The ongoing and opinionated mobile home park ordinance conversation continued Monday morning at the city council development committee meeting.
Council members Bob Kellar and Bill Miranda, alongside city staff, opened the meeting to mobile home park residents and owners, inviting continued dialogue from community members who have given vocal opinions at past meetings and public hearings.
Doug Fraser, a mobile home park advocate, reiterated his concern with the suggested changes to the mobile home park municipal code regarding the way a resident is defined. He said there should be a more specific definition, not the reduction of a definition.
“The definition of resident is not equal to an owner,” Fraser said. “It has eliminated the definition of resident, which is worse.”
Canyon Country Advisory Committee Chairman Alan Ferdman thanked the council members for their thoughtfulness on the issue, but said there is still work to do. Ferdman agreed with Fraser that changing the definition of a resident was difficult for them.
Though the hope for switching to an administrative hearing officer instead of a panel would seek to streamline the appeal hearing process, Ferdman said it would be harder because the officer would have 90 days to make decisions instead of the panel making immediate ones.
“I question if the hearing officer will be faster,” he said.
Ferdman also suggested the city council adjudicate appeal decisions, but said it would be unlikely for mobile home residents to get lawyers because they cannot afford them.
Caravilla Mobile Home Park owner and current panel member Mary Orr said she is in favor of having an administrative hearing officer because it alleviates bias from owners and residents.
“The further you get into this, the more biased it becomes,” she said.
She suggested defining a resident as someone who is the registered home owner and is on the lease agreement. Also, she said she did not want to be required to inform residents when owners made capital improvements.
“We have never been required to consult with them when we have to take care of our property,” Orr said.
Greenbrier Mobile Estates resident Darlene Pelton shared her concern with rent increases. She said her retirement savings will be gone in two years and her only income is her social security.
Instead of having one code for all mobile home parks, Pelton said she thought senior parks should be considered differently from family parks where some residents have several incomes per home.
“Maybe we need to separate the senior parks from the rest of the parks,” Pelton said.
Hadassah Foster, a current panel member and Polynesian Mobile Home Park resident, said even in family parks like the one she lives in, families often only have one income like in senior parks.
Speaking from her own personal experience, she discussed the trouble she faced documenting who the owners of her mobile home are. She said she contributed just as much as her husband did to paying for their home, but her name was not going to be put on the house.
“It was only because I screamed and yelled that it was T/H Foster instead of Thomas Foster,” she said.
Also, Foster said the hearing officer process would have several implications, including taking much longer than a panel would.
“It doesn’t go faster,” Foster said. “The law is slow.”
Foster said she believes there needs to be a system for the hearing officer to return to owners and residents with questions before making decisions. Additionally, using a hearing officer is going to be costly for the city because it will require so much work from the officer, she said.
“It’s not that this is a bad idea, it’s a great idea, but you haven’t thought this through,” Foster said to city staff.
City Manager Ken Striplin said from a staff perspective, there must be a way to verify who is a resident. Santa Clarita is not unique in the pursuit of the hearing officer, he said, as cities across California have done similarly.
“Regarding the definition of resident, I don’t know if there is a better solution,” Striplin said.
A hearing officer would allow for more “black and white” answers to problems, according to Striplin.
“It removes the self-interest,” he said.
Switching to a hearing officer will save the city money long term, but Striplin said he did not know if it would a lot of money.
To close the meeting, Councilman Kellar said he “heard a lot of very good comments.”
City staff proposed a potential time line for next steps to discuss the mobile home parks. The city council will continue discussion on draft revisions and obtain direction at their June 13 meeting, have the first reading on June 27 and the second reading on July 11.
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