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].