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T.O. Plan to Save Mobile Home Parks Questioned

July 8, 2008

By Teresa Rochester, Ventura County Star, Calif.

Jul. 8–A proposed ballot initiative designed to preserve mobile home parks in Thousand Oaks raises legal questions that could expose the city to lawsuits, according to an analysis commissioned by the City Council.

The report will be presented tonight to the council, which will be asked to either adopt the initiative as an ordinance or let the voters decide its fate in November.

The measure requires an owner looking to close a mobile home park to pay relocation costs for displaced residents, calls for the creation of a new land-use designation for the nine mobile home parks in Thousand Oaks, and gives residents more say over park conversions.

Brenda Mohr Feldman, a resident of Vallecito Mobile Estates and a champion of the measure, said she was delighted by the new report.

“I see nothing that points to anything illegal,” Feldman said Monday. “Of course, there are always potential lawsuits with any new ordinances.”

The analysis raises three legal questions about the initiative:

n Does a requirement that park owners pay the in-place value of mobile homes as a relocation cost, if the homes cannot be relocated within 20 miles, violate state law? The question has not been decided by the courts, and the government code “does not define what type of relocation cost is permissible or considered” reasonable, the report says.

n Would the initiative result in a “regulatory taking” of property on its own or when considered along with the city’s rent stabilization ordinance for mobile homes? The report says no, but it cautions that mobile home park owners could sue the city over the issue.

n Would the initiative violate state law because it requires a certain number of mobile home residents to sign off on any plans to convert a mobile home park to resident ownership? The report says it does not violate the law and contains a reasonable method to measure whether a proposed park conversion is bona fide.

The report also found that if the initiative becomes law, it will become more expensive to close or change the use of certain mobile home parks.

While none of the nine mobile home parks is within an area where development is governed by a specific plan adopted by the city, two parks are close to the proposed Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan area.

“We don’t know exactly what the boundaries will be,” Community Development Director John Prescott said of the boulevard-area plan.

The initiative would encourage the preservation of existing housing but discourage new housing, including affordable housing with long-term affordability covenants and income restrictions, the report says.

If approved, the initiative “would make it impractical” for the city to try to rezone mobile home park sites to meet state requirements to provide sites for new low-income housing, according to the analysis.

The City Council will meet at 6 p.m. today in the Forum Theatre at the Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. To view the agenda and report, visit http://www.toaks.org.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Ventura County Star, Calif.

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