San Jose Lawmakers Look for Ways to Protect Westwinds Mobile Home Park From Eviction

Rob Leeper and his wife have lived at Westwinds Mobile Home Park in North San Jose for more than 30 years. It’s where they raised their two sons and developed friendships with many of their long-time neighbors. But last week, Leeper pulled a warning letter off of his front door that said he may have to find a new place to live once the ground lease expires at the end of August 2022.

He panicked.

“This past week has been a real roller coaster of emotions for all of us,” he said, referring to the 700-plus families that live in the park. “Remaining calm when the state of your home and livelihood is at stake is not an easy task.”

The notification that Leeper received stems from a dispute brewing between the management company—MHC Operating—and the property owners, the Nicholson Family Partnership. Last week, MHC Operating sued the owners claiming that they want to illegally force residents out and reclaim the grounds for themselves. But according to the Mercury News, the Nicholson family refutes that.

Co-manager Bruce Nicholson said in a statement that MHC has been “unwilling to collaborate to find a long-term solution for the tenants, taking the unfortunate position that it has no obligation whatsoever to its tenants or to us when the land leases expire.”

While the contract dispute unfolds in court, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilman Lan Diep want to fast-track a General Plan amendment to help preserve mobile home parks. The reform, first proposed in March 2018, would change the land-use for swaths of mobile home parcels that are zoned for high-density residential housing to an exclusive mobile home park designation.

“Our city is proud to have more mobile home park owners than any other city in the country,” Liccardo said at a Thursday morning press conference. “For a city that is experiencing a dreadful housing crisis, we currently need to hang on to the affordable housing that we have. This is natural affordable housing.”

Diep—who represents District 4, which encompasses Westwinds—said the potential closure of the park is personal. During his first campaign for the D4 seat three years ago, he said he befriended a couple from the Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Park who told him what it was like to live with the impending threat of displacement as developers sought to replace their home with luxury housing.

“Mobile home residents are homeowners—they don’t own the land beneath their homes, but they own the units that they have,” Diep explained. “And it’s very hard to sell your home for a fair market price to recoup your investment when a potential buyer knows that the park’s going to close.”

Huy Tran, an employment rights attorney who’s challenging Diep’s re-election this year, has also gotten involved with the situation at Westwinds.

“As we look for opportunities to build more housing, the once reliant option for affordable housing, our mobile home parks, have become the prime targets for redevelopment for profit,” he said at a news conference that took place an hour after the one staged by Diep and Liccardo. “This has been known since 2014 when the owners of Winchester Mobile Home Park first gave notice of intent to convert their park.”

Tran also accused Diep of authoring a memo in 2018 to “squash” efforts to create an exclusive land use designation for mobile home parks. Diep’s proposal—co-authored by Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and council members Magdalena Carrasco and Tam Nguyen—sought to delay work on the zoning policy for roughly a year so they could finish completing other council priorities.

“I support the mobile home community and I feel I’ve been consistent,” Diep told San Jose Inside. “I challenge anyone to point out that I’ve done otherwise.”

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

9 Comments

  1. > San Jose Lawmakers Look for Ways to Protect Westwinds Mobile Home Park From Eviction

    Sounds like “San Jose Lawmakers” are handing out property rights to favored individuals.

    Isn’t that what kings and emperors do? I thought we had a revolution to stop that kind of stuff.

    • They’re vote counting. 700 mobile home residents compared to a couple of property owners who probably don’t even live in San Jose.

  2. As mentioned, mobile home owners do not OWN the land beneath them? I say who does? As we know throughout history those who have power (not just physically nor mentally) have ways of increasing their odds of OWNING the land which we all walk on.

    Spiritually speaking, The earth belongs to all. Share her beauty of life giving. We are only here for a short period.

    The Concept OWNING the LAND will eventually change as those Mobile Home Owners are facing now.

  3. Generally our City’s decisions pertaining to “affordable housing” are unwittingly designed to make San Jose crappier- and they’ve been quite successful at that.
    However, this idea of preserving mobile home parks should at least have the effect of maintaining the crappiness index at a neutral level.
    So kudos on this one City Council.
    Given enough time, even a blind monkey at a typewriter will type a sensible phrase every once in a while.

  4. What a mess all around. For all you landlords out there, if you take one thing from this article, do not contract MHC. It looks like they took the nuclear option here in a contract negotiations. They deserve to go out of business, full stop.

    To the Nicholson Family, you blew this one too. Mobile Home Park conversions require finesse, which it seems you have less than a bull in a china shop. You have not only played yourself, you’ve pushed the city council to overreact. My guess is the real brains that accumulated the wealth required to own thiz has passed this on to you and ya’ll went crazy for the money.

    To all mobile home tenants everywhere, the reason for mobile home parks in urban areas is to land bank money and develop the property later. The 30 years you have been living there are 30 years more than you would have otherwise. Even if the city zones all these mobile home parks exclusive, no intelligent landlord would let another tenant in. As the tenants drop off, get evicted, or move on, the vacancies will grow until the rest can be paid to move out. Then some “one time” exemption will be made to develop it. Whine all you want about greed and injustice, but San Jose is just too expensive for you to live there and you know it, and knew it all along.

    To the city council, if changing the zoning isnt regulatory taking, I dont know what is. Perhaps the 10s millions in damages you will have to remedy is cheap compared to the virtue you get to signal, but to me there is something wrong with knowingly doing something so close to theft.

    • They don’t care. They will do what they want and let the property owners & taxpayers spend millions on a lawsuit. Even if the City loses, the council does not care. They will suffer no repercussions at all over a lost lawsuit. Only SJ taxpayers lose. The lawsuit will take years to resolve and they will all have moved on, as the grifters they are, to their next feeding at the public trough.

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