City Council Considers Greater Protections for Residents of San Jose’s Mobile Home Parks

To prevent potential displacement of hundreds of low-income residents, San Jose will consider ramping up protections for mobile home parks.

The updated policy would give the City Council a final say on whether park owners could convert their mobile home community to another use. It would also err on the side of preservation, according to staff reports, while providing for “good-faith” negotiations between park owners and mobile home residents about issues such as relocation compensation. The council will consider the proposal when it meets Tuesday.

San Jose is home to 59 mobile home parks, with nearly 11,000 units that house about 35,000 residents. That’s the highest concentration of mobile homes of any California city. Prefabricated homes are inherently more affordable, making them a valuable resource for low-income and fixed-income residents.

Unlike apartment tenants who don’t have to invest in the property, mobile home park residents often buy their home up front and rent the land beneath it. Because of the up-front investment, state law recognizes that ownership by regulating construction, maintenance and closure of mobile home parks.

Last year, the city put a moratorium on mobile hoe park conversions. The temporary ban stemmed from concerns raised by the residents of Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Park, who feared displacement after learning that the park owners planned to sell the land to a developer.

No landowners have developed a San Jose mobile home park into another use since the city adopted its current conversion ordinance some three decades ago. But soaring real estate prices have made park closures a profitable option for landowners. That’s especially true for Winchester Ranch, which lies near Santana Row and within the boundary of planned development.

“While this policy will not outright solve the housing affordability problem or prevent the conversion of mobile home parks, it does give more certainty to residents, owners and the administration as to how the process should unfold when presented with a closure or conversion,” Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Rose Herrera and council members Chappie Jones and Tam Nguyen wrote in a shared memo.

Lee Arioto, whose family has owned the Winchester Ranch mobile home property for 90 years, said he still wants to close the park.

“Our vision for our property includes a new park, a conversion to a commercial component, such as a hotel or office building, new homes and most importantly a new community for our residents,” he wrote in letter to the council. “There will also be walking paths for the surrounding neighbors to provide access to Santana Row.”

His said family wants to build a three-story apartment complex, which the park’s existing residents can move into. The plan, he said, would create jobs and bring in about $2 million in new taxes to the city.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for February 23, 2016:

  • An audit directed the city to strengthen its policies governing personnel investigations.
  • Empowered by a new state law authored specifically for this purpose, the city will finally convert the Communications Hill grand stairways into what's essentially a city park. As a public walkway, the city wasn’t able to set a curfew or otherwise regulate the area, which is surrounded by townhomes. Zoned as a park, however, the city can better curb the crowds who flock to the stairways to exercise.
  • The city will consider extending a pilot program that offers discounted parking rates to car-share riders.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
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.

7 Comments

  1. What happens to Mobile Home Parks Council if doesn’t amend the Envision 2040 Plan to reflect their proposed “protections?” Another set of Council yehoos could easily abolish the aforementioned protections asserting the moronic Urban Village aspects of the Envision 2040 Plan.

    How will Council provide compensation to Mobile Home Park property owners? Will proposed “Protections” pass Constitutional muster under the doctrine of “Un-Constitutional takings of personal property” by the cold, depraved heart of a government?

    On another matter, Habitat for Humanity gets a “Sweet-heart” deal from the city with reference to the rent that Habitat pays for a rather large space at the worthless City of San Jose Enviromental Innovation Center-Now Habitat gets another “Tax-payer hand-out” to create a low-income family home. Will this development result in the “Diminution of Property Values” to adjacent properties?

    San Jose’s penchant to embrace Communist Ideologies has turned San Jose into a “Festering Sh*t-hole.”

    David S. Wall

  2. “Last year the city put a moratorium on mobile hoe park conversions” .

    Shouldn’t the city put a moratorium on converting everything to something new, bigger, better, more expensive in order to preserve the small town flavor of San Jose.

    Why do we need to grow? Why not preserve the city as a snapshot of life in February, 2016?
    We could be the city of the past frozen in time at the peak of Silicon Valley history.
    We could be the Virginia City or Tombstone of our time.

    The problem here people is time doesn’t stand still. A beer at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon in Tombstone cost the same or more than a Bud in any Pizza place in down town San Jose.
    You can get a ride into town on steam train in Virginia City or you can cruise into town in your Tesla and park in front of the Bucket of Blood. You can rent a room for the same price that you might pay at the Marriott.

    My point in this is, it is not fair to tell some people to put there lives on hold to pass up on a chance to make improvements or an evil profit by selling or developing their property.
    Time and inflation move on.
    Suppose the City passed a ordnance that said you can only sell your house for what you original paid for it.
    How long before San Jose looks like Detroit were I can buy a house for $1500.

