News

Owner of condemned mobile home vows to fight

Uncertain future for units affected by collapsed creek bank at Sahara Mobile Village

"It's just been a damn mess," said Bob Burnham, an eight-year resident of Sahara Mobile Village whose home is uninhabitable since his backyard was swept away by heavy rains and the rushing current of Stevens Creek on March 20.

Residents and management at the mobile home park expressed relief, resignation, anger and frustration -- in some cases all at once -- at the damage caused by last month's days-long deluge that eroded the cliff along the creek's banks.

"We weren't affected, fortunately," said Daniel Gomez-Martinez. His backyard was spared, but just barely. Three of his neighbors weren't so lucky.

The cliff that gave way borders Stevens Creek and runs behind several homes along Stevens Creek Drive, a street within Sahara Mobile Village.

Gomez-Martinez said he will be allowed to remain in his home.

Burnham, a 77-year-old retiree, was home when the cliff collapsed, taking most of his backyard and the majority of a white picket fence with it.

Although he is glad that his unit has not been damaged and that his cat, Whiskers, was not harmed in the landslide, he is upset with how the incident has been handled by the mobile home park's management. Action should have been taken years ago to prevent it, he said.

"If they would have done something three years ago we wouldn't be in this mess," Burnham said. The owners of the park have known for years that the cliffs along the bank of the creek needed reinforcement, but did nothing, according to Burnham.

That's not entirely true, according to Maria Ahmad, general manager of Sahara Mobile Village. Ahmad said she has been working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District since she began her job in 2007 in an attempt to get financial assistance to build a levy or otherwise shore up the cliffs bordering the park.

The problem, Ahmad said, is that the water district won't provide financial assistance due to a law prohibiting the public agency from spending money on projects that would improve private land.

Because the Sahara Mobile Village's property line extends into the center of Stevens Creek, the water district can only provide advice to the owners, according to Chris Elias, lower Peninsula watershed manager for the district.

"We empathize with the impacts on the residents and the owners for their loss," Elias said. "Unfortunately, the law ties our hands as far as what we can do."

Ahmad, who said reinforcing the cliff could cost as much as $2 million, is continuing to work "amicably" with the water district, but does not understand why the agency is so unwilling to budge on the matter of financial support.

Both Ahmad and Elias have said that the water district would likely benefit from such a project.

Stevens Creek is a habitat for steelhead, Elias said. When large chunks of earth fall into the waterway, it disrupts that environment and the district has to send out cleanup crews to clear silt out of the stream.

Still, the law "is what it is," Elias said. Unless the law is changed, the district will not be able to provide financial support to owners and residents of the Sahara Mobile Village.

Meanwhile, Burnham remains in limbo. His unit, which he owns, has been condemned, he can't afford to start over somewhere new or move his unit to another park, and Sahara won't help him financially with such a move.

While the park paid to move one of the units to another space in the complex, that was a Sahara-owned unit. Ahmad said those who own their homes must foot the bill to move their structures.

Burnham thinks he is getting a raw deal from his landlords and plans on hiring a lawyer to seek damages for the pain and suffering he has endured since the cliff gave way.

"I can't eat, I can't sleep and my poor cat hasn't been the same," Burnham said. For the time being, he is complying with the state's order -- staying out of his home and paying a friend $100 a week to rent a room -- but ultimately he hopes his lawyer will be able to get him back in the place he calls home.

"I'm going to stay," he said. "I'm going to fight them."

Comments

Posted by anky van deursen, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm

The Mountain View Mediation Program is specifically set up to help in situations like these. Parties can come to a mutually acceptable solution instead of having to go to court. Please contact the Mountain View Mediation case manager Anky van Deursen at (650) 960-0495 ext. 15.


Posted by Michele, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm

The landlord of Sahara Mobile Park is John Vividich. The man inherited alot of retail shopping centers and other property from his father. Why should the county pay to improve his property. He should pay for moving those other mobile homes it's his fault for not fixing the problem. As a ex-tenant of one of his shopping centers, he has no compassion. He owns a mansion in Los Altos Hills. He doesn't care about where these poor people will live or what happens to their homes.


Posted by Greed is Good, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Apr 11, 2011 at 7:07 pm

If the park owners don't want to maintain the creek, maybe they could give up creek ownership and donate it to the County?

Also, isn't the mobile park owned by John Vidovich of farm subsidy fame?

Web Link

Is he really now angling for another tax funded (water district) handout?


Posted by Doug Pearson, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I sympathize with the unlucky people whose mobile homes have been endangered by the creek's erosion; I even sympathize with the landlord who is responsible for an expensive repair job. (The alternative would be abandoning a significant part of his property, an equally expensive financial burden.)

But I don't agree that they deserve taxpayer funds to pay for, or help pay for their recovery.


Posted by Know-It-All, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm

John Vidovich, the millionaire real estate developer and top recipient of farm subsidies, is the owner. His family's real estate company, De Anza Properties, has built office complexes, condominiums, mobile home parks and hotels. He and his wife, Lydia, live not in a farmhouse but in a Los Altos Hills home valued at $11.4 million.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2011 at 11:18 pm

You can look up his farm subsidies at the Environmental Working Group web site.
Web Link


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