What's at stake?
A Fresno County judge's 30-day delay gives residents of Trails' End or the City of Fresno some time to consider buying the mobile home park, instead of another buyer that could bring more rent increases and evictions.
The Fresno County Superior Court delayed the decision of the sale of Trails End Mobile Home park for 30 days to allow for the parties involved to propose alternative options.
The order came one day after Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan had said she would announce a decision on whether the north Fresno mobile home park would be sold to Harmony Communities – something that many residents oppose.
“This court is willing to provide an additional 30 days for the receiver to consider any other legitimate proposals for purchase of the subject property,” Culver Kapetan wrote.
The order granting Trails End United, a group of residents represented by California Rural Legal Assistance lawyer Mariah Thompson, more time to seek alternative options came after Thompson requested that Culver Kapetan rule in favor of co-op ownership or delay the case at an April 1 hearing.
The Trails End Mobile Home Park, located off of Sierra and Blackstone avenues, was placed into receivership about six months ago after two destructive fires in April and June that claimed the life of one man and destroyed five homes.
Last month, the California Receivership Group requested that the court approve a $1.7 million sale of the park to Harmony Communities, which owns and operates 55 other mobile home parks across three states.
Residents of the mobile home park have pushed city leaders to take a stand against the sale because of Harmony’s documented business practices, including raising rent 72% in three years at a Fresno County mobile home park and implementing strict regulations at its properties. The group is also accused of purchasing a Colorado mobile home park then offering to sell it to residents at a much higher price, according to the New York Times.
Hours before the court’s announcement to continue the case until May 10, the city of Fresno held a special meeting regarding Trails End that resulted in a petition by the city attorney for a 30-day continuance of the case decision.
“As the enforcement authority over mobile home parks is new to the city, and some concerns have been expressed by the public, the Fresno City Council believes a short delay to allow for additional investigation and discussion would be helpful,” the filing submitted by City Attorney Doug Sloan reads.
“The city’s request for a 30-day delay will allow the City time to meet with the proposed buyer to discuss potential rent increases, evictions, park rules, and potential affordability covenants at the Property should the City be in a position to assist with costs,” the city request reads.
The city’s delay request does not mention filing in opposition of the proposed sale, nor does it state if the city will consider purchasing the park. The filing also does not include any mention of supporting co-op ownership.
However, the judge’s filing would allow for more options to be brought to the table.
Mark Adams, the CEO of the California Receivership Group, has continually defended his decision to request that Harmony Communities purchase the park and submitted an opposition to the city’s filing, requesting that the court only delay the decision by seven days, not 30. He said he didn’t want the delay “to impede the ongoing work of remediation of the many health and safety dangers there.”
However, his request was denied, and Culver Kapetan stated that the receiver can continue to abate safety hazards at the property in the meantime using Harmony contractors, whose contracts are not contingent on the sale of the mobile home park to Harmony Communities.
Calling the city’s move to request an extension “tremendous leadership and historic action,” Thompson said “It’s certainly good that the court did not approve the sale, we certainly appreciate that. It is our hope that the city will work with residents to develop a feasible alternative that will not result in a sale to Harmony.”
Thompson – who is currently representing tenants at Shady Lakes in Fresno County, also – said the court’s delay allows more time for Trails End residents and the city to explore alternative options that could be more beneficial to residents. Shady Lakes tenants are suing Harmony Communities over rent increases and sending residents leases that don’t contain required legal language.
The Trails End sale is set to come before Judge Culver Kapetan once more on May 10.