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by Pablo Orihuela | Source

What’s at stake:
For over 18 months, residents of the La Hacienda Mobile Home Park have been raising alarm bells about owner Harmony Communities amid evictions of dozens – and more recently, a proposal to close down the park.

The Fresno City Council is preparing to fight the closure of the La Hacienda Mobile Estates mobile home park in northeast Fresno.

The council voted to have an injunction filed by the city attorney’s office to prevent the closure of La Hacienda Mobile Estates mobile home park by a vote of 6-0 during the closed session of Dec.7’s meeting, according to councilmember Miguel Arias.

Councilmember Luis Chavez was absent.

The council’s decision follows their public criticism of park owner Harmony Communities’ management during their Nov.14 meeting.

“The city is grasping at straws,” said Sherrie Johnston, operations manager with Harmony Communities, in an emailed statement shared with Fresnoland by attorney Jason Dilday. “If they were confident in their legal position then we would be unable to legally close the park. Their filing shows the inherent weakness of their position.”

In an interview with Fresnoland, Councilmember Miguel Arias acknowledged some regret.

“In hindsight, it could have been done differently,” said Councilmember Miguel Arias in an interview with Fresnoland, referring to the process that led to Harmony gaining ownership of the park.

The injunction effort comes after recent comments made by Dilday, an attorney for Harmony Communities, regarding the park owner’s intention to continue with their plans to close the park next summer.

“The use of ‘proposal’ suggests that the City must approve the Park’s closure. This is not the case,” Dilday said last month in a statement to Fresnoland.

The injunction may signal that the city is willing to fight the closure of La Hacienda— a change to their years-long hands-off approach toward the handling of the park.

“The representative for Harmony found that they did not require the city’s approval to proceed,” Arias said in an interview with Fresnoland. “Which we believe is incorrect.”

Harmony Communities slammed the move by the Fresno City Council.

“If they were truly serious about finding a solution they would come to the table and have a real discussion, as has been offered, instead of filing frivolous lawsuits,” Johnston said in the statement.

Arias also said that he and Councilmember Garry Bredefeld will introduce a resolution that will set aside money from the city’s Local Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing preservation at mobile home parks. The resolution will be introduced during Thursday’s council meeting.

“If the council was to approve that, it would begin the process to solicit and potentially distribute funds toward the acquisition, improvement and preservation of affordable mobile home parks,” Arias said.

It’s too early to say whether those funds will be used to help save La Hacienda from closing. The process is a competitive one that is open to applications from multiple parties and could certainly attract interest from many in a city going through an affordable housing crisis.

Harmony Communities reportedly acquired La Hacienda for about $1.7 million in October 2022. Their expected asking price could be double or even triple that amount.

Harmony has publicly stated on multiple instances that their asking price, while higher than the original purchase amount, is fair given the park land’s listing as commercial mixed use. They have also defended their pricing as permissible given the owner’s right to seek a fair return on their investment.

Arias believes council made the right decision at the time to let Harmony acquire the park, despite the now-larger price tag attached to the La Hacienda space.

“We made the best decision we could do based on the information we had at the time,” Arias said. “If we would have known that the new owner was not going to keep their word and were going to engage in aggressive evictions, creating a homeless crisis on top of the city’s housing crisis…if we would have known that the owner was not going to keep the commitment that he made to the city and court when he acquired the property, we would have advocated for different directions.”

Residents of La Hacienda and California Rural Legal Assistance Senior Attorney Mariah Thompson, who represents a portion of the remaining tenants at the park, voiced concerns about Harmony as early as March 2022, months before Harmony officially took over in October 2022.

Johnston said Harmony remains committed to closing the park.

“The park will be closing and there is little the city can do to avoid this outcome, other than engaging in productive discussions,” Johnston stated. “The door remains open to the city should they actually want to sit down and find a solution.”



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