Planners approve mobile home park conversion recommendation

By Julian J. Ramos/STAFF WRITER, Santa Maria Times January 6, 2007

The Buellton Planning Commission has recommended approval of the conversion of Ranch Club Mobile Estates from a rental mobile home park to an ownership park.

The park’s owner, Morris Jurkowitz, has proposed the conversion of the park to resident ownership. Ranch Club Mobile Estates is a 232-unit senior mobile home community with 336 residents at 330 W. Highway 246.

The Planning Commission’s action Thursday night was a recommendation to the City Council, which must agree before the approval is final. That discussion is scheduled for Feb. 8.

At a June meeting in the park’s clubhouse, Richard H. Close, a Santa Monica-based real estate attorney representing Jurkowitz, said the choice for residents is to continue to rent or buy the lot their mobile home is on.

A homeowners association, similar to those in condominiums, would be created. Residents who decide to continue renting will pay their rent and the property owner will pay the dues for the resident. If a renter sold his mobile home, however, the new owner would have to purchase the land, Close said. Eventually, the park would be 100 percent resident owned.

At Thursday’s meeting, the City Council Chambers were filled with park residents. In public comment, Ranch Club tenants Bert and Sandra Mack questioned Close about the conversion. Their concerns included the results of a tenant survey. The survey, returned by 159 of the park’s 232 residents, reported 72 percent of those responding, 114 votes, supporting the conversion.

Although the total number of supporting votes is not a majority of the park’s total residents, a majority vote is not required in the tentative tract map process included in the Planning Commission’s resolution.

All lots will be appraised at once, in a process paid for by the park’s owner, to determine a base price and establish lot sizes and categories. After the appraisal, the tenant will have 90 days after the subdivision report is issued to make a decision of whether to buy or rent. If the tenant is unhappy with the appraisal, it can be challenged. The appraised price becomes the basis for lenders, Close said.

Those who qualify as low-income will see their rent raised no higher than the consumer price index each year, while other residents’ rents will increase to market rate over four years. After four years, when the rent reaches market rate, there are no rent control restrictions and it is up to the owner to set rents. Under federal guidelines, low-income for one person in Santa Barbara County is classified as an annual income of no more than $36,850, before taxes. For two people, the classification is $42,100.

In October, Planning Director Marc Bierdzinski received a letter from Ruth Strobach of the Conversion Committee for Ranch Club Mobile Estates. The letter identified resident concerns about the condition of electrical systems, gas and sewer lines and water system. Although the conversion requires city approval through the Planning Commission and City Council, the state Department of Housing and Community Development holds jurisdiction for common areas and facilities building codes. Any park inspection would be performed by the state or subcontracted through Santa Barbara County.

The vote was 4-0. Because he owns a mobile home in the park, commissioner Gerald Witcher excused himself from the discussion. Bierdzinski said the item is scheduled for City Council consideration on Feb. 8.

Julian J. Ramos can be reached at 688-5522, Ext. 6008 or


Jan. 6, 2007