Court sides with city, tenants in Santa Rosa mobile home dispute

  • Larry Martin takes his daily walk through the Country Mobile Home Park, in Santa Rosa, on Thursday, December 20, 2012. The city of Santa Rosa successfully blocked the conversion of the park to condominiums. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Santa Rosa was within its rights to consider the opinions of tenants when it rejected a plan for a condominium-style conversion of a mobile home park, a court has ruled.

The city in 2010 blocked plans by the owner of the 178-unit Country Mobile Home Park on Fulton Road to convert from one where tenants rented their spaces to one where they could own them.

Residents, most of them seniors, overwhelmingly opposed the plan. Many feared they would be pushed out because they wouldn't be able to afford to buy their spaces or by escalating rents no longer subject to rent control.

But the park owner, Country Mobile Investments, argued that the city should not have taken the concerns of residents into account in deciding whether the plan was a "bona fide" conversion.

Doing so, the park owner argued, amounted to giving residents a "veto" over the property owner's right to subdivide the property. But Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum ruled the city appropriately used the survey of residents as one tool in its deliberations.

"We're very pleased and always felt the council had the discretion to take the action they did," City Attorney Caroline Fowler said.

Residents of the park expressed relief this week that their long struggle against the plan, first floated in 2006, appears over.

Roger McConnell, 75, said he had just left the grocery store when he got the call from his attorney earlier this week informing him of the ruling.

"I just sat in my truck and cried," McConnell said.

He became so emotional in part because his late wife, Nancy, "didn't get to see this," he said.

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