Antioch senior mobile home parks cannot convert to all-ages housing

Seniors from Vista Diablo Mobile Estates listen on June 11, 2019, to Antioch City Council members and staff speak on a proposed ordinance to create a senior housing overlay district that would prevent their mobile home park from being converted to an all-ages park. The move was being proposed to protect affordable housing options for seniors in the city. (Judith Prieve/Staff)

Two Antioch senior mobile home parks will remain that way after the City Council this week agreed to prevent them from converting into all-ages parks.

Though some fixed-income residents have been concerned about the number of children moving into parks where there are no playgrounds or services, many more have feared rents would raise even higher with an increase in the number of younger working families locating in them. In 2017, acting on requests from residents, the city twice enacted urgency moratoriums on all senior mobile home parks — those with at least 80 percent or more for ages 55 or older — from being opened up to all ages.

City Attorney Thomas Smith said the new ordinance would be a permanent fix for seniors who are worried about being pushed out of senior mobile home parks because of rising costs as they convert to all-ages facilities and raise rents.

“Some of the housing opportunities for people who are seniors 55 and older are most affordable in mobile home parks in East Contra Costa, so this ordinance would help support senior mobile home parks to that end,” he said.

More than a dozen seniors from Vista Diablo Mobile Estates on Somersville Road came out to urge approval of the permanent ban on conversions, but it will also apply to the city’s other senior mobile home park, Delta Villa Estates on Strasbourg Lane off East 18th Street. No owner or manager from either park attended and no one spoke against the ordinance.

Lola Buck, the Vista Diablo Homeowners Association president, left, and Pat Honchell, the Vista Diablo Homeowners Association treasurer, both of Antioch, are photographed at Vista Diablo Estates Mobile Home Park in Antioch on Aug. 10, 2017. Residents at Vista Diablo Estates Mobile Home Park are heading the charge in efforts to have the city place a permanent ban on converting this seniors community to an all-ages property. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

Lola Buck of Vista Diablo reminded the council that seniors at her park have been raising concerns since 2007. The owners, Kort & Scott Financial Group, faced with the threat of litigation by the city, signed a 10-year agreement to maintain the mobile home park as a mostly seniors community. That contract expired in 2017, prompting residents back then to bring their concerns to City Hall and urging a moratorium on conversions from senior to all-ages parks.

“We came back asking for help (in 2017) because we thought they were going to be converting it again — now we need a permanent fix,” she said. “We don’t want to come back here again — a lot of us are the same ones you have seen since 2007.

“We’re asking you to preserve it — it’s needed as a senior park. That’s what we want it’s what the residents want. Without your support, we would be subjected to the all-ages again.”

Jerry Coffel, 80, has lived in Vista Diablo since 2000, and also urged the council to get behind the measure.

“I look at what would I do if I had to leave there?” he said. “For me to go out in the housing market now is just crazy.”

Coffel reminded the council that before the city got involved, his mobile home park was often on the verge of being converted to a more lucrative all-ages park against the residents’ objections.

“You changed our lives in away you don’t know,” Coffel said. “Before you got involved, we were dealing with a guy, the owner, who said it’s nothing personal, it’s just business decision. And the business decision is to buy up the mobile home parks and kick the seniors out, raise the rents and make the mobile home parks more valuable. They are like a scourge. They are going across California doing this over and over again.”

Although senior residents would not be kicked out of their mobile home parks in a conversion, the quiet atmosphere would change with an all-ages park, and seniors who enjoyed the camaraderie of living with other seniors would be forced to make tough decisions about relocating to another senior complex. Since mobile homes are difficult to move, the costs could be prohibitive for residents on fixed incomes.

“You saved us (in the past) from having to move to Stockton or somewhere else or with other people and lose our independence,” Coffel said, noting options for affordable senior housing are few and far between in the area.

Gil Davis, who lives with wife Shirley at Vista Diablo, also urged the council to permanently keep his mobile home park only for seniors, a move that he hopes will keep it affordable.

“By passing this ordinance, all the seniors in our park will be very, very relieved,” Davis said.

The ordinance would create a senior housing overlay district to prohibit the conversion of all Antioch senior mobile home parks with 80 percent or more seniors to all-ages mobile home parks. While in favor of the move, Councilman Lamar Thorpe said he wanted to see rental control for senior housing as well.

“The only component we didn’t address here is this whole issue about rent control and I hope in the future we get this back to council at some time,” he said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Joy Motts also expressed her support of the ordinance before the vote.

“I am honored to be able to do this now,” she said. “I think it is important — senior housing is a growing problem in our community and it is so important to be able to protect senior housing.”

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