Arcata holds off on approving mobile home park closure, conversion ordinance

Staff asked to make changes to closure, conversion plan

Lazy J Ranch Mobile Home Park resident Bernada Craig speaks about the importance of bolstering relocation benefits in the city’s mobile home park closure and conversion ordinance at the Arcata City Council meeting on Wednesday night. (Screenshot)

Arcata is looking into what kind of relocation benefits would be best for mobile home residents in case of a park closure or conversion.

The Arcata City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to add the mobile home park combining zone, which creates zones where mobile home parks and related uses are the only allowed uses, to its land use code, but held off on approving the mobile home closure and conversion ordinance, 4-0, with Councilmember Michael Winkler abstaining.

“The zoning ordinance is really the biggest tool to keep parks from being closed,” said Councilmember Paul Pitino.

City staff is going to bring back the ordinance with an alternate version that incorporates relocation benefits for mobile home residents in case of a closure that are similar to Humboldt County’s.

Pitino pulled the item from the consent calendar because he said it’s important to use in-place appraisals, which would value the mobile home as if the park was not closing, to determine the value of the mobile home when calculating relocation benefits.

The city’s Community Development Director David Loya said the draft ordinance had an option for in-place appraisals as an alternative to a conversion impact report that could be added back in.

The county’s ordinance also calls for paying mobile home owners the cost of their mobile home instead of paying for an equivalent mobile home in another park as the city’s ordinance calls for, Loya said. Those options could be combined to give owners the option of how they’d like to be paid, he said.

The last major difference is in how rental and relocation costs would be paid out. The city’s ordinance would have had the park owner pay moving and relocation costs, while the county’s ordinance calls for a lump sum payment that makes up the difference between the displaced resident’s previous rent and current rent, according to a comparison of the ordinances in the agenda packet.

Arcata City Attorney Nancy Diamond said those suggestions could open the city up to litigation, but she didn’t want to go into detail about why in open session.

For that reason, Winkler didn’t support continuing the closure and conversion ordinance because he said the matter was already settled, but decided to abstain from the vote because he said he recognized the issue was important to the residents.

“The reality is there may not be a closure in our near future,” Pitino said. “Based on that, the risk, the liability is smaller. The liability of it happening and the liability of us being litigated against for something we did is small.”

Lazy J Ranch Mobile Home Park resident Bernada Craig said the ordinance needed to include the added protections for the mobile home residents and had a petition with more than 170 mobile home park residents’ signatures saying the same.

“Most of us have limited incomes and our homes are our major financial resources,” Craig said. “ … They provide us not only with fiscal stability, but also with social and personal security. Loss of our homes would have a catastrophic impact on our lives.”

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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