By Stephanie Bertholdo | Source |
Homeowners living in the Ranch Mobile Home Park, one of five senior mobile home parks in the City of Thousand Oaks, were victorious last week when the City Council approved an ordinance that would prevent the park owner from converting the community into an all-ages family park.
Senior mobile home parks require that at least one person occupying a home as a permanent resident must be 55 or older and that person must be a part owner of the home or a direct beneficiary of a trust or estate that owns the home. However, owners of senior mobile home parks may allow 20% of the coach owners to be under 55.
Thousand Oaks has eight mobile home parks, five of which are designated for seniors; the remaining three are family mobile home parks.
Council members voted 5-0 in favor of a resolution that would establish zone changes to preserve Ranch and the other senior living parks—Vallecito Mobile Home Park, Ventu Estates Mobile Home Park, Ventu Park Villa Mobile Home Park and Thunderbird Oaks Mobile Home Club—as senior parks. Together, the parks offer 865 spaces.
The Sept. 12 council meeting followed an outcry by senior mobile home residents who have spoken at meetings throughout the year with concerns of rent increases as well as losing the limited senior designated housing available in the city.
At the previous meeting, park residents told the council that mobile home parks specifically for seniors provided some of the best residential living opportunities for people in their age groups, especially since older adults are often on fixed incomes.
The city’s rent stabilization ordinance preserves the right for seniors to stay in their homes whether or not a park owner converts to a family park, but older adults worry that younger families would have the right to acquire their homes when their leases end.
Senior citizens make up the largest segment of the city’s population, representing about 31% of the housing.
In reply to a question posed by Councilmember Bob Engler regarding whether there is any documentation that showed that Ranch Mobile Home Park, which was established in 1974, was established in 1974, was indeed a mobile home park specifically for senior citizens, Patrick Hehir, chief assistant city attorney, said that many contracts indicated that Ranch was designed for senior living.
“The court would determine whether (that) was enough,” he said.
The politics of senior versus family mobile home parks is sometimes a legal sticky wicket. Age discrimination can be claimed by a younger person who challenges the legality of senior living in court. However, under federal law, there is an exemption for senior housing, as long as 20% of the occupancy allows for family living.
Councilmember Mikey Taylor noted the large number of people who need senior housing in Thousand Oaks and the growth trajectory.
“That demand will only increase,” Taylor said.
Public speaker Jackson Piper told the council that the problem is acute because the city’s residents are aging and older adults tend to be on fixed incomes and can’t readily absorb cost-of-living increases.
“It’s part of the housing crisis,” Piper said. “Please protect these seniors.”
Jared Gonzalez, a real estate agent with Esternam Housing Communities, said he opposed the zoning changes.
“This will not solve or help with affordable housing,” he said. “It discriminates against non-seniors.”
His view was not representative of all real estate agents.
Don Weise, a real estate agent specializing in mobile home parks, said it would be a travesty to push out senior citizens from their homes.
“They had to qualify to move into that park,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Al Adam said he was in favor of the zoning solution.
“I believe in the concept of aging in place,” he said.
Adam added that Thousand Oaks is an aging community. In 1970, the median age of residents was 20.
“Now it’s 40 and climbing,” he said.
Councilmember David Newman echoed a message homeless advocates have been sharing for a long while: The best way to address homelessness is to not let it happen in the first place.
“One of the features of mobile home parks is that no subsidies (from the city) are needed,” Newman said. “We would certainly spend more if this senior park population became homeless.”
Engler said that if the Ranch Mobile Home Park were to be converted into a family park, there would be an 8.5% decrease in senior housing.
“That’s a pretty big hit,” he said
[ED. NOTE: This effort on the part of Thousand Oaks homeowners was led by GSMOL Chapter 1121 President George Senko of Thunderbird Oaks, who rallied GSMOL members from the five senior parks. GSMOL Attorney Bruce Stanton assisted with the campaign.]