In January of 2016, residents at Flamingo Mobile Home Park panicked they would soon be homeless. The Cacique Street trailer park had just gone on the market for $10 million. Today, the park has still not sold, but the tenants’ organizing have prompted city attorney Ariel Calonne to begin to update the antiquated regulations of some of Santa Barbara’s only truly affordable housing.
Since 2000, the number of RV or mobile home park units has dropped from 519 to 390. Currently, city code defines 10 such parks in the city, including Flamingo and Tropical Garden next door.
The city cannot stop the “conversion” of a park, Calonne told city councilmembers on Tuesday. But city laws could certainly be tighter and clearer to “avoid fear for tenants and [give] owners a better cookbook in how to do this properly in the eyes of the City Council,” he said. Specifically, to enhance objectivity, Calonne suggested a technical hearing officer would review conversion applications rather than the Planning Commission. In addition, the City Council could mandate that owners compensate residents if relocation did not exist within 25 miles. It may be difficult to find availability even within 50 miles, Calonne said.
Flamingo resident Jim Farned, who has led the charge to strengthen city ordinances, was optimistic about the potential for the Housing Authority to purchase mobile home parks. Such an option remains highly preliminary. Resident Pamela Emerson waved letters supporting stricter rules from 260 people, many of whom are elderly.
A second issue that emerged Tuesday was the nexus between mobile home parks and the city’s program to encourage development of affordable housing, better known as Average Unit-size Density, or AUD. There was some interest in removing all the city’s mobile home parks from the AUD overlay, which would essentially make them more difficult to develop. The housing task force will take up the AUD issue. The conversion ordinance, meanwhile, will go to the ordinance committee, where residents can participate.