HAYWARD -- Mobile home park owners who want to convert their properties to more profitable uses will have to take a long, expensive route to relocate displaced tenants, the City Council decided this week.
The owners would have to pay moving costs, including transferring the mobile home to another park, if possible, or buying it from the tenant. The rules also require a three-year subsidy for low-income, senior and disabled tenants who have to move to a higher-rent park. Park owners would be responsible for first and last month's rent and a security deposits.
A representative for the mobile home parks called the rules unconstitutional, unfair and likely the most restrictive in the state.
"It's crystal clear that if a park owner even thinks about closing or going out of business, the city will crush you," said Doug Johnson.
The rules definitely provide more protection for tenants than any ordinance within a 100-mile radius of Hayward, said the president of the mobile home owners association.
"It's the best one I've seen," Kathy Morris said. "I haven't read every ordinance in the state, of course. It's definitely the best one in Alameda County."
The ordinance combines protections found in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale regulations and adds more. "We cherry-picked features we thought would be useful in Hayward," City Attorney Michael Lawson said.
No Hayward park owners have said they intend to cash in on rising property values by converting any of the city's nine parks with more than 5,000 residents. But that's happening in Palo Alto, where the city's only mobile home park is closing, and there's a good chance a developer will try to convert one in San Jose, Lawson said.
"The idea is to have the regulations in place in the event a park owner wants to close," Lawson said. But Johnson, a spokesman for the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association, said Hayward mobile home tenants already have some of the most benefits in the state.
"Park owners are well aware that existing city law, regulation and policy would make such a closing or change of use next to impossible to achieve," Johnson wrote in an email to the council.
The earlier rules were not clear or precise enough, Lawson said.
Hayward also has rent control at its mobile home parks, Johnson said. "The city is there to ensure there's a balance, to make sure both sides are treated fairly. Hayward is not moving in that direction," he said.
The city estimates that 75 percent of its mobile homes could not be moved. "The challenge is that many parks will not accept older mobile homes or even new ones if they're single-wide or for other reasons," Lawson said. It's also difficult to find a space because the demand is high, he said.
Councilwoman Barbara Halliday said the rules do not make it impossible to close a park.
"But if you're going to do something like that, it should be difficult and consider the interests of the people affected," she said.
The council was unanimous in its support of the tighter rules.
"I hope we never have to use this," said Councilman Greg Jones.
Park owners also would have to pay the city fees for general plan and zoning changes, conditional use permits and other charges that could run more than $52,000.
The city crafted the rules with the help of mobile home owners, who consider the ordinance a deterrent to park sales and conversions, the home owners association president said.
"This conversion ordinance can serve as a model for other municipalities," Morris said.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473. Follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.