  3. First, in full disclosure before my comment: I live in a Manufactured Home park with my family and have a 20 year mortgage to pay off the home and I’m pissed off.

    NOW…my thoughts and research:

    Quote from Lee Arioto in his letter to the Mayor and Council:

    “My grandfather’s barn, while not an original Sara Winchester structure, is
    very special to our family and was converted into the clubhouse for the mobile
    home park. I propose that with the help of the project developer and the City that
    we relocate the barn and incorporate into a prominent location within the newly
    proposed development.”

    Spoken like one would expect the landed gentry of America to sound. Arioto wants to save his “very special” grandfather’s barn, …but to hell with all the homes that will be bulldozed down that the elderly currently live in. He’s actually proposing they stick around and watch as their homes are bulldozed down and wait for tiny apartments to be built for them to pay him rent for to live in. How very kind of you Mr. inherited wealthy landowner that lives in a custom built mansion in Pleasanton and didn’t work like your grandfather did earning the money to buy the land 90 years ago.

    Is Lee Arioto paying attention to the national conversation on wealth inequality?

    There was a regional meeting just last Saturday about displacement in the Bay Area. And guess what? Look closely and you will see that billionaires and other wealthy people in other nations (NOT U.S. CITIZENS) are buying up Bay Area land as quickly as they can. Do the research and you will see that Pultegroup, the developer that Arioto is working with, has sold over 40% of the homes they built in Seattle, (under the Urban Village type plans like San Jose), to foreign nationals! Many of whom do not even live here! They buy up the homes, and rent them out! They are making U.S. citizens into modern day serfs! In other words, we are redeveloping our lands to benefit the wealthy in OTHER COUNTRIES!!!

    I ask you to ponder this question: (and Bubble and David Wall, I seriously mean this…I need your best thoughts here in this day and age of globalization)

    Who has greater protection under the United States Constitution? A) A Foreign National that doesn’t live here but owns land in the U.S. or B) A United States citizen that could never afford to buy land?

    Why are we so quick to invoke private property rights under the constitution when we are often really protecting foreign nationals and not U.S. Citizens? We have to look carefully at who the constitution is now protecting and seek stronger protection for American soil and the Americans actually living on it.

    It’s A LOT more complex than it appears. Dig deeper and ask yourself, when we are protecting landowners at all costs, who are we really protecting? Let’s check Arioto’s facts that he gives a crap about the city. I propose a larger conversation. I want to protect the United States of America!!! If greed has its way, if we let Arioto and other wealthy land-owners use the constitution as a way to sell off American soil to the wealthy in other countries, then we as a city and country will deserve what we have coming. Globalization is here folks. I believe that Arioto’s willingness to continue to kick around the elderly, is a sure sign that he too would be more than happy to sell off American Soil to the highest bidder on the global market.

    To all the land-owners: Check yourself. Are you an American Patriot or are you looking for the highest bidder?

    The Mayor of San Jose may not get the baseball team he wants here, but he might just get his fame being the Mayor that stood for selling off the Bay Area to foreign nationals in order to get tax dollars for the city. I say, stand up for something bigger Mr. Mayor. Stand up for the elderly and you will be on the right side of history. I don’t care what the Constitution says about private property rights! …..it’s my job as an American Citizen to change the Constitution if I think it’s being used to give away our soil AND diminish the dignity of our nation’s elderly. I am not willing to sit idle and let our country’s most vulnerable be treated like pawns in Liccardo and Eric Schoennauer’s and Arioto’s chess game and use the Constitution as the vehicle by which to do it.

    If Arioto wants to sell his property, then he should sell it to the residents that live there!!!!! Do not sell our soil off to the highest foreign bidders!!!!! Globalization is killing us slowly while we all are working our asses off to save for a down payment to buy “real property”. Our country doesn’t stand a chance if we don’t stand up to men of no principles like Arioto.

    It’s time we re-read Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” pamphlet that was the spark to the American Revolution. Along with it, I suggest “Agrarian Justice”, one of Paine’s most incredibly insightful documents on a human beings “natural property” rights. I will be standing in front of the bulldozers and be arrested along with others at Winchester when and if the time comes. I’m SICK and TIRED of the wealthy kicking the vulnerable around AND selling off our country at the same time.

  4. Jill,

    You’re conflating a lot of different issues. Since you appear to be sincerely asking, here’s how this commenter sees it:

    The basic issue you raise is ‘freedom’. But when you discuss ‘freedom’, you can’t limit it to specific things, like economic freedom, or the freedom to speak your mind, or the freedom to own land, or the liberty to freely buy or sell your products or labor to certain individuals. Either we have freedom, or we don’t. There is no middle ground (although the government would love for you to believe that freedom can be parsed).

