pause and reflect on what this says to someone thinking of investing in the city.

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  2. Senior Citizen in a park says:

    I live in a mobile home. I am a retiree and have a comfortable income. My rent is 482/month. This includes my water, and I have the use of the clubhouse, pool, landscaping etc.

    I can understand why the mobile home park owner is upset. His costs go up every year. He has to maintain the park roads, and the systems, and pay taxes. Rent control on the park is NOT LOW INCOME REQUIRED. Even if you have a very good income, which i do, you still have rent control. Is this fair? No.

    The property owner is subsidixing me and the others who live here. If I need rent assistance I can apply for section 8 just like any other low income person. If I’m not low income why should I get a low rent? Just becasue I’m in a trailer park?

    As a business owner (retired) and small investor I can see that mobile home parks are a nightmare to own and this owner just wants out. He has put years of work and money into this place and wants a fair return. Why is that a bad thing? Isnt that the American way? If government wants to pay to lower rent then they should but why should a private person get penalized because we have mobiles and are old? Ridculous. Of course I’m glad I get a deal but is it fair?

    And if you want to keep your place in the park and not buy your space it’s ok. Do it. Youre not forced to buy your space.

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  3. Lyn says:

    I’ve never understood why anyone would want to put their home on another person’s property. The risk of future conflict is obvious.

    But the reason is cost. One gets the benefit of a home at a much lower price than other options. But at the risk of being asked one day to move that which isn’t really mobile.

    I guess we can forget about property rights here. The property owner is always portrayed as the bad guy, period. And, it’s implied, he should be forced to keep renting his land at below market prices in perpetuity.

    I’d be sympathetic to a compromise if the “housing rights” people were open to one. They’re not, it appears.

    This should cause those who object to Santa Rosa being labeled anti-business to pause and reflect on what this says to someone thinking of investing in the city.

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  4. Noah says:

    You guys are heartless. People who have worked all their lives should be left to the whims of “The out-of-area investment group that owns the 178-unit Country Mobile Home Park”? Even if the present renters are “allowed” to stay, what about the next group of retirees? Where are they going to get the extra income needed for the “out-of-area investment group” to increase profits?

    You are short-sighted, near-term, selfish and greedy thinkers and you should be ashamed.

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  5. John Galt says:

    “Voice of reason” is right, again.
    The city of Santa Rosa and needy citizens are the beneficiaries of free enterprise. All they have to do is participate in it.
    The city should allow these conversions.
    Especially since they have so many social programs that must be funded with taxpayer dollars.

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  6. Voice of reason says:

    Condo conversions of mobile home parks are another unintended consequence of rent control. Rent control has been shot down as unconstitutional everywhere in California except for in mobile home parks. I support Section 8 subsidized housing for low income people which the taxpayers support equally. Why should a few property owners be singled out and have to subsidize their tenants? That would be like saying that Safeway should have to sell groceries for a reduced price to low income people instead of the government providing the food stamps program.

    In reality, the conversion process allows people to continue renting their mobile home space as long as they want to at the rent controlled price. People would also have the option of purchasing their space under the condo conversion law. It’s silly to say that these people would be made homeless. Santa Rosa’s efforts to block legal mobile home conversions was overturned in court. If the owners of mobile home parks could charge market rates or even if there was vacancy decontrol, then we wouldn’t see so many condo conversions. The condo conversion route is the only way for owners of mobile home parks to get out of their untenable situation of having to subsidize their tenants. Providing subsidies for the poor should be the job of the government.

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