Planners give senior mobile home parks shelter

A Huntington Beach Planning Commission vote Tuesday moves senior mobile home park proponents a step closer to keeping that age-restricted status.

At the same time, the decision doesn't prevent park owners from switching their communities to all-age, though they would face added obstacles.

Applause and cheering broke out when the Planning Commission agreed to implement a residential overlay, or a housing district, that would designate 10 of the city's 18 mobile home parks as senior housing and complicate the process of opening them up to families.

To remove the overlay, a park owner would have to file for a zoning change with the city and go through a public hearing process.

The proposed ordinance, which will now go before the City Council for consideration, was divided into four categories — an environmental study, zoning text amendment and two zoning map amendments. Each portion passed on a 4-2 vote. Newly appointed Chairman Erik Peterson and Commissioner Bob Dingwall dissented each time. Commissioner Mike Posey was absent.

A moratorium that bars owners of senior mobile home parks from switching their status, in effect since September, expires April 30.

Dozens of people, mainly residents of various senior parks in the city, pleaded to commissioners to approve the ordinance.

"The residents of the senior mobile home parks in Huntington Beach have made a significant investment in their communities," said Maura Van Strien, a Rancho Huntington Senior Mobile Home Park resident who has spoken at nearly every meeting regarding the issue. "These are not trailer parks. They are senior communities with activities for seniors."

Those against the proposed measure include former Mobile Home Advisory Board member Vickie Talley, who called the overlay a "cruel trick."

"This is clearly an objection to the state law, which provides that a park can change the rules," Talley said.

Several commissioners said they were confident that the proposed overlay has judicial support since the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Yucaipa's ordinance in 2012.

Peterson said he doesn't believe it's the government's responsibility to protect the seniors in this situation and that residents and park owners should come to an agreement.

"The act of zoning, which this commission does at nearly every meeting, is the balancing of private property rights with the needs of the city as a whole over a long range," Commissioner Mark Bixby said. "In any balancing act, you're not going to please everybody all the time, but when you sit up here, you get over that really quickly."

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