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Mobile Home Residents Upset
New Owners Changing Park
From 55+ to ‘All Ages’ 

          Residents in the 185-space Del Cielo Mobile Senior Home Park on Santa Maria Way received a surprise letter in the mail earlier this year. The letter said the park had been purchased by HarmonyCommunities, based in Stockton. 
          Another surprise came a few days later; residents were told the park was being transitioned to a community for all ages. Del Cielo Mobile Home Park has been designated for residents 55 years of age and older since the early 1960’s. 
          Many of the seniors living there were shocked when they heard about the change. Pamela Barilone, president of the Del Cielo Residents Association, said, “Senior living is our lifestyle. This park has narrow streets; children cannot safely play. Families bring cars, and parking will be a major problem.” She argues seniors on fixed incomes are worried about rent increases. 
          HarmonyCommunities owns and operates several manufactured housing communities in California and Oregon. According to its website, its primary purpose is to develop affordable housing. 
          Current residents say Harmony Communities violated state laws regarding the transfer of the park from senior only to an all-ages park. Barilone says that in May at the first meeting between residents and the new owners, residents were told the park is “now a family park.” She says by state law there is a six-month notification period before the change is official. “But the front page of the new rules and regulations state Del Cielo is currently a family park.” 
          To address legal issues, the Del Cielo Residents Board of Directors has been working with Steve Wagner, the associate manager of the north Santa Barbara County Golden State Manufactures League, a regionwide organization that sets up chapters in parks to protect homeowners. Wagner is a resident of the Sunny Hills Modular Home Park in Orcutt. 
          Wagner says HarmonyCommunities has advertised the park as a family park and has hired a realtor to sell properties in Del Cielo. He says the realtor was not informed of the status of Del Cielo and has told clients the park is an all-ages community. Wagner says that according to Civil Code 798.25, HarmonyCommunities must provide a six month waiting period after the introduction of new regulations before they can take effect. 
          Wagner also says there is no manager living on the site. “The California Code is clear; in every park with fifty or more spaces, someone shall reside in the park with a knowledge of emergency procedures including the emergency plan for the park.” Wagner quotes the State Health and Safety Code 18603 and says the only hired employee is a gardener who speaks minimal English. 
          The Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors became aware of the situation on June 18th when several residents brought it to its attention during the public comment period. 
          Among those who spoke was Dan Kelly, a resident since 2015 who serves on the Residents Association Board. Kelly queried Supervisor Bob Nelson about county options to help the park residents. The supervisor said he is aware of the problem and is discussing options with county staff. Nelson said he understands the park was initially permitted as a senior park in the sixties and the new owners would have to submit applications and pay appropriate fees to change the status. He said land use changes would take time and are expensive, and he does not think that is a viable route to quickly protect the residents. But he did say, “We are looking at solutions and have reached out to the new owners and will continue to do so to protect the residents of Del Cielo.” 
          Paula Robledo, a resident since 2017, told the supervisors, “After my husband passed away, I moved to this senior park to be near family and to be safe as I progressed into my later years. This senior community is not set up to be a family park, not logistically. and not physically. It would not be a safe place to have little children running around the streets. I am very concerned with the steps Harmony has taken, illegally, dishonestly, and I would almost suggest it is senior abuse.” 
          Efforts have been made to reach out to HarmonyCommunities with no response. However, their website says, “At a time when quality affordable housing is disappearing fast, it is our mission to expand options for economical and beautiful housing in the communities we operate.”    Steve Southwick reporting 

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