Menus Subscribe Search
trailer-park-florida

Trailer park in West Miami, Florida. (PHOTO: DR ZAK/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The Battle Between Owners and Residents of Mobile-Home Parks Across America

• October 18, 2013 • 3:26 PM

Trailer park in West Miami, Florida. (PHOTO: DR ZAK/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The fears of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park residents, who could be displaced to make room for luxury apartments, aren’t theirs alone. In many parks, residents, who often own their homes but not the land under them, are treated as second-class citizens.

What was once a 1920s campground is now a site engulfed in controversy over the use of the multimillion-dollar property, today used as a mobile home park. The Buena Vista Mobile Home Park of Palo Alto, California, is currently home to 104 mobile homes, 12 studio units, and one single-family residence, but if park owners Toufic and Eva Jisser are approved by the city it could very likely to be sold for more than $30 million and converted to luxury apartments for the area’s tech elite. Buena Vista residents are protesting against the deal, arguing it will be impossible to maintain their quality of life if displaced—among other issues, the average monthly rental in Palo Alto is roughly four times the cost of living in the Park. On October 18 the City of Palo Alto began to review an amended Relocation Impact Report submitted by the Jissers, nearly a year after the owners first announced their intention to sell.

In the September of 2013, the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park Residents Association offered to pay $14.5 million for the property; finances were raised from mortgage funding, loan programs from the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development, and the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The offer was denied, with the property owners instead focusing on satisfying the residents through financial compensation. The San Jose Mercury News reported that homeowners would receive $11,000 in relocation assistance and $21,000 if their mobile home cannot be relocated—finances that some argue are not enough to compensate for the move.

Buena Vista is recognized in the city’s comprehensive plan as one of the largest sources for low-income housing. In July, KQED reported that, without it, Palo Alto will be even farther from its obligation to zone for affordable housing: “According to its Regional Housing Needs Assessment, Palo Alto is obligated to zone for 1,2000 affordable housing units by 2014. The city reports it has zoned for 200 units so far.” Besides eliminating low-income housing, the sale of the Park could also violate multiple laws like the federal Fair Housing Act, according to Melissa Morris, an affordable housing lawyer. She explained to KQED:

Palo Alto is predominately white and wealthy, whereas this park is predominantly Latino and most of the residents are lower income. So if the park closes and the residents are provided with a way to stay in this community, it means the closure of this park has a disparate impact on Latinos, a protected category under fair housing laws.

In the Relocation Impact Report, sellers must state how residents will be compensated for the cost of their home and the cost of moving to a comparable situation. But what is comparable? The city ordinance states residents must be able to access similar things like medical facilities and shopping, but doesn’t include a major factor: schools.

This is the big issue with Buena Vista residents. “Quality public education is the main reason many of the park’s residents are fighting to stay,” according to NPR. “The Palo Alto schools rank sixth among more than 1,000 districts in the state, and test scores for all ethnic groups have regularly exceeded statewide averages.” The low-income, predominately Latino families understand that the schools in Palo Alto are essential to the future of their children—and know moving from Buena Vista puts those bright futures at risk.

The Jissers’ lawyer, Margaret Nanda, argues that her clients have a constitutional right to sell the property, which is part of the gamble of living in a mobile home park. In Pacific Standard, Lisa Margonelli examined the use of the mobile home parks as residences for the Baby Boomer generation and found that with the perks of modular homes comes risk:

All is not right in the mobile-home park: Residents have to contend with a parallel world of second-class legal rights and financing that needs to be changed before manufactured homes are a really good investment. The legal problems start with the parks themselves. Because most residents own their homes but not the land under them, they have the rights of neither renters nor homeowners. Rent control is rare in mobile-home parks…. But residents don’t really have the ability to move if landlords raise rents because moving a full-size manufactured home can cost as much as $25,000. Sometimes park owners can raise rates indiscriminately and even take over homes or sell the land under the park for another purpose.

The battle over the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park isn’t over yet, but the strife of the residents isn’t a unique situation. Arguments between owners and residents have happened all over the U.S.—in Dallas, San Jose, and Palm Beach, among other places. The conflict is one that strays into a very messy conversation about what is legal, what is moral, and whether it matters if something is immoral if it’s still legal.

As for Buena Vista, the City has 30 days to determine whether the Relocation Impact Report is complete and to decide whether the families of Buena Vista are leaving their homes.

Sarah Sloat and Olivia Cvitanic
Sarah Sloat is an editorial fellow with Pacific Standard. Olivia Cvitanic is a graduate of the University of California-Santa Barbara, where she studied Global and International Studies.

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts


September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


August 28 • 12:00 PM

The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Meme Money

The ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million over the past month, 50 times what it raised in the same period last year. How will that money be spent, and how can non-profit executives make a windfall last?


August 28 • 11:56 AM

Outlawing Water Conflict: California Legislators Confront Risky Groundwater Loophole

California, where ambitious agriculture sucks up 80 percent of the state’s developed water, is no stranger to water wrangles. Now one of the worst droughts in state history is pushing legislators to reckon with its unwieldy water laws, especially one major oversight: California has been the only Western state without groundwater regulation—but now that looks set to change.


August 28 • 11:38 AM

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.


August 28 • 10:00 AM

The Five Words You Never Want to Hear From Your Doctor

“Sometimes people just get pains.”


August 28 • 8:00 AM

Why I’m Not Sharing My Coke

Andy Warhol, algorithms, and a bunch of popular names printed on soda cans.


August 28 • 6:00 AM

Can Outdoor Art Revitalize Outdoor Advertising?

That art you’ve been seeing at bus stations and billboards—it’s serving a purpose beyond just promoting local museums.


August 28 • 4:00 AM

Linguistic Analysis Reveals Research Fraud

An examination of papers by the discredited Diederik Stapel finds linguistic differences between his legitimate and fraudulent studies.


August 28 • 2:00 AM

Poverty and Geography: The Myth of Racial Segregation

Migration, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality (not to mention class), can be a poverty-buster.


August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


August 27 • 2:00 PM

Do Better Looking People Have Better Personalities Too?

An experiment on users of the dating site OKCupid found that members judge both looks and personality by looks alone.


August 27 • 12:00 PM

Love Can Make You Stronger

A new study links oxytocin, the hormone most commonly associated with social bonding, and the one that your body produces during an orgasm, with muscle regeneration.


August 27 • 11:05 AM

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”


August 27 • 9:47 AM

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014 fast-food-big-one

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.