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Residents at San Jose’s biggest mobile home park launch campaign to fight tech redevelopment

Residents at San Jose’s biggest mobile home park launch campaign to fight tech redevelopment
Photo Credit: Westwind Enterprises
By Wesley Severson - Published on December 13, 2021.

The residents of San Jose’s biggest mobile home park have a campaign in the works to save their valuable 80-acre piece of land from big tech development. Roughly 1,600 people live in the 723 homes inside Westwinds Mobile Home Park, which sits near Highway 237 and Zanker Road in North San Jose. According to the Mercury News, the Westwinds Residents Organization is trying to raise upwards of $500 million dollars, as well as hire lawyers and experts to help them through the possibility of buying the land under their homes. The goal is to start a co-op that would require at least 362 residents at Westwinds to sign on. Reportedly, 120 homeowners have said they would join. 

The problem appears to be a dispute between the park’s owners and the property managers, a dispute which could potentially force residents off the property, leaving it vulnerable to the buying power of big tech firms like Apple, Meta, or Google. Apparently, the Nicholson Family Partnership which owns the property is terminating the contract next summer with MHC, the company that manages the property. MHC is now suing and, according to Mercury News, is “claiming the owners want to evict residents before the contract ends.”

Last year, the San Jose City Council passed an ordinance that was meant to protect residents in the city’s almost 60 mobile home parks. The rule dramatically slows down any mobile home park redevelopment and forces developers to dish out money for each individual home being evicted, along with moving expenses for homeowners. One of the reasons council members took action is because mobile home parks provide some of the last clusters of affordable housing that the city of San Jose can offer. As the Mercury News reports, mobile home park rentals go for around $1,500 and $1,800 a month and the average income of residents at Westwinds is about $61,500, well below the median income of the area. “We have a finite amount of affordable housing. It makes no sense to take it away,” Canova told Mercury News.

Given the proximity to light rail transportation as well as new tech and housing development in the area, experts believe the property could fetch around $5 million per acre, putting the potential price of the 80-acre park between $300 million and $550 million. But residents might get extra time to keep raising money if the park property ends up on the market. The owners appear to be flexible according to a statement: “The family is receptive to working with all stakeholders, including the City of San Jose, MHC, and the Westwinds residents. Our goal is to collaboratively find a viable solution that protects the residents while helping to address the City’s dire need for additional affordable housing.”

Across the Bay Area, 10 mobile home parks are reportedly resident-owned, with two of those in Santa Clara County. But the most recent one to convert to resident ownership happened in 1989.