New Law Gives Local Agencies the Power to Reject Mobile Home Park Conversions

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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SB 510 Allows Cities and Counties to Reject Conversions When Opposed by Majority of Residents

Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 510 into law, clarifying the Subdivision Map Act’s process for converting mobile home parks to resident ownership and authorizing cities and counties to deny a proposed conversion if a majority of the mobile home park’s residents oppose it.

Typically, a local agency’s approval of a subdivision is a discretionary act. The Subdivision Map Act, however, establishes a different process for conversions of mobile home parks to resident ownership that severely limits a local agency’s discretion. That changes under SB 510, which was signed by the governor on Thursday and takes effect on Jan. 1.

Under the Subdivision Map Act, a subdivider of a mobile home park is required to submit a tentative or parcel map to a local agency for review and approval. The subdivider is required to avoid the economic displacement of non-purchasing residents, in part, by surveying the residents about their support for the conversion and submitting the survey results to be considered as part of the local agency’s hearing. The specific results of the survey, though, are not binding. The scope of the hearing is limited to whether or not the subdivider complied with the provisions of the law by conducting a survey, and not the actual outcome of the survey.

When mobile home parks convert to resident ownership, rent controls on all lots are invalidated as soon as one lot converts to resident ownership. Some mobile home park owners have sought to convert their properties to resident ownership to circumvent rent control. This, in turn, can create a hardship for mobile home owners in the park who rent the lots on which their homes are placed and cannot easily move their homes if rent becomes unaffordable.

Due to legal uncertainty over a local agency’s ability to consider the outcome of a resident survey when making its decision to approve, conditionally approve or disprove a map, several California cities and counties have faced lawsuits for denying subdivision applications based on the outcome of a resident survey. Courts in recent mobile home park conversion cases have split on the meaning of the survey, and they have repeatedly urged the Legislature to clarify the law.

SB 510 provides the clarity sought by not just the courts, but also cities, counties, and mobile home residents in California. The bill revises a section of the Subdivision Map Act to specify that the results of the survey are to be considered by the local agency in making its decision to approve, conditionally approve, or disprove the map. It also authorizes the local agency to deny the map if it finds that the results of the survey have not demonstrated the support of at least a majority of the park’s homeowners.

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