Goleta Mobilehome Decision Upheld
updated: Mar 08, 2013, 3:14 PM
Source: City of Goleta
The California Court of Appeal upheld a March 2009 City of Goleta decision allowing the Rancho
Mobilehome Park to be subdivided and the lots sold to the residents. The tenants of the park
challenged the decision claiming that the park owner, Daniel Guggenheim, had not properly conducted
a survey of the tenants to see if they supported the conversion. The tenants also claimed that the City
Council did not consider the results of the survey that was submitted.
Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves said: "While we are satisfied that the Court recognized that the City's
decision is correct, the State Legislature needs to fix this statute and make it clear that cities have the
authority to protect their residents."
In mobilehome parks, residents generally own their mobilehomes, but only rent the space under the
coach. Because the coaches can't be easily moved, and because residents are often the most vulnerable
members of the community, the elderly or those on fixed incomes, Goleta adopted rent control
measures to protect residents from unwarranted increases of space rent. Guggenheim challenged the
Goleta rent control provision all the way to the United States Supreme Court but the ordinance was
found to be legal.
Guggenheim also applied to have the park subdivided, making each rented space a separate legal lot.
This would allow Guggenheim to sell the lots to the residents so that they could have true ownership
rather than continuing to rent the space indefinitely. Many residents opposed the request, arguing that
by selling the spaces, the rest of the park would no longer be subject to rent control; the selling price
would be too high for most residents to be able to afford; and that the change would result in the value
of the coaches dropping significantly.
On two earlier occasions, Guggenheim sued the City because the Council attempted to exercise more
discretion on their application to protect the park residents. In both cases, Judge Thomas Anderle ruled
against the City. Finally, in 2009, the City negotiated an agreement with Guggenheim which required
the park owner to make significant efforts to help residents purchase the land under their home and to
protect the others against future rent increases.
The tenants were initially successful in their lawsuit against the City. The Appellate panel reversed a
decision by Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille. The reviewing court in Ventura
said that there was sufficient evidence that the survey was done properly and clearly the City Council
considered the results of the survey and the testimony of the residents who spoke at the public
hearings. However, State law severely limits what actions a City can take when reviewing an application
to convert a mobilehome park to resident ownership. In this case, the court decided that the decision
made by the Goleta City Council was the only decision they could make.
"This decision underscores that a City Council plays an important role in evaluating the residents'
desires when considering a mobilehome subdivision," said Goleta City Attorney, Tim Giles. "Hopefully
other cities will not have to spend as much time and money as Goleta spent protecting this point in the
Goleta has spent more than a half million dollars just on litigation expenses related to this mobilehome
The conversion statute has been criticized for limiting the ability of local jurisdictions to consider local
conditions in deciding whether a conversion is appropriate. The City has repeatedly supported
unsuccessful legislative efforts which would make the law clearer and expressly provide local authorities
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