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Help for mobile home tenants

Ventura County board seeks to better control park conversions.

January 10, 2008|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Seeking more control over mobile home park conversions, Ventura County supervisors took steps this week to tighten the rules to better protect tenants and prospective buyers.

The board Tuesday directed its staff to devise an ordinance modeled after Sonoma County's -- one that recently withstood a court challenge -- to oversee subdivision of mobile home parks. Within the county's jurisdiction are 22 parks, which collectively house more than 2,000 residents.

"There is no other instance in county government where we don't have the ability to review subdivisions," said Supervisor Steve Bennett, who, along with Supervisor Kathy Long, proposed the ordinance. "These are old mobile home parks. They are really at the edge in terms of their infrastructure."

A growing number of park owners in California are converting their properties to condominium-type associations in which residents can buy the land beneath their trailers.

With senior citizens and people on fixed incomes making up the majority of park residents, many tenants fear they would not be able to afford to buy a lot or to pay large rent increases, and would be left with no place to park their coaches.

In Ventura County, tenants would not have to purchase their spaces after a conversion. State law gives park owners relief from rent-control provisions, except for low-income residents.

The proposed ordinance would require that owners notify the county and park tenants before converting their parks. It would also require that tenants be surveyed to determine how many were interested in becoming owners.

Park owners would have to analyze how a conversion would affect existing tenants and rents. In addition, the analysis would have to outline the potential to relocate coaches to other parks in the county, determine space availability and estimate costs.

Before a park could be converted, property owners would have to provide a comprehensive report on the condition of streets, lighting, water, fire protection, storm water, sewer systems and other infrastructure, and a proposal for funding improvements.

"This isn't just about rent control. This isn't just about maintaining affordable housing stock in this county, but it's about helping keep people in their mobile home parks," Long told her colleagues before the vote. "It gives the board the ability to look at subdivision requests and to make sure that we protect the public."

Supervisor Peter C. Foy, elected board chairman at Tuesday's meeting, cast the only dissenting vote. He said forcing investors in mobile home parks to refurbish a park's entire infrastructure before allowing any sales puts them at a disadvantage.

"If I want to buy an apartment building, I can just buy it as it is," Foy said. "I believe this is very discriminatory against all [park] owners and anyone who wants to buy their lot."

David Evans, representing the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Assn., said park owners oppose any local measures that interfere with the ability to sell land to those tenants who desire to become property owners.

"We believe this is an area that is governed by state law rather than local ordinances," Evans said. The association "is opposed to any local ordinances that would impede the progress of mobile home park subdivisions."

Ventura County planners were instructed to prepare an ordinance for the county Planning Commission's Jan. 31 meeting. If the ordinance is approved, the Board of Supervisors could take up the matter by mid-February.

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greg.griggs@latimes.com

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