City Considers Moratorium on Mobile Home Park Conversions

As 150 mostly elderly, mostly fixed-income residents of Winchester Mobile Home Park face the prospect eviction to pave the way for high-end development, the city will consider a moratorium on trailer park conversion.

The pause should give the city time to rework its mobile home conversion ordinance, which mayoral candidate and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen calls “untested, and unclear” in how it gives displaced residents affordable housing alternatives.

“We need to ensure that our existing laws governing conversions are clear, up to date and adequate given the changing state of the economy and new laws pertaining to mobile home park conversion,” she writes in a Rules and Open Government Committee memo calling for the moratorium.

As San Jose moves forward with plans to build more urban villages—mixed-use, transit-oriented developments—it has to figure out how to accommodate low-income housing, including mobile homes. Affordable housing advocates worry that the fate of Winchester Ranch could signal a larger trend of converting more mobile home neighborhoods into new upscale condos.

Winchester Ranch residents manifest that fear in their fight to hold on to the homes where they hoped to retire. The park’s owners are in talks to sell the land beneath those 111 units to make way for more luxury condos and retail in west San Jose, near the historic Winchester Mystery House, Valley Fair, Santana Row and right off of Interstate 280.

“Residents there, and at other parks, have shown increasing concern about the future of their homes,” Nguyen writes. “Any conversion there, or at any of the other 58 parks in San Jose, would represent a threat to the health and welfare of thousands of seniors and low-income residents.”

San Jose has more mobile home parks than any other city in California, with nearly 11,000 units in 58 parks. Five of those parks lie within boundaries marked for urban villages, making them targets for development.

The mobile home conversion issue has played out across the state, Nguyen notes. Last year, Costa Mesa denied a mobile home park conversion and several other cases made their way to the state Supreme Court. In December, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into a law a bill that allows local governments to deny conversion if most of the homeowners oppose it. But complications remain.

In San Jose, an existing ordinance includes provisions to relocate mobile homes or offer in-lieu rental subsidies for displaced residents. But it’s often impossible to up and move a pre-fab home. Even if possible, it’s unlikely that another park would accept a new unit.

“ We should take time during this moratorium to do an accurate catalogue of options available for relocation throughout San Jose,” Nguyen says. “Simply providing a rental subsidy, regardless of the amount, also is likely to be a poor solution. While we are seeing a lot of residential development in San Jose, it has not yet provided enough supply to bring down the cost of housing.”

The city’s rental vacancy rate is 2.7 percent, the third tightest in the nation. And the average rent cost remains far too expensive for most mobile home park residents to afford. As of last week, housing listings only showed 122 available units, the bulk of them with piled-up waiting lists and only three pegged for low-income seniors. While typical rents at mobile home parks in the region range from $700 to $1,100 a month, the average rent for the overall market sits above $1,800.

“The reality is the housing situation in San Jose was much different when this ordinance was drafted,” Nguyen says. “The median cost of housing was less than half of what it is today, and we have lost the tools to increase the amount of affordable housing options we once did.”

Also on the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for April 9, 2014:

  • Local seniors want public transit operators to launch a campaign to remind the public to give up priority seating to the elderly. The Senior Citizens Commission wrote a letter asking the Valley Transportation Authority to distribute brochures and posters with a public service announcement. “Ideally, a teenager clutching a skateboard in a senior seat should at least attract attention and perhaps rebuke, if not a citation,” writes Joyce Raybourn, chair of the seniors commission.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

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.

10 Comments

  1. con·tract
    noun

    noun: contract; plural noun: contracts
    /’känˌtrakt/

    1. a written or spoken agreement, esp. one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law.

    • law
      lô/
      noun
      1.the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties.
      “they were taken to court for breaking the law”

      Laws trump contracts, buddy.

      • Great! So you must be then familiar with the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause?

  2. Ms. Nguyen, ever thought of “converting” The Jungle @ Story Road i.e. YOUR DISTRICT 7?

    A councilwoman that presides over one of the largest bum encampments in the country is focusing on a mobile home park on Winchester?!? Oh, priorities priorities……

    • If it weren’t election season, this would not be an issue. SJ already has a mobile home park conversion ordinance that provides for compensation for displaced mobile home park tenants. Park owners have a right to rely on existing law and not have to face politically motivated changes during every election year.

  3. When one drives around San Jose and sees all the huge, new apartment blocks, high density condo complexes, and housing authority hovels, one should consider whether the City’s policies make any sense. Our leaders seem to believe that providing housing for anyone in the world who manages to get here legally or otherwise, supersedes their responsibility to guide San Jose’s growth in a way that makes our city better, not just bigger.
    A cynical person might conclude that developers and immigrants “rights” groups are playing our city council like a fiddle.

    • Not surprising that someone using the handle “John Galt” is against property rights and landowners developing their properties as they choose.

  4. Ms. Nguyen, ever thought of “converting” The Jungle @ Story Road i.e. YOUR DISTRICT 7?

    A councilwoman that presides over one of the largest “transient” encampments in the country is focusing on a mobile home park on Winchester?!? Oh, priorities priorities……

  5. My mom lives in that park. She is disabled and a widow. She lives off my dad’s ssi. Without this senior park, she would have nowhere else safe and affordable to reside. This senior park is a community always looking out for and taking care of eachotther with the goal of being able to hold onto their independence. I am glad SJ City Council is finally taking steps to investigate this issue and support low income seniors.

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