The letters warning of a possible eviction circulating at Westwinds Mobile Home Park this month were more shocking than homeowners – fear among residents of other parks has spread.
Mobile home owners worried about the closure of their parks flooded local officials and real estate agents with calls, texts and emails.
Martha O’Connell, an activist and mobile home owner in San Jose, said owners feared additional eviction threats and again fears their parks could become prime targets for redevelopment. “It’s crazy,” she said.
In Silicon Valley, several large parks have changed hands and have been redeveloped in recent years. Many are sitting on selected properties in a region with high property prices and increasing demand for living space.
Santa Clara County has 108 parks, including 59 in San Jose, according to the state. San Mateo has 24, Alameda has 56 and Contra Costa has 72.
But city and park officials this week tried to reassure residents, and San Jose councilors introduced a new measure to protect two parks designated for high-density residential buildings: Westwinds and Mountain Springs.
Westwinds is one of the largest parks in the state and the largest in San Jose with 723 homes and 1,600 residents. A dispute between owners Nicholson Family Partnership and park managers MHC, who operate over the future of the park, has affected the Santa Clara County Supreme Court.
MHC accused the family partnership in court of having requested the eviction of all residents by MHC by the end of the management contract in August 2022. Both sides claim to support the park residents and to get affordable housing for the community.
The family partnership said in a new statement to this news organization that they plan to renovate the property while maintaining affordable and stable housing for park residents. The family declined to post project details and no proposal was made to the city.
“Our intention is to work with the city to achieve a long-term redevelopment of the property that will protect tenants, while also achieving a positive outcome to improve the housing shortage in the city, including providing an affordable housing component.” Bruce Nicholson, co-manager of the partnership, said in a statement.
MHC, a division of Equity LifeStyles based in Chicago, owns or manages more than 200 manufactured home parks across the country. Local management sent another letter to residents of Westwind on January 10, explaining the risk of the family relationship being evicted.
San Jose leaders on Wednesday re-launched a proposal that stalled late last year to add remedial provisions for Westwinds and Mountain Springs. The new proposal would see them as RV communities and tighten the requirements for redevelopment.
The proposals are expected to receive at least three public hearings and culminate in a city council vote in March.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the main purpose of the new zoning is to require city council approval for a redevelopment of the two parks. “The second purpose is to enable 700 families to get a good night’s sleep for the first time in two weeks,” he said. “The council will not allow redevelopment unless the vast majority of residents consider it a fair deal.”
Mobile home park supporters and residents fear further disruption, however.
O’Connell, an attorney for the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League, and Ryan Jasinsky, a local park owner representative, wrote in a joint letter to the San Jose City Council that they were “overrun” by calls from residents.
O’Connell and Jasinsky, members of the city’s housing and community development commission, scolded council members for keeping them in the dark about the possible redevelopment. “By working together we can help contain the hysteria,” they wrote.
Licccardo said city officials would continue to provide updates through public hearings and city websites.
Sunnyvale real estate agent Denise Casey, who specializes in mobile home sales, said she had received a steady stream of calls from panicked homeowners.
Casey advised her clients to sit tight, pointing out the recent Winchester Ranch mobile home settlement owners they had received under a contract signed by the San Jose City Council on Wednesday. Displaced residents receive reimbursement of the value of their homes and are entitled to rent subsidies and housing units in the new development of this park.
Protective measures for mobile home owners during a San Jose redevelopment include buying their home at fair market value, moving assistance, and rental subsidies. Sunnyvale, home to the two largest parks in the Bay Area, has special names for mobile home parks. Any redevelopment requires multiple public hearings and city council approval.
“Every time I’ve seen a renovation,” Casey said, “the owners have messed around.” Her best advice, she added, was “hold on and see what happens”.
Westwind residents said they weren’t sure what’s next – and that worries many.
Jim Canova, a longtime resident and school board member, said residents would need to form a homeowners association and take steps to buy the property. A park owned by the residents, he said, would give the community lasting stability.
“This is our neighborhood,” said Canova. “We have to get rid of this cloud.”
Walt Blanchard, 64, moved to the park in 1990. “We could afford it,” he said, “and it was close to where we worked.” Blanchard would love to stay in the park, but the evacuation notice was stressful for his family.
Blanchard’s 27-year-old daughter Theresa loves the close community of Westwinds. “I would like to stay here. This is home, ”said Blanchard. Now she said, “It’s definitely scary.”