Owners of brick and mortar houses and condominiums, as well as renters of apartments and the like, all have habitation rights their ownership or rental agreements guarantee under the law.
Mobile home “parks”—there are still many 100’s of them, though at present over 840 nationwide, and over 50 in California, are up for sale—are generally for-profit businesses, which offer ongoing “pad” or “site” residency habitation contracts to the owners of mobile homes, i.e., trailers, seeking to live in them.
In its wisdom, back in 1988, aiming then to protect its affordable-housing stock, Santa Monica zoned this Village Trailer Park (VTP) property for just that dedicated mobile home-living usage.
This landowner, which records should show inherited the property and the trailer park business on it, seems to have done all he could these past two decades to [some claim illegally] dismantle the park, apparently not much wanting to conduct the business of managing it. He, or those in his employ, has so far acted to have well over 40 trailers removed from it, and never replaced, over 10 of which after an entrepreneur partner (with business relationship still unclear) came along around 2006, and then escalated this effort to empty the park of trailers (and therefore, residents). After serving residents in ’06 with notice of intent to “close the park”, aim has sustained since then with efforts seeking to construct a number of likely more profit-garnering buildings on it. Such construction and changed-usage planned, by the way, that would violate the usage City zoning presently still calls for on the property.
Can he do this? Can he simply cease operating the trailer park management business? Sure.
Can he as well simply breach the legal ongoing space-rental agreements he has with the trailer owners residing on the property? With the property zoned without any stipulated expiry date for such mobile home residency usage, and with those who—at considerable expense—purchased their homes [some, many decades ago], with expectation that such ongoing habitation right would indefinitely sustain, contention is that he cannot so act.
Allegation is that, ceasing to honor mobile home owners’ space rental contracts will be actionable violations of their residency rights.
As well, since the City and the State have [at least until recently?] assisted the property owner with housing resource-supporting business-cost dispensations, these bodies apparently have some expectation that whomever owns the property will continue with such zoning-designated business enterprise.
For Santa Monica (and surrounding communities), stock of properties with homes or apartments to accommodate those of low-income seeking residency, is apparently now quite limited. Understandable then that there might be the noted business-aiding dispensations accorded the landowner, and the expectation that the zoned usage for truly affordable housing would be sustained over time.
It is of note too, that after decades of massive building here and around Santa Monica, and with housing- and living- expenses multifold greater than they were 20 years ago, there are now few, if any places to which trailer homes could now be moved which would accord those seeking this now-rarer type of living experience. In some areas, it seems legislation may even disallow such mobile home habitation.
After decades establishing living situations on this VTP property, being forced to reside outside the area where their lives are now structured and manageable, even if home sites comparable enough in home attributes and costs could now be found, the stress and risk could well be extreme for these trailer-owning residents, most of whom are older or elderly and with most of quite limited means.
To repeat, if this property owner and associate(s) do not want to continue with this park management business, fine. Need then though, is that another is found to continue doing that.
To be seeking to force a zoning change on the City, and to pursue development for profit that would endanger the lives and circumstances of an established community on the property is, as said, allegedly illegal. It seems also an immoral action to be so endeavoring.
Since, for some, rights in this matter seem confusing, it may help to consider that this “own home, but rent space” circumstance is a unique real estate situation; one involving several parties conjoined in contractual relationships.
That perhaps bears repeating: This is a unique real estate situation involving rights contractually conjoined. Because of that, oversight and enforcement of those rights require attention to law bearing specifically on this uniquely contracted relationship.
For this property, it is not simply a situation of a landowner in isolation who has independent rights to treat the land as he alone may choose to. His right to go out of business certainly needs to be respected. But the rights these trailer homeowners have in their homes need to be respected, too. As do those of the City and the State. Analogous to rental property deposit/clean-up terms, by-time-of-closing mandated purchase/sale contract terms, and the like, the law(s) bearing on this unique conjoined ownership/rental business arrangement must also address this unique situation of how land ownership change is to be managed for all parties, as well as the matter of how expectations held at time of initial contracting are later to be dealt with.
But, even beyond the legality of this dispute over how the land should now be used, there is another reason this intended development on the property should not proceed:
It is a most poorly conceived enterprise. If realized, this development will bring harms, some without remedy, to the land’s natural setting, its historic offerings, the existing business enterprise on it, the lives of some of those in the surrounding neighborhood, and to the lives of those who have lived on it for many years, decades, in a number of cases.
If built, these structures will be simply laughably—if this were a joke—too large and too densely packed onto the land. One can walk the 2-tiered property, figuring 2½ feet/pace, N-S in ~260 paces (590’), E-W in ~96 paces (218’) on the larger area of the land, and N-S in ~77 paces (175’) and E-W in ~45 paces (102’) on the smaller area.
So massive will these wind tunnel-making, light-blocking, tree-killing, space-filling buildings be that not only will they overwhelm the neighborhood with more traffic congestion than it can many days already barely cope with unruffled, they will so needlessly serve to supplant an already-viable business- and living-community, an irreplaceable and historic one at that, as to give again cause for the uttering of such words as “sardines,” “unconscionable,” “travesty,” “insane,” etc.
At present, this 3+ acres of land is nearly perfectly suited already for the home sites it presently is arrayed as, utility-set up for, and well accommodates.
If ~1000 square feet for living near, but not overly too near one’s neighbors in a small home, with a small garden, and a just-out-the-door assigned-parking spot, is a reasonable expectation to have as a workable place to live, then the 109 such sites on this VTP property well fills that bill.
The many hundreds more of housing/business/parking-sites projected for this project, most encompassing significantly lesser square-footages, will constitute an insulting aggregate of unworkably poor offerings.
Just because so much has been planned for this pie-in-the-Expo-line-byway, does not mean that such ambitious drafting on paper has any real-world planning logic sustaining the designs.
Looking closely at the numbers, on-site space limits alone almost guarantee impossibly cramped living/working accommodations on this Orwellian, people-closeting monstrosity.
If built, these will be a set of edifices assaulting both the neighborhood- and the City’s -sensibilities about the lifestyle aims it purports to espouse.
Perhaps this might be a plan suitable for other of the remaining construction-worthy sites in this mostly already built-out 8-square mile town. It is certainly not one suitable for this small property, housing as it does both a fragile and precious human resource and a now-rare piece of the City’s nearly-gone-from-sight evidence of past life here. A plan workable only if wanting more already frustrating traffic congestion, yet more overly expensive, space-crowding housing problems, and later feeling of loss.
Regrettably, this proposed project seems to be garnering some wide-eyed appeal from the young it has been variously pictured to serve, both for housing- and working- needs.
Sadly—and with apology to the young [I was once one, so know some about this]—each generation in this modern time of even more now corrupted capitalism, what with its by-design mode of funneling money to the few, along with its quiet, via technology, ever-more efficient ways of enslaving, still gets sold a problematic dream; a promise that later loses its fine look, and which too-often too-late comes generally to be seen just as it truly wasn’t.
This project is but example of that kind of chicanery.
No, for this “VTP” place, fully restoring, not destroying this still-viable, historic, genuinely affordable, low income housing business is the only real choice in the matter.
David Latham, VTP homeowner, 7-27-12