Mountain View Voice

News - April 8, 2011

Owner of condemned mobile home vows to fight

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

by Nick Veronin

"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 Spaghetti Freddie, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I can't believe it is worth it to Sahara Mobile Home Park to have a 77 year old man telling this story in the newspaper rather than moving this guy across the park. Crazy. Especially when the management makes it clear they have no intention of fixing anything unless the government pays for it.


Posted by unavailable, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Wow! I am amazed! I am a resident of this property owner, and I am absolutely astounded that they would not assist their resident. The cost to move that home to a vacant lot within that park cannot be more than $2,000 (and what do you want to bet they probably know a vendor that would be willing to discount their standard price - has anyone even asked??)

The park owners won't entertain the thought of footing a $2M bill to shore up the creek bed within their property lines (thus the plea for 'assistance'), yet they have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a resident, who I am sure, during his residency has paid that park an excess of $2,500 in rent. Yet the park is not willing to make an investment in the tenant by moving him? What do you want to bet they still expect him to pay his full rent!

Shame on the owners of Sahara MHP! I don't necessarily blame the property management company, they just work for the owners of the property.

This company owns THREE mobile home parks in our community. Surely they can take care of a resident when an act of nature destroys a home located on land THEY own!


Posted by q, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm

The owners want everyone to move out so they can make more money with more expensive real estate. Why would they help anyone there?


Posted by unavailable @ q, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Trust me, owning a MHP is a gold mine. Maintenance, mortgage payments, insurance and payroll is low compared to the high rents the owners are raking in.

Their profit margin is doing just fine thank you! [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment].


Posted by MV Resident, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 8, 2011 at 4:52 am

So what kind of a "friend" charges a guy $100 per WEEK in rent?!!! I had a friend in trouble when I was young and I let him share my place for free for 7 months! All I asked was he clean-up after himself and buy his own groceries... THAT is what friends do for each other! Shesh!


Posted by Mv, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Property owners wants the tax payers to foot the bill. How pathetic.


Posted by Greed is Good, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:52 am

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

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? Truly shameless.


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