Op-Ed: A David and Goliath Battle is Shaping Up in Sunnyvale Over Mobile Home Rent Stabilization

Silicon Valley was once called the Valley of Heart’s Delight because of its fertile fields and wonderful weather. Times have changed for a large group of residents living in Sunnyvale. A David and Goliath battle is looming between some members of the Sunnyvale City Council, including its mayor, and their foes, a group of mostly retired mobile home park residents on fixed incomes who are being forced inexorably out of the city due to the council’s actions.

The David in this scenario are the mobile home park residents in the city who make up 10 percent of Sunnyvale’s residents by some estimates. As the economy has continued to heat up the Sunnyvale council has approved a number of “conversions” of these affordable housing enclaves and approved large developments of high cost housing.

The inevitable result is dislocation of the residents and a huge increase in the number of homeless in Sunnyvale.

The situation boils down to a Goliath in the form of the mayor and some on the council who have taken campaign contributions from the premiere PAC for mobile home park owners as well as the California Apartment Association and the National Association of Realtors. The latter gave Mayor Glenn Hendricks a whopping $70,580 independent expenditure donation in the last election cycle in which he ran. All these organizations are opposed to rent control or rent stabilization in any form.

To make matters worse, the Carlyle Group, a hedge fund with over $170 billion in assets, recently bought the second-largest mobile home park in Sunnyvale—Plaza Del Rey.

Based on their track record and their actions against tenants so far, they plan to force out residents at the conclusion of their new five-year leases (Carlyle has the first right of refusal to buy property under this new leasing scheme) and repopulate the park with high cost manufactured homes. For new tenants at Plaza Del Rey they have already increased the monthly rental space fee to $2,000 per month, which is in addition to a mortgage on their mobile home and property taxes.

In the face of long odds, the Sunnyvale Mobile Home Park Alliance and its members have begun a grass roots campaign to force the mayor and City Council to either pass a rent stabilization ordinance for Sunnyvale’s mobile home parks or allow the citizens to vote on the ordinance themselves.

Sadly, the city has for years successfully slow-rolled mobile home park residents who want a rent stabilization ordinance. Despite the fact that the Sunnyvale Housing and Human Service Commission voted to approve rent stabilization for mobile home parks as its top priority, the council voted to roll it into a broader study that covers a plethora of housing issues.

By design, an in-depth look at rent stabilization will be lost in the shuffle.

The mayor and the council members who, like him, have received contributions from the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association PAC and the National Association of Realtors, should do the right thing and either pass this important legislation or let the people of Sunnyvale vote on it.

Money may be the mother’s milk of politics, but it’s poison for the senior citizens living in Sunnyvale’s mobile home parks who are being forced from their homes. The antidote is legislation that protects this vulnerable group.

Joshua Grossman is a Candidate for Sunnyvale City Council Seat 2. Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Interested in writing an op-ed? Email pitches to [email protected].

6 Comments

  1. Not only Sunnyvale, but the entire Santa Clara County has been allowing massive conglomerate Corporations build hundreds of thousands of Apartments that only can be rented if 2 people are making six figures. Most of the houses in Sunnyvale are renting rooms for 1000 to 1500 for a room. Instead of addressing the housing issue they built a football stadium, massive new corporate Headqurters for the major corporations and the only company that helped the homeless was Cisco who made a 50 million dollar donation to help keep the homeless shelter open in Sunnyvale. All of these companies got huge tax breaks from Trump and the majority not only did not give back to their workers but did not do anything for the communities where it is needed. I make 6 figures and cannot afford to live here No more. Foriegn Investment bought up 65 percent of the homes in an overheated housing Market and our city council is owned by greed and the local corporations. Where is the requirement of the corporations to contribute, where is any plan for low cost housing? Where is there any idea of what to do to prevent this area from turning into the current problems in Oakland and San Francisco before we run out of land to actually use. We should be able to be the innovators and make a model for the rest of the country.

    • > I make 6 figures and cannot afford to live here No more.

      Think of this like a forager. You’re in the forest hunting for roots and berries and you can’t find anything because everything has been picked clean by massive numbers of other foragers.

      What can you do?
      A. Ask the forager licensing authorities to revoke the foraging licenses of other foragers?
      B. Pick up and move to a different forest where there aren’t so many other foragers.

      Hunger and starvation are nature’s way of telling you that the way you’re trying to feed yourself isn’t working.

      • I hear this from a lot of people…they make over $100K and they can’t make it here. I’m sorry but this is BS because those people are living way above their means and it’s purely their fault. They drive a brand new BMW which they leased for $500 per month, they rent a luxury apartment, they eat out all the time, they buy high end clothing and have high debt! I also know people who make $80K a year, have a studio apartment in SJ and drive an older model Toyota and they are doing just fine. STOP whining and learn how to live with what you make!

        • > STOP whining and learn how to live with what you make!

          Bingo!

          Two thirds of lottery winners are bankrupt within just a few years.

          Living within one’s means is an essential skill in a market economy.

          Only governments have the capacity to borrow from future generations endlessly and without conscience to pay for their lavish and selfish do gooder fantasies.

          Jerry Brown is not paying for the Stupid High Speed Rail on HIS credit card; he’s paying for it on your kids’ credit cards. Somebody has to pay the interest on the billions of debt, and it’s NOT Jerry.

  2. “at the conclusion of their new five-year leases”

    this was no MTM boilerplate or verbal contract. This is a five-year contract. It was read and signed. If a leasee re-up option was asked for at the time of signing, likely the rent would be higher, this is how commercial property is handled.

    You can’t ask to be a full citizen, with access to rights and privileges of adulthood, and not be responsible for your actions. Its called agency, either you have it or you don’t. If the argument is that these leasees have no agency, the contract is then void. If they do, then they knew what they were doing when they signed a FIVE-year lease and now the term of that contract is over.

    This is how adulthood works.

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