ENCINITAS — City Council grappled with how to assist mobile home park residents and owners in the process of selling property at its March 25 meeting. After two motions, the council voted 3-2 to notify park residents of any accepted, unsolicited offers. In effect, this gives residents little chance of mounting a bid.
Based on state case law, the staff did not advise any municipal ordinance that requires the right of first refusal to residents when a park owner seeks to sell the property. Instead, it recommended augmenting the city’s resource center Web site to include ways to organize a homeowners association and financing options.
The city’s Mobilehome Park Study was developed after officials feared losing the parks as a source of affordable housing and were hopeful the study would reveal ways to conserve the approximately 700 housing units.
The council authorized $45,000 to initiate the study in February 2007 with an eye toward gaining a better sense of the current housing stock that exists within the city’s 11 parks. An outside consultant was contracted to assist city staff in conducting the study in order to recommend strategies to encourage conservation, rehabilitation and maintain affordability within the parks according to a staff report.
From Wee Mobile Home Court in Leucadia with only eight spaces to Park Encinitas on El Camino Real — which boasts 155 lots where the residents retain ownership of both the land and the mobile home — the city’s parks have several distinguishing characteristics. The typical owner is either a family or individual with a long history of ownership. Most mobile homes and trailers serve as the primary residence for the owner and many parks are family-owned and operated.
Sands Mobile Home Park resident Chris Carbonel said he would like a first right of refusal ordinance similar to the one the county of San Diego uses. The 1991 ordinance has never been legally challenged. He challenged the staff’s interpretation of the so-called “takings law” that it relied heavily upon in its analysis.
Homer Barrs, Mission Valley Village Mobile Home Park resident, told council that despite residents’ request for first right of refusal for 19 years, the owner sold the park for $15 million to another buyer. “We are still trying to buy our park,” he said. Many of the residents either moved or died, Barrs said. “You really do need to look at how you can protect the senior citizens that live in these parks,” he said.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth said the state legislature is looking at a law that would govern notification to residents of both unsolicited and solicited offers. She said she supported adopting a notification ordinance similar to the county’s as well as giving additional information on the city’s Web site.
Councilman Jerome Stocks said he was not going to take away property rights. “I will have no part of it,” he said.
City Attorney Glenn Sabine said the city could adopt the county’s ordinance, but would have the burden of defending it. He said that the case law referenced in the staff report was not binding in this jurisdiction. He said that if the council decided to move forward with a first right of refusal ordinance, he would have to do additional research. “It doesn’t look like the first right of refusal ordinance is a valid ordinance provision,” he said.