    For example, when you say…

    If Arioto wants to sell his property, then he should sell it to the residents that live there!!!!!

    …I ask: “Why?” If it’s his property, then he should be free to decide who he wants to sell it to; and whether he wants to sell it, and for what price. That’s freedom.

    And when you say…

    Do not sell our soil off to the highest foreign bidders!!!!!

    …I ask: Why not? If the land belongs to you, you either have the freedom to sell it to whomever you want — or you don’t. Why are you free to sell your land to someone in Michigan, but not to someone in Canada?

    And when government forces someone to sell something, whether they want to or not, and to whom, and at what price — then freedom is lost.

    That’s what is called a ‘slippery slope’, because if that precedent is set, then sooner or later you will be told that you must do the same thing. You will forfeit your freedom.

    The ‘freedom’ issue was lost long ago. If we limited ourselves to the original Constitution and Bill of Rights, we would still have genuine freedom. But freedom was lost long ago, with the passage of the 16th and 17th Amendments, among others.

    The 1st and 2nd Amendments are now under fierce attack. Loss of those basic liberties will mean the end of the rule of law. When the courts — which are sworn to uphold the Constitution — instead force business owners to bake and sell a cake, against their religious beliefs, then the State is deliberately destroying the First Amendment. When the government confiscates firearms owned by citizens merely because they are ‘senior’ citizens — and the courts side with the government — then we as a country have surrendered our basic legal, founding document.

    All we’re doing now is fighting a series of small, rearguard actions. But the fact is that “freedom” has been lost. There is no such thing any more. We give lip service to liberty, but we as a country have forfeited freedom.

    Now we are only as free as the State allows. And the State allows us less freedom every year. It’s gone.

    • Thank you for your sincere and thoughtful reply smokey. I appreciate you trying to help me understand what is happening. I’m hoping we can continue this thread because you are right, I sincerely am asking. I cannot believe our constitution is the vehicle by which landowners can create neighborhoods only to later destroy them. There seems to be a legal issue to tease out around about a landowners responsibility to society. When the constitution allows a land owner to create new addresses with mail boxes for each home, creates streets, submits plans to the city for approval of a residential neighborhood, and then asks families to come onto the land to live and take on mortgages, it feels very predatory and not in line with the spirit of the constitution which is to protect the average American from serious injury.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly that we are losing our freedom in this country. On that we agree for sure. Ask Lee Arioto too. Even if he ends up being able to close the neighborhood and bulldoze down the elderly’s homes, the city can and will dictate what he can and cannot do with the land. He is not free at all to do what he wants with it anyway, so it is hypocritical for the city to defend his right to “close a business” only then to tell him what “business” he can open. Can he build 10 large plots for the wealthy to live? NO… not a chance. The city is telling him it’s high-density housing no matter what. You are right about the loss of freedom. I’m trying to point out the hypocrisy of using the constitution as the legal reason you should get to close down a neighborhood, but then the city is using their obscene power to then dictate what he can build down, to the amount of cars allowed in that complex. And I am trying to wake up the citizens of San Jose to let them know that it is the wealthy in Abu Dhabi that are ending up as our landlords. Yes, I do care who we are selling to. If over a hundred U.S. Citizens are being booted out of homes they love only for the city to invite foreigners to buy up new homes to rent out to those same U.S. Citizens, we are giving up our freedom and our land.

      Could you then help answer the question that I raised about who our constitution protects more: Landowners (regardless of location in the world and citizenship) or United States citizens that don’t own land.

      You and are both arguing a similar idea about our freedom being lost and our liberty. I think we have reached a point in our nation that things are so screwed up that some kind of revolution is brewing. My daughter asked me at age 9 years old, (I am not making this up), “How come I can be born on the planet but not have a place to live”. Landlords that continue to be heartless and only thinking about the bottom line should read up on some revolutions and see what happened to the greedy landlords.

      I will concede that for the first time in my entire life after being someone that said I would never own a gun, I appreciate the second amendment for the very first time in a very real way. I am a peasant being kicked around and now realize the importance of having one. There are usually many sides to take during a revolution. People usually align themselves with the side that has treated them the least badly or the group that promises them at least the right to live on the land they were born on (regardless of whether or not freedom will exist after). Right now, I would not be able to defend landlords. They have pushed me and my family around to the breaking point. I know why the poor and landless hear the call for a different form of government.

  5. The last thing we need is Trump, imho. Seems eminent domain by SJ might be appropriate in this case. There are solutions, get creative. Not so much a freedom issue as a fairness and decency one.

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