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County hopes to protect mobile home parks 

In an effort to preserve one of the few forms of affordable housing in San Luis Obispo County, county staffers will begin to craft a new zoning policy they hope will bring more mobile home parks to the area.

On July 27, county supervisors approved a plan to create a mobile home park overlay zone, which would allow county planners to lay a zoning designation over other uses. In effect, the overlay allows developers to build new parks, without changing the existing underlying zoning. It’s a bit complicated, and, in fact, would be the first of its kind in the county if adopted into the general plan.

County officials worry that without an overlay zone and incentives package, the deteriorating infrastructure of existing mobile home parks may lead to park owners selling the land rather than making repairs, thereby displacing residents of 37 parks in the county. It’s been 25 years since the last mobile home park was built in SLO County, according to a staff report.

People representing various parks in the county applauded the overlay zone as a way to further protect vulnerable residents, who can be uprooted if a park owner decides to sell and redevelop.

“I think we need to do whatever is reasonable to preserve their housing,”
said Jerry Rioux, executive director of the SLO County Housing Trust Fund.

With an overlay zone in place, the county could offer such incentives to developers as increased density for new parks, deferred fee plans or complete fee waivers, and faster application processing. County staffers said there are also plans to pursue a $100,000-per-year program
for repair work, grant funds to pay for roofing projects, and policies that would allow nonprofit groups or park residents
to buy parks.

Several local park owners, however,
said the county has gone too far and is actually causing developers to take their projects elsewhere. Noting local rent control policies and a recently approved rule to prevent park closures, such developers criticized further policies
aimed at mobile home park owners.

“It’s almost a moot point what the board does because there isn’t any interest [in developing in the county],” said David Evans of the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association.

Regardless, county supervisors unanimously asked staffers to begin crafting an overlay zone, which should come back for a formal approval after going through an environmental review.

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