December 21, 2023

San Jose City Council Votes to Protect Mobilehome Parks with New Zoning


Photo credit to San Jose Spotlight

Last week, the San Jose City Council voted to assign a new zoning standard called “Mobilehome Park” to 13 mobilehome parks in the city, specifically designating these areas for mobilehomes and placing significant restrictions on closures and conversions to other uses.

The decision by the City Council holds immense significance. San Jose has more mobilehome parks than any other city in the state. These communities serve as crucial alternatives, offering an affordable middle-ground solution for residents navigating the challenging housing landscape. However, the ownership structure in these communities comes with a drawback, as residents own the structure of their homes but rent the land beneath them. They face redevelopment threats due to soaring land values.

The turning point in recognizing the plight of mobilehome park residents came in 2013 with the proposed redevelopment of Winchester Ranch Senior Mobile Home Park in San Jose. Over seven years, the community mobilized and advocated in response to the imminent threat of displacement due to residential redevelopment. In 2019, an agreement was reached that mobilehome residents were offered the opportunity to relocate to new on-site condominiums at their existing rental rates, free from the concern of facing rent increases exceeding 3 percent annually. The developer allocated 60 rental condominium units on the site, strategically grouped to enable mobilehome residents to maintain their community. A comprehensive relocation package was provided for those seeking alternative housing solutions, such as purchasing a home elsewhere or transitioning to an assisted living facility.

This case not only stabilized that particular community but also highlighted the challenges of uncertainty and displacement that mobilehome park residents face. In recognizing the unique role of these parks in providing affordable housing for approximately 35,000 residents with 11,000 mobilehomes dispersed throughout San Jose, we see that these communities play a crucial role in addressing housing needs for a substantial portion of the population.

Prompted by the Winchester Ranch Mobilehome Park conversion, the San Jose City Council acknowledged the need to update ordinances and policies to protect mobilehome park residents. Among the 58 mobilehome parks in the city, 40 had full residential General Plan land use designations, while 14 had non-residential designations. To protect parks most at risk of redevelopment, the City Council initiated crucial changes aligned with the 2019 Mobilehome Conversions Council Policy Priority. This involved creating a new Mobilehome Park General Plan land use designation, initially applied to Westwinds and Mountain Springs mobilehome parks. Subsequently, the City Council directed efforts to develop a comprehensive plan for the remaining 56 mobile home parks in San Jose, demonstrating a proactive approach to address the displacement threat mobilehome park residents face.

The recent actions by the City Council represent the culmination of a long initiative. Although the new zoning does not explicitly prohibit redevelopment, it will be a robust protective measure, ensuring that mobilehome residents are not displaced without due process. This commitment signifies a sustained dedication to preserving affordable housing options in San Jose. Importantly, it marks a significant victory for the advocacy of mobilehome park residents and their allies. Applying the new Land Use designation to 13 at-risk mobilehome parks out of 58 showcases the city’s strategic approach to preserving affordable housing options and ensuring the stability of residents amid ongoing redevelopment concerns. This case underscores the nuanced consideration needed between preservation and the production of new housing units to prevent displacement and preserve essential affordable housing communities in the city.

Additional source: 

Mobilehomes (SV@Home Housing topic page)


Merc news: 

City Council Agenda: