GSMOL Chapters and How to Grow One
Over half of all GSMOL members live in a park that has a GSMOL Chapter. But there are about 5000 mobilehome parks in California, and less than a hundred of them have a Chapter.
Imagine how strong and well-organized GSMOL would be if every park had a Chapter!
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Chapters.
Why should we have a GSMOL Chapter in our park? (These answers are also available as a handout – you can download it HERE.)
- A Chapter allows the GSMOL members in your park to function as an organized group instead of an unrelated bunch of individual members.
- A Chapter allows residents to be proactive about manufactured-home park issues. Many homeowners think there is no need to form an organization of residents if there are no issues to deal with, but remember that it’s better to fix the roof BEFORE it starts raining cats and dogs. A Chapter allows your GSMOL members to be PREPARED to deal with trouble if and when it comes.
- A Chapter helps GSMOL educate park residents to understand their rights, protections and responsibilities. Being more aware of the laws that apply to MH parks helps residents to avoid being taken advantage of.
- A Chapter connects park residents to each other through Chapter meetings and events, and possibly through a newsletter and/or an email list.
- A Chapter brings the power and resources of GSMOL into your park. Your Chapter leaders are at one end of a pipeline of support that functions as a 2-way conduit, bringing information, ideas and help down the pipe from the top-level GSMOL leadership and passing feedback and information about park issues back up.
- With a Chapter, GSMOL “business” is carried out by people who live in your park. Someone needs to be keeping an eye out for potential new members, encouraging current members to renew, etc. and this is best done by people who live in your park, who become “boots on the ground” for your nearest GSMOL regional leader who may live far away.
- If your park has a Homeowners’ Association, a Chapter would work alongside it to support your residents. If there is no HOA, a Chapter can be a good stepping-stone to forming one. An HOA is a good thing to have because it can function as a legal entity to represent residents in a court case or for converting the park to resident ownership, while a GSMOL Chapter cannot do these things.
- A Chapter can “think outside the park” to connect up with other nearby Chapters and/or a local MH owners coalition, if any, to work together on community projects, such as establishing rent control or closure ordinances and dealing with neighborhood issues.
- A Chapter can reach out to GSMOL members in nearby parks that don’t have a Chapter, and help them discover the benefits of being organized. Chapters can invite these members to their meetings, help them build a Chapter in their own park, or form a Super-Chapter, which is a Chapter that includes members from more than one park.
What do Chapters do?
- A typical Chapter might meet four to six times a year.
- Chapter business might include working on GSMOL-sponsored State Legislature bills, a local rent stabilization ordinance, or other community projects.
- If there is no other residents’ association in the park, the Chapter might also serve as the liaison between its members and the park management, to handle park issues.
- The Chapter serves to educate its members on the rights that protect them, in the Mobilehome Residency Law and in any local ordinances.
- Most Chapters invite guest speakers to their meetings, including City Council or Board of Supervisors members, the State Senator and Assemblymember, representatives from local agencies such as Adult Protective Services, GSMOL leaders, etc.
Is it OK to have Chapter meetings by Zoom?
Most definitely! During the worst times of the pandemic, many Chapters learned how to use Zoom for their meetings.
Now that conditions have eased up somewhat, Chapters are experimenting with “hybrid” meetings. In a hybrid meeting, some members attend in person and others by Zoom or telephone. This benefits those members with heath issues because they can attend the meeting from their homes; you might see some folks you haven’t seen before because they were not able to come in person.
In order to hold a hybrid meeting you need to have either a big screen TV or a large screen and data projector. Someone familiar with hosting Zoom events would set up the meeting on Zoom, bring a laptop to the meeting and plug it in to the TV or data projector. That person will run the Zoom meeting on the laptop. The in-person audience will see the Zoom participants on the large screen. In order for the Zoom participants to see the person who is speaking at the in-person meeting, it’s helpful to have an external camera and microphone that connects to the laptop and can be set up at the place where the people who are speaking will stand or sit.
One big advantage of having a hybrid (or completely virtual) Chapter meeting is that you can invite practically anybody you want to your meeting as a guest speaker, as long as they can do Zoom!
How can we start a Chapter in our park (or reactivate one that once existed but has fallen apart)?
- Contact your Zone Vice President. You can find their information in the Californian, or send an email from our Contact Us page. Let him or her know that you want to form or reactivate your Chapter.
- Pass around the handout “Why Have a GSMOL Chapter in your Park?” to your friends and neighbors in the park and talk it up.
- Your Zone VP or other GSMOL leader can help you connect with the GSMOL members in your park. You will need at least 15 GSMOL members to form a Chapter if your park has 150 or more spaces. If your park has fewer than 150 spaces, you’ll need 10% of the spaces. But don’t wait until you have the minimum number – get started now with getting residents interested! Your GSMOL leader can help you with your “membership drive”!
- Find out if there is a GSMOL Chapter in a park near you. Your Zone VP or another regional GSMOL leader may be able to get you connected to an active Chapter nearby which might be willing to invite you and other interested residents of your park to a meeting. This could further motivate your residents..
- Keep your eye out for residents who might be interested in running for office as the Chapter President, Vice President, Secretary, or Treasurer. The Chapter will also need a Legislative Contact (LC) and a Membership Coordinator (MC). (Parks without a Chapter may have an LC and an MC, by the way, so if you are unsuccessful in forming a Chapter, you should at least find people to take on those roles!)
- Find out if your Zone VP or another GSMOL leader can set up a meeting – which may be in person, by Zoom, or both (see above about hybrid meetings) – for them to talk to your members and other residents about the benefits of having a Chapter.
- When your members are ready to form the Chapter, the GSMOL leader who has been working with you will hold a meeting – which, again, can be in person, by Zoom, or hybrid – where the members will vote to establish the Chapter and elect the officers, who will be sworn in by the GSMOL leader. It is perfectly acceptable for the GSMOL leader to be on Zoom to do this.
Above all, don’t give up – even if you discover that you are the only GSMOL member in your park. You have GSMOL leaders from your Zone and Region to help you, as well as GSMOL’s Membership Committee and Leadership Training Committee.
Get organized! MH Owners can do amazing things when they work together!