Mobile Home Park Residents Could Face Eviction for Winchester Area Development

John Dowling knows he’d be hard-pressed to find another 1,440-square-foot home for $800 a month in San Jose, where the median home price is $612,250. The 60-year-old retired electrical engineer moved 30 years ago into his pre-fab home at Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Park. He expected to live there for the rest of his life.

But developer Pulte Homes has been eyeing the park, adjacent to Santana Row and the Valley Fair mall in San Jose, which may mean residents like Dowling face the prospect of being forced to move.

“We’re just preparing for what could be the next step,” Dowling says. “But yeah, I do feel insecure about my future.”

Some of Dowling’s neighbors submitted letters to the public record going before the Rules and Open Government Committee when it meets Wednesday.

Cali-Arioto Properties owns the land. Like a lot of mobile home park owners in the region, the family proprietor is exploring the option of selling the lot, which houses more than 145 mostly low-income seniors and disabled residents. Real estate prices are going up and the park lies in a part of the city pegged for future mixed-use development under the city’s General Plan.

Fifty-seven of San Jose’s 58 mobile home parks lie within a mile of proposed urban villages, according to Wayne Chen, San Jose’s director of policy planning. Eleven sit adjacent to urban village boundaries, making the properties attractive to developers, like Pulte.

Sale of Winchester Ranch is tentative. And there’s been no official move in the city to rezone the parcel, where Sarah Winchester once grew her orchard, from agricultural to residential. But the park’s homeowners association started sending people to city meetings to show their faces and try to convince the city not to include the land within the boundary for an urban village development.

Calls to the property owners weren’t immediately returned.

Should the property sell and Pulte replaces the manufactured homes with market-rate condos, it would further contribute to the city’s shortage of affordable housing. It’s unclear, too, whether the Winchester Ranch residents would be compensated to leave their homes. That will likely be decided on a case-by-case basis, Chen says.

“That is one of our stronger markets,” he adds. “It’s a challenge because it does raise the question of how to do create diverse housing options for these portions of the population?”

A regional housing assessment requires San Jose to build 19,000 affordable homes between 2007 and 2014. Because the state decimated Redevelopment Agencies (RDA), the city has fallen behind, reaching only 20 percent of that goal to date, Chen says.

“We’ve done a good job on market-rate housing, but we’ve fallen behind on affordable housing because we’ve lost some of our tools,” Chen says, “especially redevelopment.”

Palo Alto is going through a similar struggle, trying to balance the needs of a growing demand for market-rate housing with the rights of low-income residents, Chen notes. Owners of Palo Alto’s last remaining mobile home park are about to sell to developers, too, displacing more than 400 residents.

The Winchester sale brings up the larger policy and philosophical issue of private property rights versus the public good, mobile home park residents point out. City planners say we’ll see a lot more cases like this in the future.

Property owners and anyone interested in weighing in on the issue can attend the Nov. 12 City Council meeting, when city leaders plan to talk about future housing needs.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

5 Comments

  1. “It’s unclear, too, whether the Winchester Ranch residents would be compensated to leave their homes.”

    Chapter 20.180 of the City Zoning Ordinance deals with the exact matter:

    20.180.630 Relocation and purchase assistance.

    “Without limiting the generality of the provisions relating to conditions which may be imposed upon a development permit under Chapter 20.100 of this title, the director, planning commission or the city council shall make any conditional use permit or planned development permit which may be granted under this chapter for mobilehome park conversion of use subject to a condition requiring a plan of relocation and purchase assistance for mobilehome owners and mobilehome tenants within the proposed project.

    Such a plan may include the following:
    1. Information to be provided to each mobilehome owner within the proposed project:
    a. A list of known available mobilehome lots in Santa Clara, Alameda, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, including any written commitments from mobilehome park owners willing to accept displaced mobilehome owners.
    b. Estimates from two moving companies as to the per mile costs of moving mobilehomes of various sizes including, but not limited to, tear down and set up of coaches.
    2. Measures to mitigate the adverse impacts of conversion upon mobilehome owners and mobilehome tenants. Such mitigation measures shall benefit mobilehome owners and mobilehome tenants of the mobilehome park from the date the application for the conditional use permit or planned development permit for the proposed conversion project is filed with the city, or from the date on which notices to vacate are mailed to mobilehome owners and mobilehome tenants, whichever is earlier. Mitigation measures may include but are not limited to:
    a. Moving expenses for furniture and personal belongings to a new residence in Santa Clara, Alameda, Santa Cruz or San Mateo County.
    b. Provision for payment of any or all portions of the cost of physically moving a mobilehome to a new site in Santa Clara, Alameda, Santa Cruz or San Mateo County, including, but not limited to, tear down and set up.
    c. For those who move to a multiple or a two-family dwelling, provision of a rent subsidy for up to twenty-four months. Rent shall not exceed the fair market rent for new construction and substantial rehabilitation for the Santa Clara County area as established by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Rent subsidy” is the difference between the rent of the multiple or two-family dwelling and the rent of the mobilehome space or mobilehome on the date of the notice to convert.
    d. Payment of the difference of rent between the old and new mobilehome park spaces for up to twenty-four months.
    e. Purchase of the mobilehome at its in-place value, as determined by a tested, certified, and designated member of a nationally recognized appraisal association. In-place value includes the value of any accessory structures whose installation has been approved by mobilehome park management, such as a porch or a carport. The appraisal is to be made no more than sixty days prior to its submittal.
    f. Extended leases or rental agreements (commencing at the conclusion of the right of continued tenancy period under subsection 3. of Section 20.180.360) for mobilehome owners and mobilehome tenants who are handicapped, and/or aged sixty-two or over, and/or of low income, and/or for mobilehome owners and mobilehome tenants with minor children. No mobilehome owner or mobilehome tenant covered by any such extended lease or rental agreement shall be unjustly evicted. “Extended lease or rental agreement” is a lease or rental agreement whose expiration date is extended at least ninety days.”

    • On the other hand, FactCheck, the mobile home park owners could employ the same tactic that the SJPOA did in it’s lawsuit against the people of San Jose and simply insist that the City’s Zoning Ordinance is irrelevant.

    • Thanks for the info the problem the residents facing relocation will face is one all to familiar here in San Jose – laws and contracts mean nothing to the Current Mayor and Majority of the City Council.

      As I type, they are probably working on changing this chapter/zoning ordinance in such a way that it expedites the sale/conversion of the land, revokes any rights or claims residents have and relieves the City from doing anything other than collecting taxes/fees owed

  2. Here we go again. Just when I thought we’re making some real progress… Got nothing against retirees and disabled, but for god sakes this shouldn’t be in the news to begin with. Arioto-Cali trust fund babies are about to hit the jackpot and Pulte’s got almost $2 Bil in the bank. Settle it out of court and help these folks move to a more affordable place. Fire/Police/Emergency services could’ve been sustained on a $600-$700 annual parcel tax in the early 80s and we’re clearly past that point – x10.

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