July 20, 2012 -- The Rent Control and Mobilehome Park Law Team (including Partners Bill Wynder and Sunny Soltani and Associates Jeff Malawy and Lindsay Tabaian) was successful in assisting the County of Santa Cruz in defending its denial of a mobilehome park conversion application based “on the near-unanimous opposition of the mobilehome park residents, as reflected in a survey of resident support, as the reason for denying the conversion application.” The decision is reported at Goldstone v. County of Santa Cruz, 6th Appellate District Case No. H036273 (17 July 2012).
In the Santa Cruz case, the Court took the same position as that advocated by our Rent Control and Mobilehome Park Law Team for the cities of Carson and Chino -- if the residents of a mobilehome park do not support conversion of their park to condominium ownership, that lack of support can and must be "considered" by a public agency, and the extent of that support can form the basis of the agency’s decision to approve or deny a conversion application.
The County relied on the published opinion of the Second Appellate District in Colony Cove Properties, LLC v. City of Carson (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 1487 (a case where our Rent Control and Mobilehome Park Law Team had successfully persuaded the Court that resident support must be considered) as the legal basis for its denial of the Goldstone conversion application. On appeal, Goldstone’s lawyers argued that Colony Cove was merely "dicta" (meaning without legal significance) and urged the Sixth Appellate District to ignore this case.
Because of the importance of this appeal to municipalities up and down the State of California with mobilehome rent control laws, two of our clients, the cities of Carson and Chino, requested that we file a "friend of the court" brief in support of Santa Cruz County. The Santa Cruz court appreciated our team’s brief, commenting in a footnote, "[w]e have received and considered two amicus curiae briefs in support of County. One brief is filed . . . by the cities of Carson and Chino. We appreciate the cogent analyses presented and have addressed the principal arguments raised in those briefs within the discussion that follows."
Important to every city with mobilehome rent control laws, the Sixth Appellate District held: "[T]he analysis set forth in Colony Cove is correct. Subdivision (d)(5) requires that the owner submit the "results" of the survey to the local agency. . . . If Goldstone’s interpretation is correct, the survey’s results are irrelevant, at least as far as the local agency is concerned, so why specify that they be submitted? . . . If the Legislature intended the local entity or agency to tick boxes on a compliance checklist and rubber-stamp all applications where the appropriate boxes were marked, it would not have directed the applicant to submit the results of the resident survey, nor would it have directed that those results "be considered" as part of the hearing. . . . Accordingly, the plain meaning of subdivision (d)(5) directs the local entity or agency to "think about carefully" or "deliberate" upon the results of the resident survey as part of the hearing."
The Santa Cruz opinion "is important in defending the legal authority of a city council to exercise its discretion in reviewing mobilehome park conversion applications," said Carson City attorney Bill Wynder. "We now have two published decisions upholding local authority to regulate these conversion applications," he added. And Sunny Soltani (lead appellate counsel) noted, "we now have two opinions making clear that residents of mobilehome parks have a voice in the decision to convert their parks. Contrary to the view of far too many park owners, another court has ruled that the views of park residents count for something."
Feel free to contact any member of our team with questions about how the mobilehome park conversion process works by calling 949-223-1170 and asking for Bill, Sunny, Jeff, or Lindsay.