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It’s the latest in a wave of backlash by some park owners to new mobile home protections throughout Sonoma County.


Nick Ubaldi, whose family owns Country Side Mobile Home Park and who works for the company, Harmony Communities, that manages it, spoke up during public comment at a Cotati city council meeting Tuesday with an ominous message about the city’s new regulation protecting park residents.

”You voted for a lawsuit,” Ubaldi said. “The property value far exceeds its current use. This is a private business, and we will no longer bear the burden of Cotati’s affordable housing efforts.

“The city can build and subsidize its own,” he continued. “After tonight’s vote we have decided to immediately begin the closure process for Country Side Mobile Home Park.”

Earlier in the meeting, city council members unanimously approved a “senior mobile home park overlay zone” to preserve the Country Side’s status as a park for older residents only.

The move was motivated by residents’ opposition to the property owner’s attempt over the summer to convert Country Side to an all-ages park in order to increase profitability.

“A key concern is loss of affordability and displacement due to increased rents, as an all-ages park might attract households with multiple income earners that can afford a higher space rent than fixed income seniors,” Cotati planning commission staff noted in a November report.

“Maintaining all types of housing that is affordable, including senior housing, is an important policy goal of the City Council,” said Damien O’Bid, Cotati’s city manager. He noted that the overlay will “only maintain the status quo and preserve the currently existing senior housing.”

Housing stability for older adults has become an increasingly important goal. Elders are California’s fastest growing homeless population, a trend reflected in Sonoma County.

Mobile homeowners in other Sonoma County cities like Santa Rosa and Petaluma have asked officials for a similar protection as Cotati’s as owners have moved to change age designations in some parks. In October, Petaluma approved an overlay district codifying the “seniors only” designation at its 55-and-older parks.

In a statement, Ubaldi said Cotati’s “interference in our private business operations is a cause for serious concern … We firmly believe that affordable housing should be accessible to all Cotati residents.”

“Our mobile home park has been subsidizing tenants’ rent without any assistance from the city, resulting in an unsustainable trajectory that threatens the long-term viability of our business,” he said.

Ubaldi’s threat of closure and litigation is part of an increasingly contentious response by park owners to a wave of mobile home regulations across Sonoma County. With mobile homes considered a last bastion of affordable housing, in the last year, new laws to tighten rent control and enact other protections have gone into effect in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Windsor Sebastopol and the unincorporated county.

Rohnert Park, where several mobile home parks are owned by nonprofits, has not faced the same level of pushback despite a similar and longer standing rent cap.

Residents, who own their homes but not the land underneath, have raised alarm bells about being pushed to the edge by increasing space rents that exceed fixed income payments that many rely on. A broader trend of private equity and property investment firms snapping up parks and aiming to maximize profits has also driven concern.

But, park owners say they also face increasing costs and contend the new laws interfere with their right to a fair return and ability, even, to keep parks afloat.

In Petaluma, owners of two mobile home parks, Little Woods Mobile Villa and Youngstown, both have said they intend to close. Any mobile home park owner wishing to shutter must adhere to a lengthy process strictly regulated by state and local laws. Among other requirements bolstered in 2020 by AB 2782, park residents must be offered some measure of relocation or compensation.

Youngstown also attempted to switch its age designation but was blocked by one of Petaluma’s new laws. However, in defiance of the rule, the park continues to advertise as all-ages in its online property listings.

Around the same time, residents at the two parks received notices of more than 100% rent increases, triggering arbitration processes under mobile home laws that will play out early next year. The proceedings could provide a clearer picture of park owners’ finances as they make their case for rent hikes that exceed legal limits.

In October, the same owners jointly filed suit over Petaluma’s new rent cap for allegedly forcing them to operate at a loss. The complaint also focuses on recent changes to state mobile home law. This month, Petaluma filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

One of those properties, Little Woods, is also owned and managed by members of the Ubaldi family. The property management company, Harmony Communities, is also associated with a Santa Rosa mobile home park that lost its senior designation earlier this year. The Stockton-based company owns and operates at least 33 mobile home parks in the West and has a track record of litigation aggressive tactics, evictions and rent increases in some of the parks it manages.

Cotati’s O’Bid said that, as of Thursday, the owner of Country Side Mobile Home Park had not yet formally initiated the closure process and the city had not yet received notice of a lawsuit so he was not sure what the basis would be. Ubaldi, who called the overlay “illegal and discriminatory” said a legal complaint would be filed shortly.

In 2011, owners of a mobile home park won a case against the City of American Canyon in Napa County to change a park’s age requirement. However, in 2012, the City of Yucaipa won a challenge in federal court to its senior overlay zone. Cotati staff noted in a report that its own overlay is modeled on Yucaipa’s.



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