Humboldt County heard from four of its five supervisors in reaction to the request that the issue of a mobile home park lot fee stabilization ordinance be placed on the Board of Supervisors' agenda (see "Mobile Home Owners Rally over Rent," Aug. 6).
Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace has said he would like to help in the effort to create an ordinance. Supervisors Ryan Sundberg, Virginia Bass and Rex Bohn have all said they will not put the issue on the agenda. They said through emails with constituents that after consulting with the county attorney and planning department, they have determined that the regulations in the general plan mandating "preservat[ion] of mobile home parks as an important source of affordable housing..." does NOT mean what it says. Instead, they have determined that it means keeping mobile home parks from being converted to other uses. All three have also said that they are studying re-activating the 1994 Park Dispute Resolution proclamation by meeting with those involved before, including former supervisors. Only Sundberg has given even a hint of why he does not favor an ordinance to protect us, saying, "If you put rent control into place, what would stop a park owner to just pass on more fees to make it up?"
There are several disquieting issues at work here:
1. Why doesn't Mark Lovelace put the issue on the agenda?
2. Why are Sundberg, Bass and Bohn subverting the public process of decision-making by working under the table toward anything but an ordinance that will protect mobile home owners from unfair lot fee spikes?
3. Why are Sundberg, Bass and Bohn not saying why they won't put the issue on the agenda? Why are they ignoring the written recommendations to do so from the Area 1 Agency on Aging and their own appointed Human Rights Commission?
4. In the three regulations in the county general plan pertaining to mobile home parks, there is not one that contains the word "conversion." Under existing regulations, a park could only be converted after a use permit hearing with the Planning Commission — it is a separate process and the outcome of conversion obviously would be precluded by enormous public outcry.
5. Since all the regulations do include the word "affordable," and this housing is fast becoming unaffordable, how do supervisors construe their responsibilities in view of this specific language? Do they really not see that if seniors can't afford the lot fee increases and must abandon their homes, not only does the housing cease to meet the mandated affordability threshold, but the park can be converted? Nationally, this is common practice. Corporations gut parks, then sell the property for a one-time cash windfall.
5. California mobile home residency laws prohibit park owners from passing through random fees to residents. Pass-throughs are only allowed for services subject to a process determining necessity, allowing residents to see receipts, and once the the fee has been paid off, it goes away.
6. The 1994 "Dispute Resolution Proclamation" assumes there is a wrong that needs to be resolved. Park owners are not doing anything wrong. Under the law they have the right to raise their lot fees as high as they want. The supervisors using public funds for meetings to convince park owners not to exercise their rights would be a violation of their duty to uphold the laws. Dispute resolution only works if both parties participate, and mobile home owners won't waste time helping supervisors to create a smoke screen surrounding the real problem — the law must be changed!
Remember we are talking about tiny plots of dirt! Park residents are captive prey because they cannot move their homes. The courts have consistently found that this situation represents a "spacial monopoly" that park residents need protection from.
According to the 2015 California Mobile Home Residency Law book by the California Select Committee on Manufactured Home Communities, there are approximately 102 local jurisdictions with some form of lot fee stabilization ordinance for mobile home parks. It is the only solution to this problem.
Under such an ordinance, mobile home park owners would still be allowed to raise their lot fees. An ordinance will set reasonable increase limits, such as the consumer price index (CPI), allowing the profit margin for parks to remain lucrative. Right now the profit margin for my park, Ocean West, is approximately $442,000 per year. The local family that built the park raised the fees each year, but never more than the CPI, which was affordable. And that is what the Humboldt General Plan regulations mandate. Our elected officials must uphold this mandate. We need them to stop prevaricating and do their jobs.
Hilary Mosher M.S., a third generation Californian, owns and operates a Montessori preschool in Arcata, is a former nonprofit administrator and social services provider, and resides in McKinleyville.