The owner of the Vineyard Villa Mobile Home Park on Vineyard Avenue has filed a $29-million lawsuit against the city of Pleasanton after both the city's Planning Commission and City Council rejected his bid to convert the park into ownership lots.
The 208-unit mobile home park, with a street address of 3263 Vineyard Ave., extends along Vineyard and a part of Bernal Avenue, backing onto the Arroyo del Valle at its northern border. It abuts the Hacienda Mobile Home Park to the east, which is under different ownership.
In his lawsuit, Attorney Richard Close, representing The Guggenheim Corporation, Vineyard Villa's owner, argues that he and others have worked for more than two years to seek the city's approval to convert the park.
Residents now own the mobile and manufactured homes they occupy in Vineyard Villa and pay a monthly rental fee to Guggenheim for the property on which their homes sit. Guggenheim wants to sell those parcels to the mobile home owners, in effect subdividing the property into condominium parcels.
Although city staff recommended approving the Guggenheim request, both the Planning Commission and City Council voted unanimously to deny the application. Commissioners after a public hearing on Feb. 25 and councilmembers after their hearing on Aug. 18 expressed concerns that many mobile home owners might not be able to afford to purchase the lots, whose price Guggenheim would determine at the time of the purchase offers.
Close said the park's owners followed state guidelines in making their conversion bid and decided to delay the parcel purchase offers for residents for 10 years. Although residents could decide against purchasing their parcel and continue to pay rent for the space, Guggenheim would be free to raise rents based on state law.
The cost of mobile homes in the park range as high as $300,000, although most sell for $95,000-$150,000.The estimated cost of the land beneath the homes would be in the $120,000-$200,000 range, which Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio said would likely be beyond what owners could afford.
When the park first opened, it was restricted to adults only. Later, it was converted to seniors only and both Vineyard Villa and Hacienda are now restricted to those 55 years old and older, although a spouse can be younger. The parks also have changed ownership several times, but the city has controlled rents under an affordable housing agreement.
The lawsuit contends that both the Planning Commission and City Council ignored state law allowing mobile home park conversions and instead considered issues wholly outside their scope of authority. These included surveys conducted of residents to see if they supported the conversion, concerns over future affordability, and even the commissioners' and councilmembers' "resentment of the fact that the state has severely limited local authority in the area of mobile homes and mobile home park conversions."
"Additionally," Close states in his legal brief, "city councilmembers indicated dissatisfaction with the residents' response rate to the survey, despite the fact that the survey had been distributed to all park residents and the fact that 119 out of 208 units (approximately 57 percent) had submitted survey responses."
"For example," Close continues, "Councilmember Matt Sullivan stated: 'Sometimes, believe it or not, the state of California does not make laws that are in the best interest of the greatest number of people. In my opinion, this is yet another example of where the State Legislature has stuck its nose into a local planning issue where it does not belong and I think we need to be willing to stand up and say so. I will not be intimidated by lawsuits.'"
Close states that his client has "suffered and continues to suffer damages," in an amount "believed to be not less than $29,120,000."
City Manager Nelson Fialho said he and City Attorney Michael Roush plan to meet with the Vineyard Villa park owners to see if a mutually acceptable agreement for ending the dispute can be reached.