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