Mobile home owners in Goleta are breathing collective signs of relief this week, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided to re-hear the city’s mobile home rent control ordinance this June.
The ordinance, which controls the rent paid by mobile home owners for the space upon which their homes sit, was enacted by the County of Santa Barbara in 1979, updated in 1987, and then adopted by the City of Goleta when it incorporated in 2002. But last fall, a three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit determined in a split decision that the ordinance amounted to a “regulatory taking” and ordered the city to pay damages to Daniel Guggenheim, who bought Rancho Mobile Homes Park in 1997.
The city’s appeal of that decision was supported by both the Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League and the League of California Cities, which represents the more than 100 other municipalities with existing mobile home rent control ordinances who might be forced to pay damages if the initial decision stuck. The relatively rare move for the Ninth Circuit to re-hear the case en banc — which means with 11 judges present — has Goleta’s mobile home owners hopeful that their controlled rent increases will remain.
The initial decision was “way off-base,” said Ken Tatro, spokesperson for the Goleta Mobile Home Owners Coalition, which represents the four parks within city limits and their roughly 1,300 residents. He explained, “For them to hear it is encouraging for us because, obviously, they must think that there are problems with it.”
The rent control ordinance is a separate matter from the equally controversial issue of converting Rancho Mobile Home Park into a condo-like ownership scheme, in which residents who currently rent their plot would be forced to either purchase the plot for market value or leave. That conversion was approved by the City of Goleta under threat of lawsuit from Guggenheim back in February 2009, and is currently the subject of a lawsuit that was filed by Tatro’s association.
The Ninth Circuit will hear the case in a Pasadena courtroom the week of June 21.