According to the unpublished opinion posted March 7, the court reversed the previous Santa Barbara County Superior Court ruling in favor of the Monarch Country Mobilehome Owners Association.
Scroll down to view the court ruling document.
Guggenheim conducted a survey of resident support for the conversion of rental units to rental ownership, instead of the current system of residents owning their homes but renting the space beneath them.
Guggenheim sued the city twice over its involvement in the park and won both times. In 2009, the city negotiated an agreement with Guggenheim that required him “to make significant efforts to help residents purchase the land under their home and to protect the others against future rent increases,” according to a city statement.
Residents sued the City of Goleta for making an agreement with Guggenheim over this conversion, which would split the park into separate legal lots. They opposed the agreement and argued that splitting the park into separate lots would exempt the rest of the park from being subject to the city’s rent control ordinance.
Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille sided with the park’s tenants, ruling that the survey wasn’t conducted correctly and that the Goleta City Council failed to consider the results of the survey. Though there are 150 spaces, only 33 ballots for the survey were received, with 17 opposed to the conversion, according to the Court of Appeals opinion written by Judge Kenneth Yegan.
The Court of Appeals reversed the decision, concluding that there was substantial evidence that the City Council considered the results of the survey and the public hearing in 2009.
“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 authority to protect their residents,” Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves said in a statement.
Goleta spent more than $500,000 on litigation expenses related to this mobile-home park, according to City Attorney Tim Giles.
“The conversion statute has been criticized for limiting the ability of local jurisdictions to consider local conditions in deciding whether a conversion is appropriate,” the city said in a statement. “The city has repeatedly supported unsuccessful legislative efforts which would make the law clearer and expressly provide local authorities appropriate discretion.
“State law severely limits what actions a city can take when reviewing an application to convert a mobile-home park to resident ownership. In this case, the court decided that the decision made by the Goleta City Council was the only decision they could make.”
In a related case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Goleta’s rent control ordinance to protect mobile home residents from “unwarranted increases of space rent.”