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Owners of North Fresno Mobile Home Park Want to Close It. What's Next for Residents?
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By Edward Smith
Published 7 months ago on
October 4, 2023

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Less than a year after taking control of a north Fresno mobile home park, owners want to close the site. And Fresno officials will get the first look at a report of what that means for the remaining residents.

Mike Karbassi portrait

“Harmony lied to the city council. Their antics are something that haven’t fallen on deaf ears. … this is the quintessential example of a bad actor.” — Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi

California law requires that tenants receive notice a year before landowners can close a mobile home park. Part of the law also requires cities to review an impact study before deciding whether to approve a mobile home park closure.

On Thursday, the Fresno City Council will get the impact study from Harmony Communities regarding the closing of La Hacienda Mobile Estates — formerly known as Trails End Mobile Home Park. It’s at 104 E. Sierra Avenue, just east of Blackstone Avenue.

But because of a lack of documents from Harmony, the Fresno City Attorney’s office is recommending the item be moved to November.

“I know you can’t fix everything, and it’s not on you to fix everything, but I’m begging you to please stand up and fix something,” Patricia Shawn, a resident of La Hacienda told Fresno City Councilmembers at the Sept. 28 council meeting. “I don’t know where I’m going, you guys didn’t get there in time to save me, but there are other people that are worth saving, they’re great people. They just want to stay at home.”

Stockton-based Harmony Communities officially took ownership of La Hacienda Mobile Estates in October 2022. By April, notices went out to residents that the owners intended to close the park.

After a dozen eviction hearings, approximately half of the 60 spaces at the park have been vacated, according to Mariah Thompson, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance acting as the representative for tenants at La Hacienda.

Remaining tenants have faced rental increases to “make back the rent (Harmony) lost by vacating half the park,” Thompson said.

An application to the city’s Rent Control Committee in May sought an increase of $350 a space — more than a doubling of rent in some cases.

Park owners informed residents in September that rent increases will take effect in December, according to a report opposing the closure authored by tenants’ groups Trail End United for Change and Hacienda Homeowners for Justice.

With the city’s limited affordable housing options, at least one council member wants to explore all options when it comes to keeping the property open.

Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi has been meeting with residents since before the October 2022 acquisition.

At that time, residents speculated Harmony would purchase the land and remove everyone, Karbassi said. Karbassi also said that when asked on the record, Harmony said it would not close the park.

“Harmony lied to the city council. Their antics are something that haven’t fallen on deaf ears,” Karbassi said. “We’ve very aware of that reputation. And this is the quintessential example of a bad actor… I’m very interested in looking at all our options to see what we can do to hold them accountable.”

Councilmembers Have Choice to Accept Harmony’s Decision to Close La Hacienda

Harmony’s report submitted to Fresno City Attorneys in July states that infrastructure has fallen apart at the park.

“The associated costs to continue the operation as a mobile home park would ultimately result in the need to substantially increase rents, forcing the current residents to move,” the report conducted by third-party company AutoTemp, Inc. stated. “In addition, there are higher and better uses for the real property.”

Emailed questions to Harmony representatives were not returned before publication of this story.

Mobile home parks represent one of the few bastions of low-rent housing left in California. And in the past few years, have caught the attention of investors nationwide.

Harmony Communities also purchased Shady Lakes Mobile Home Park in south Fresno.

Rents at the site range from $270 to $300 a month, not including utilities. Even with the number of affordable housing units coming online in Fresno, demand is high. Fresno Housing’s The Monarch in Chinatown received more than 3,000 applications for the 57 units there.

In a letter to the remaining residents, Harmony Communities said letters of intent to close the park within a year would be sent on Oct. 1, 2023. (GV Wire/Edward Smith)

As Harmony Seeks to Double Rent, Nonpayment of Rent Exempts Tenants from Compensation

California law requires property owners to compensate tenants when a mobile home park closes. All but one of the remaining residents at La Hacienda owns their mobile home, according to the Closure Impact Report.

Mobile homeowners are asking for $143,269 in compensation, compared to the offers from ownership ranging from $4,465 to $9,225.

Harmony Communities set aside $225,000 to compensate remaining residents. The report outlines payment structures depending on how many bedrooms the mobile home has, as well as moving costs.

But Thompson says compensation is far below what tenants need. Relocating a mobile home can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Attorneys for homeowners say ownership needs to take into account the average purchase price of a new mobile home, around $111,957, according to attorneys.

Attorneys also want money for tenants for the loss of low rent.

For those considerations, mobile homeowners are asking for $143,269 in compensation, compared to the offers from ownership ranging from $4,465 to $9,225.

What’s more, Fresno city attorneys say in their report to council that the park owners do not make clear eligibility requirements for compensation or what expenses are included.

Any households evicted would not receive compensation packages, according to the impact report.

City attorneys called the impact study from Harmony “inadequate.” They recommend councilmembers delay the decision until November, when they think they can get enough information.

La Hacienda resident Aurelia Franquez holds up a notice that her family must leave within 12 months. (GV Wire File)

Tenants Want Nonprofit or City to Purchase Trailer Park

In legal hearings and city council meetings, residents have said they want another entity to purchase the property. Before Harmony Communities finished its acquisition, nonprofit Caritas Corporation put in a last-minute offer. Fresnoland reported the deal did not contain a precise offer.

Some have also called on the city to purchase the property from Harmony. While Karbassi said he wouldn’t take anything off the table, he expressed hesitancy at the city taking ownership.

“Every time we buy property, especially when we make an emotional decision, we end up paying too much for it,” Karbassi said. “And we have a responsibility to the entire city and all our taxpayers.”

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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