San Jose Discusses Ordinance on Mobile Home Park Closures

San Jose’s mobile home parks have become one of the last bastions of affordable housing in one of the most expensive markets in the nation. But the region’s soaring real estate values have made the properties beneath them a goldmine for landowners.

Thus, the city’s efforts to prevent displacement of low-income residents have sparked contentious debate about how to balance social conscience with the rights of private property owners.

The City Council on Tuesday will discuss an ordinance that would allow mobile home park owners to evict residents if they want to close the park without redeveloping it. Critics of the closure ordinance call it a loophole, a way for landowners to get rid of residents without paying for their relocation.

Under existing rules, mobile home park owners who want to sell their land to developers have to compensate each displaced household. Under the proposed closure ordinance, however, park owners could sidestep that requirement by closing the park to let it sit idle.

The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley cautions that property owners could use that as an excuse to close a park simply to get red of residents, while planning to profit off redevelopment at a later time. San Jose’s existing conversion ordinance already accounts for park closures, the nonprofit law group noted in a letter to the council. The proposed closure ordinance would allow property owners to skip public hearings and appeal directly to the city’s planning division.

“Such important land use and displacement issues must be reviewed with greater public scrutiny by appropriate public entities than the draft closure ordinance currently provides,” said Diana Castillo, the Law Foundation’s senior attorney.

San Jose imposed a moratorium on mobile home park conversions through August this year to give city officials time to hammer out a permanent policy. Hopkins & Carley, the law firm hired by mobile home park owners to lobby for the closure ordinance, said the city places an undue burden on property owners by putting them on the hook for relocation costs.

“The city seeks to extract money from a mobile home park owner to close the gap between market rents and the rents in a rent-controlled mobile home park,” Hopkins and Carley attorney Margaret Nanda wrote to the city. “Mobile home park owners did not cause that gap. It was caused by the city's rent control ordinance. Now the city wants the mobile home park owners to pay for the gap through rent subsidies or purchases at in-place value as a condition of closure. That is unconstitutional.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo wants the city to defer a vote on the closure ordinance until August, according to a memo co-signed by Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Lan Diep, Tam Nguyen and Chappie Jones.

“San Jose faces a housing crisis. We must protect the reasonable expectations of tenure of the approximately 35,000 residents that live in our mobile home parks—the largest number of any city in the state—to avoid making that crisis worse,” the memo states. “We must do so within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution and California law, however.”

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for May 16, 2017:

  • San Jose is moving forward with a plan to establish its own energy plan, which will give residents the option of switching to plans with a larger share of renewable energy. Called San Jose Clean Energy, the plan is slated to launch later this year.
  • The city is still debating whether to allow candidates to raise money for legal defense funds.
  • Police Chief Eddie Garcia wants the council to consider waiving permit fees on block parties for residents who promise not to use illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July weekend.

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 a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

7 Comments

  1. Oh my,
    The dear city wants to stick it to the landowners again what a surprise, I would think the economics would demand the tearing down of suburban blight and replacing it with another Borg cube. Can’t these transient drifters be rounded up
    and forced into the urban collective were we can video their every move?
    Resistance is futile!

  2. Social Conscience /ˈsōSHəl ˈkänSHəns/ noun: “a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society.”

    Could you please remind me again on what basis are the private property owners responsible for this?

  3. Totally disgusting proposed loophole. Law abiding citizens who don’t make loads of money really do deserve to live in their own home. Mobile home parks make it possible. I never thought I would end up in one but you can bet I am so grateful to be here. I am educated and conscious and serve people rather than myself.

    • Yes it’s your home, problem is it’s on rented land. Even if you owned the land, if you don’t pay the ever rising taxes the greedy old government will kick you off even faster than a landowner can. I’m guessing tax value of a plot of land big enough for a single trailer is going to be about $3000 a year in taxes around here, if you could find one.

      Now if the city really wanted to help it would allow the property to be subdivided and sold as single lots. What do you think that plot is worth?

  4. Mobile home parks were doomed by the 2040 Envision Plan. There were only less than a handful of citizens who frequented city hall meetings who understood what is going to happen.

    One of valiant good-hearted person, Martha, who consistently and repeatedly asked the Rules and Open Government Committee for a time-certain so that all the disabled and old folks in mobile home parks could be able to attend city council meetings to voice their concerns on this matter. She was snubbed by both the Reed and Liccardo administrations on this matter.

    Once the mobil home parks are vacated, the land will lay unhabitated until the issue dies a slow death and only then the development into High-density / commercial structures will rise.

    David S. Wall

  5. Today’s mobile homes are tidy doublewides with living rooms, dining rooms, and two bedrooms. Once inside, you would be hard pressed to realize you’re in a factory-built home. Owners are paying off loans as they pay ground rents. If evicted, the homeowners have literally no place to go, because no parks accept new tenants with old homes.

    Mobile home parks provide cozy resort living, with clubhouses, pools, and other amenities. I would hate to see mobile home parks disappear from San Jose.

    • When was the last time you heard of someone being evicted from a mobile home park in Manhattan? How many mobile home parks are in cities like New York or San Francisco? This is where our fearless leaders would like to go.

      On the other hand lots of space for a mobile home park in Detroit these days!

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