PETALUMA -- Residents at a pair of mobile home parks in Petaluma are worried they may soon find themselves out on the streets. The property owners say they are considering closing the parks, leaving the residents with few good options.
Mobile homes are often a great bargain in the Bay Area but there is a downside. Residents own the homes but the landlord owns the property they sit on. So, what happens when they're told they have to leave?
That's the situation faced by residents of two mobile home parks in Petaluma -- Youngstown Mobile Home Park and Little Woods Mobile Villa. Earlier this month, residents received a letter with the headline: "Notice of Potential Closure of Mobilehome Park." In it, the owners said they "are exploring the option of converting the park."
Richard Lehnherr has lived in his unit at Little Woods for 33 years. He now shares it with his half-brother Darrell Pike but neither has any idea how it could ever be moved.
"They said that they were going to take it 50 miles away. We didn't know where they were going to take it," Pike said. "This thing wouldn't make it five miles down the road without falling apart."
They're called "mobile" homes but many of them could never actually be relocated, even if the owners had the money to do it and a place to take them. Josefina Arango has lived in her home with her husband and three kids for 11 years.
"I don't have another place to take my house and put it ... I don't have a place," she said.
Arango said people live there because they don't have a lot of money "and many, many people don't have another place to go with their houses."
In the letter, the Little Woods park owners blame the cost of maintaining or replacing the aging infrastructure at the property. But they offer another possible reason as well: "...and/or the park owners conclude they can no longer economically operate the park based on measures taken by state and local government."
That is a reference to recent laws and regulations establishing rent controls and eviction protections, specifically for mobile home owners. Most units in Petaluma are currently covered by rent control. Some residents think the threatened closure is meant to scare people into voluntarily agreeing to pay more.
"'Oh, you have to sign this but, if you read between the lines, it says, 'by signing this, you're giving up your rights to rent control,'" Pike said. "I'll keep fighting it. I'll keep going to the city hall and I'll still fight this until the end."
"I get very tired of them continuously coming after us," Lehnherr said. "I just want to live in peace. I've never bounced a check. My money's good, I don't disturb anybody, I don't bother anybody. But they keep bothering us."
KPIX was unable to contact the parks' owners on Sunday but a meeting is scheduled for next month at Petaluma city hall. Both sides are expected to present their positions at that time. There is no deadline and, in fact, the letter said it was not a formal notice of closure. The owners are just thinking about it and giving the residents something to think about, as well.
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