Carson Harbor Village v. City of Carson (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 56

Why It Matters: In a reversal of its own 2010 decision, the Carson Harbor Village Court of Appeal affirmed a local agency's ability to rely upon its adopted general plan when considering a proposed mobile home park conversion.

Facts: Carson Harbor Village is a mobile home park in the City of Carson consisting of 420 rental spaces on 70 acres of land, including 17 acres of federally regulated and state-regulated wetlands. These 17 acres are the only open space area within the City. In 2007, the City rejected the park's application to convert the park from rental spaces to a subdivision of individually owned lots based, in part, on that subdivision's inconsistency with the housing and open space elements of the City's general plan.

The park owner challenged the City's rejection of the conversion, and in 2008 the trial court determined that the City could not deny the subdivision application based on its inconsistency with its general plan. In an unpublished decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision in Carson Harbor Vill., Ltd. v. City of Carson (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 56.

On remand, the City subsequently held new public hearings in 2011 and 2012, and again rejected the mobile home park conversion application. This second denial was again based, in part, on the proposed subdivision's inconsistency with the general plan's housing and open space elements. The park owners filed a second lawsuit, and the trial court again concluded that inconsistency with a local agency's general plan was not a proper ground to deny the application and, even so, that there was no evidence in the record supporting the City's conclusion that the park's proposal was inconsistent with the City's general plan.

The Decision: The legal issue before the court was whether the City's scope of review on mobile home conversions was effectively limited to the four corners of Government Code Section 66427.5, which sets forth the steps that a mobile home park's owner must go through in order to avoid the economic displacement of existing tenants when converting from rental to resident ownership (e.g., obtain a survey of tenant support for the proposed subdivision pursuant to an agreement with any resident homeowners' association). In concluding that the city's scope was not so limited, the court was explicit in relying on the supreme court's recent decision in Pacific Palisades Bowl Mobile Estates, LLC v. City of Los Angeles (2012) 55 Cal.4th 783.

In Pacific Palisades Bowl, the supreme court concluded that the Coastal Act and Mello Act were based on important statewide policies and that the provisions of Section 66457.5 should not be read to preclude their application to mobile home conversions, but that all of the sections should be harmonized. Although the Pacific Palisades Bowl case did not address the application of the Subdivision Map Act to Section 66427.5, the court inCarson Harbor Village read into that decision an "invitation" by the supreme court to apply other state laws (e.g., the Coastal Act, Mello Act, and Subdivision Map Act) to the mobile home conversion process set forth in Section 66427.5. The Carson Harbor Village court found that, just as the Coastal Act and Mello Act could apply to mobile home park conversions, so too could the Subdivision Map Act's general plan consistency requirement. It concluded that substantial evidence supported the city's finding of inconsistency with its general plan open space element as the basis for rejecting the proposed mobile home park conversion.

Practice Pointer: Given the scarcity of development-scale assembled land in California, the practice of converting mobile home parks to individually owned residential communities is likely to continue. Based onCarson Harbor Village, would-be converters need to consider general plan consistency as a part of their applications. As Carson Harbor Villageshows us, general plan inconsistency can be relied upon by the city to reject a proposed conversion.