The Portland City Council unanimously passed a zoning change that will make it harder for mobile home park owners to close the parks and redevelop them as apartments or condos.
Park residents and low-income housing advocates have been pushing for the zoning change for more than a year, and turned out in force at Wednesday’s hearing.
About 3,000 Portland households are in mobile home parks. Residents who came to testify described them as unique, tight-knit communities.
“We are the poor, the elderly, the mentally ill and the disabled,” said Anthony Knoke, a self-described disabled veteran and resident of the Arbor Mobile Home Park.
“In my park, there are five families that own about half the park. Whole families. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, brother in laws, sisters, children,” he said. “They take care of their elderly, they take care of each other, they help take care of me.”
Of the 57 parks in the city, most of which are found in east Portland, 56 will be rezoned and their land will be designated explicitly for Manufactured Dwelling Park use.
In effect, that means an expensive review process and a City Council vote any time a developer proposes closing a park to build something else.
“This really is an example of the city prioritizing equity, and prioritizing the interest of those people who would otherwise have the fewest options,” said Cameron Herrington, with the group Living Cully.
Manufactured home park owners, meanwhile, opposed the move to rezone their parks. The owners of the city’s largest park indicated they are planning a legal challenge.
“The city has exposed itself to a number of lawsuits that park owners could file under Measure 49,” said Mike Conners, an attorney for Hayden Island Enterprises.
Measure 49, a property rights measure passed by voters in 2007, has been primarily used to compensate rural landowners for restrictions on development that took effect after they purchased their properties.
“Any land use regulations that restrict the residential use of property in a manner that reduces the fair market value provides a claim under measure 49,” Conners said.
Hayden also said that the zoning proposal will undermine the financial viability of mobile home parks in the city and could lead to higher rents or less investment in park maintenance.
One manufactured home park was not rezoned in the ordinance the council adopted Wednesday. That park, Fox Run, sits on an industrially zoned site near the Portland airport, in an area the regional government Metro has designated as vital to the local economy.
City staff told the council that rezoning Fox Run could prompt a legal challenge under state land use laws.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman pressed staff with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to return to the City Council in the fall with a proposal to change the zoning on Fox Run, in spite of the obstacles.
“It’s not equitable to include everybody but one mobile home park, for academic, paper-pushing, planning type speak,” Saltzman said. “I would never be able to explain it to them.”