Litigation anticipated between City and Flamingo Mobile Home Park owners
The owners of Flamingo Mobile Home Park, located in Santa Barbara’s Eastside, feel targeted by two proposed ordinances, the owners’ attorney James Ballantine told the News-Press.
The City of Santa Barbara Planning Commission acknowledged the likelihood of a lawsuit as it approved an ordinance that could lock senior mobile home parks into their 55+ status.
The second ordinance, which the City Council will discuss Tuesday, adds a 10% vacancy control to mobile home parks. It was introduced during senior-park discussions.
The City Council passed an interim urgency ordinance in December to maintain the status quo at senior parks. To the city’s knowledge, Flamingo Mobile Home Park is the only senior park.
Pacific Current Partners, California-based mobile-home and RV park investors, bought the park in 2018.
In November of 2020, the owners sent a notice to residents: the park would no longer be a senior park and is opening available spaces to all ages.
Residents of the park asked for the City to intervene to keep the park as a safe haven for low-income seniors.
Some were worried the primarily owner-occupied park will slowly be bought by Pacific Current Partners and become a neighborhood of rentals.
Mr. Ballantine told the News-Press the transition to a rental park is “not unusual” for owners.
He also said that no residents spoke up in opposition of an all-ages park during the owners’ time to meet and confer with residents.
The owners believe that since the City Council enacted an ordinance after the park sent a notice and met with residents, Flamingo should not be currently considered a senior park.
The City’s position is that the conversion was stopped because the interim urgency ordinance was established during a six-month waiting period, Assistant City Attorney Tava Ostrenger told the Planning Commission.
She modeled the ordinance after the City of Yucaipa’s senior mobile home park overlay, which was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012.
“I guess I just feel it’s an awkward place to be in as the planning commission,” commissioner Barrett Reed said. “This is ultimately council’s decision, but it seems like the city is going to have an imminent legal challenge here, and it would just be a shame to have another lost lawsuit.”
Mr. Ballantine criticized the city’s approach to the overlay. He alleged the city did not verify that Flamingo qualified as a senior park and that other parks were not properly identified.
Ms. Ostrenger could not find an official list of senior parks, so the City sent notices for other mobile home parks to reach out if they qualify as a senior park. No one came forward.
Despite the threat of litigation, the proposed ordinance was approved unanimously.
“I have spoken to many seniors in the course of this year, and even prior, and they are so afraid of finding themselves homeless,” Planning Commission Chair Deborah Schwartz said. “Many of them do not have families that can take them in for one reason or another.
“And as we’ve grappled with homelessness, it’s a broad discussion, a broad concern. Our Planning Commission can do its part in trying to prevent that.”
Vice Chair Gabriel Escobedo addressed the risk but felt “comfortable with Ms. Ostrenger’s explanation.”
“In terms of protecting the most vulnerable in our community, this is where the city should be making a stand. This is where we do put ourselves out there if we were to,” he said.
The proposed ordinance must pass the Ordinance Committee and City Council to become permanent. The temporary ordinance expires Dec. 14.