Chino – The City of Chino reached a $1.5 million settlement with a mobile home park owner who brought a lawsuit against the city, alleging the council’s actions caused a loss of income by delaying and interfering with plans to convert the park to resident ownership.
The lawsuit originally asked for $34 million when it was filed in 2010 by Chino MHC the owner of Lamplighter Chino Mobile Home Park located on the northwest corner of Philadelphia Street and Ramona Avenue.
The debate that has been going on for years between the city and Chino MHC began in the spring 2010. The planning commission approved a tentative tract map to the mobile home park owners who wanted to require residents living there to purchase the individual spaces their homes sat on, along with shares in common facilities such as the clubhouse.
In April 2010, the city council overturned the planning commission’s decision based on a plea for help from the residents.
The council’s decision prompted Chino MHC to file two lawsuits, one alleging the loss of income, and a second, asking the court to approve the mobile home park owners’ conversion plan.
In early 2011, Superior Court Judge Joseph Brisco ruled that the city could not prohibit the conversion of the park, regardless if most of the residents were against the plan.
The city appealed and lost in October 2012, when it was ruled the city council doesn’t have the power to stop the conversion of the mobile home park to tenant ownership. Unless the city could prove the owner was taking the step to avoid the city’s rent control policy unless mobile home parks they just don’t have a case.
In October 2013, after a three-hour public hearing, the council voted 3-0 to allow Chino MHC to sell the lots in the park thus ending the legal battle that the city estimates had already cost the taxpayers half a million dollars. The only comfort the residents who opposed the plan got was a written guarantee by Chino MHC that no one would be evicted.
One of the documents filed by the park owner during its lengthy confrontation with the city was a “tenant impact report” that waives the owner’s right to evict any tenant.
About 80 percent of the residents qualified as low-income tenants 2013 according to court documents. The park owner will be allowed to increase those rents at the same rate the cost of living index allows each year after the park is converted and the city’s rent-control ordinance was no longer in effect.
Fred Galante, the City’s Attorney, said, “The Settlement Agreement resolves long-standing disputes and litigation between the parties. The settlement makes clear that it is not an admission of any wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of the City. The City believes it had good defenses, the settlement resolves long-standing litigation and saves further expenditure of legal fees and eliminates any risk of potential liability.”
As part of the settlement approved by the council on July 17, the city must approve, permit, and allow the recording of the final tract map for the mobile home park conversion by the end July.
The settlement gave the City until the middle of this month to pay the 1.5 million dollars awarded to Chino MHC.