For more than 10 years, the residents of Rancho Mobile Home Estates in Goleta have been fighting with the park’s owner over their collective future as an affordable place to live, winning some battles — including the protection of City of Goleta-approved rent control, a squabble that was petitioned all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — but losing others. The latest loss was last week, when the California Court of Appeals sided with owner Daniel Guggenheim in his quest to convert the park from being a place where people rent their spaces into a more condominium-like setup where individuals can purchase the land beneath their manufactured homes.
Residents, who fear that their rent control protections will disappear when the first plot is sold, had fought that decision on a technicality, arguing that a state-mandated agreement about a conversion survey never happened, that the survey was not properly conducted, and that the City of Goleta had not properly evaluated that survey in approving the conversion.
The panel of three judges felt otherwise, which also put the City of Goleta in the winning column this time. But the city councilmembers were reluctant victors at best, as they’ve already spent more than $500,000 in legal fees dealing with Guggenheim’s requests, and hatched this now-approved deal as a way of avoiding more lawsuits. “While we are satisfied that the court recognized that the city’s decision is correct, the state legislature needs to fix this statute and make it clear that cities have the authority to protect their residents,” said Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves in a statement.
Explaining that he was “very disappointed and surprised” by the decision, the park residents’ spokesperson Ken Tatro said that they were not planning to appeal it, and would wait for the California Coastal Commission to make the next move, as the conversion proposal now must get their approval.