San Jose is grappling with how to help residents of mobile home parks stave off potential displacement, as owners of the Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Park plan to sell their land to make way for profitable new developments in a sizzling real estate market.
Many of the 35,000 San Jose residents living in mobile homes -- the most of any city in the state -- own their houses but rent the land they sit on. These parks are already under a city rent-control ordinance, with annual increases limited to 3-7 percent.
At the center of the debate is how city government can safeguard much-needed affordable housing without trampling on the rights of mobile home park landowners who wish to get out of business and sell their land.
After a long and at times contentious meeting Tuesday night, the City Council voted unanimously to affirm the city's commitment to preserving San Jose's 59 mobile home parks for mostly senior and low-income residents. The City Council also voted to:
- Make City Council members decide whether to approve mobile home park zoning conversions, which observers say could bring more transparency and accountability to the process. Before, the city planning commission had that power.
- Adopt new guidelines aimed at ensuring that if residents are displaced from mobile home parks, they get a fair shake in relocation money and the sale price of their mobile homes.
- Direct planning staff to come back with a proposal for extending the city's six-month moratorium on mobile home park zoning conversions to other land uses.
"This is our city and it is our responsibility to protect what I believe is an asset," said City Councilman Ash Kalra after hours of public comment, mostly from dozens of worried mobile home residents. "As we heard from so many residents, these are people's homes."