Monday, August 12, 2013

Conversion Survey: Critical or Not?

Mesa Dunes blooms
There is a lot of room for disagreement when it comes to legal issues … thus our legal system.  The conversion process started off with a leap into the controversy about the significance of the owners' survey. Since I do not begin to understand the complexities of the code surrounding conversions, I'm trying to highlight both positions below.

Mr. William Constantine, the attorney who has been retained by the Homeowners' Association maintains that it is critically important and could determine whether or not the conversion would go forward, citing "Chino MHC or the Goldstone decisions."  In his letter of 7/26/2013 to Gilchrist & Rutter he objected to the process of drafting, approving and submitting the survey to the homeowners and claimed that Ms. Susy Forbath "misled the residents by telling them that the 'support survey doesn't mean anything' and 'was just a formality." (Document 13, WC Ltr 7/26/2013) 

In a letter to me, Mr. Constantine further challenged me or "anyone from the law firm of Gilchrist & Rutter to demonstrate why that statement is not true." (Document 14, WC Ltr 8/9/2013) 

I asked Ms. Forbath to explain her position and she sent the following response:
This one is somewhat difficult to answer in simple terms – but I will give it a try!
First of all, it’s not that the survey is “important” “not important” or even “critical”.  It’s that the current law, which I sent you this morning, doesn’t have specific requirements for the results of the survey, only for how it is taken.  This is a matter that has been litigated in several cities, and the courts have continued to uphold our understanding of the current law and its intent (if you read the legislative history it says that the survey should not provide residents with veto power).  Our interpretation is that because the survey, by law, is taken at the earliest stage of the process, it only shows a preliminary interest – not how many people will actually and ultimately purchase. 
However, Mr. Constantine has repeatedly challenged it and has lost each and every time.  He always claims that park owners are not doing it to sell lots, only to escape rent control so if residents don’t want it that means it is a “sham”.  However, he has not been able to show a single park where this has ever happened.  
There was one park – in Santa Cruz – in which the court said that since only one person voted for the conversion it did not show support (and for the record, Mr. Constantine was not the attorney of record on that case).  So this conversion was denied for lack of support. 
What the courts have held is that there is no specific “number of votes” or “majority” that must be shown in support, but rather the owners “intent” to transfer lots to the residents.  Therefore, to show intent, we do need to show that there is a significant number of residents that are in support.  But if 30% are in support, and 40% are not, and 30% don’t vote at all – what does that mean?  
If you ask Mr. Will Constantine – he would probably say that means that 70% don’t want the conversion and it should be denied.   
If you ask me – it means that 30% may be interested in buying (or getting increased rent protection) and so why shouldn’t they be given the opportunity – as long as the others are not negatively impacted?
The other issue is SB510.  This proposed bill which Mr. Constantine is promoting would change the current law to say that a “majority” of all residents in the park must vote in support of a conversion for it to be approved.  That means everyone who doesn’t vote will be counted as “non support”.  Obviously not the way elections of any sort are conducted in this country.  I venture to say there is not a single elected official or ballot measure that would ever have been elected/passed if it required a “yes” vote from every single registered voter!  And since there is no way to force people to send in their votes, it just won’t work and no parks could become resident owned.  
Even in Mesa Dunes, where 99 household voted in support and 33 voted against – it would be denied because 99 is not the majority of all residents in the park.  This does not make sense to me. 
We have been working very hard to get the author of this bill to change the wording to define “majority” as the majority of those who cast a ballot.  But she has refused – obviously her intent is to kill conversions – at the prompting of Mr. Will Constantine and GSMOL.  
I met with your Assemblyman Katcho Acadjian last week and he said that he too has asked Sen. Jackson to change that language and she will not agree.  If you agree with Katcho, it would be great for him to hear from you – he would appreciate the support because all he said he has heard from is from people who oppose conversions. 
Sorry for such a long a rambling reply – it is not a simple or clear cut topic.  But I hope this helped. 
Bottomline:  Author Opinion

The survey has been taken and there seems to be little likelihood that it will be retaken.  Results of the survey showed 99 in favor of the survey, 33 not in favor and 172 non responses.  To me this says there are still a lot of people confused or uncertain about the process and what it means to them.

One way or the other, it appears that the conversion is going forward so I believe the most important thing we can do is get smarter about the process and how it affects each of us.

I've boiled it down in my mind to two questions:
  • Will buying my land make financial sense (meaning is the price right and can I get financing)?
  • What will happen if I don't buy?
If anyone has information or insight on those two questions, I'd love to hear from you.  Email:

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