By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
Many Chula Vista residents who live in mobile home and trailer parks do so because they can’t afford other types of housing in the city.
The majority of mobile home park residents is made up of low-income seniors and Latino families.
Recently, the City of Chula Vista has made several proposals regarding mobile home parks that have raised several issues among residents.
One of the most common questions has been the impact of proposed zoning regulations on mobile home parks.
In December 2005, the city adopted a new General Plan. To implement that plan, a draft document called the Urban Core Specific Plan was prepared, which would apply new zonings to certain areas in northwest Chula Vista.
If park land owners decide to sell their properties, they would need to follow regulations included in the Mobile Home Park Closure Ordinance.
“Under the law private property rights are protected, and the City can not prohibit mobile home park owners from either selling their land or using their land for another purpose,” said Chula Vista Housing Manager, Amanda Mills. “We can, however, require the land owner to compensate displaced park residents and follow strict procedures when they decide to close a park. The proposed changes provide a more specific closure process and spells out relocation benefits. The proposed changes also include an additional payment for low income families.”
A public outreach component was conducted for approximately 6 months to engage the general public and both owner and resident stakeholder groups in discussion about potential changes, Mills said.
A total of 12 meetings were held, which included some in Spanish. Also, the City mailed every mobile home resident a postcard informing them about the process, Mills said.
Comments received were incorporated into staff research and a final staff recommendation was drafted and presented.
While various comments have been received during the public outreach process, the most highly debated issue is how mobile homes and trailers should be valued in situations where they cannot be relocated due to age, condition or lack of available space, Mills said.
“The ordinance update is intended to ensure that when a change of use is contemplated for an existing mobile home or trailer park, the relocation impacts on displaced residents are properly addressed,” Mills said.
But some mobile park residents feel that the proposed changes, which are supposed to protect residents, are not enough. On Wednesday, Aug. 1, mobile home and trailer park residents in Chula Vista had a meeting at the Central Library Auditorium.
There, residents were trying to learn more about the proposed changes and how they would affect them.
Petitions were signed at the meeting and residents were encouraged to write to the city council so that it could take into consideration their basic message: “The residents of mobile homes and trailers need more protection than what the city’s staff is now proposing.”
Emilia Perez, a home park resident who has become an organizer in this issue, said that mobile home residents should unite to fight for their best interests.
“We’re getting organized to decide what we have to do. We don’t have to be scared. It takes time and courage to do it,” Perez said during the meeting. “There are three people in this game: the city, the park land owners and us. Let’s play their game.”
She said that, if the changes proposed by city staff are aproved, the ones affected will be low-income seniors and families.
“It’s so sad to see our seniors having to leave their homes. We cannot allow that,” Perez said.
Yolanda Cordero, a mobile park resident, said that even though most of the families living in mobile home parks are low-income, they have to stand up for their rights.
“Our homes might be little, but for us they’re sacred,” she said.
Theresa Acerro, president of the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association, said her organization is supporting the cause of mobile home park residents.
“Redevelopment is the real issue. In other places it has driven up land values and rents forcing out the working poor and retired seniors on fixed incomes,” Acerro said.
Mills said that there is no deadline for the city council to approve this issue.
She said that city staff has hosted a series of public meetings and now the policy issue will go before a number of advisory bodies prior to a City Council public hearing.
The City Council public hearing may be held as early as October 2.
For more background information or for a list of upcoming meetings, people can visit www.chulavistaca.gov or call (619) 585-5600, option 1.
If you would like to contact the organized mobile park residents, call (619) 425-5771.