San Jose seniors won't be displaced from Winchester neighborhood

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- After years of fighting displacement, residents at the Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Park in San Jose can breathe a sigh of relief.

"We moved in here on the understanding that we could stay here the rest of our lives and all of a sudden, it's like, sorry, you can't do that," said Winchester Ranch resident Dave Johnsen.

Six years ago, the long-term owners of the property announced their intentions to sell to a developer, leaving the mobile home park's residents, more than 100, in limbo.

Johnsen rallied his neighbors and decided to fight. It paid off. An agreement was announced Thursday between the homeowners association and the developer, Pulte Homes, which will make way for the construction of nearly 700 new apartments and condominiums at the Winchester Blvd. site across from Santana Row.

"This could've been a major disaster," said Mari Jo Pokriots, a retired educator who has lived at Winchester Ranch since 1977. "The biggest relief is that I can stay in San Jose.... that I can keep my friends, that as I get older, I'll be able to go to the places that I know."

Residents will be able to move into replacement housing on-site at the same rent rate which they currently pay, with yearly increases capped at three-percent. Pulte has also agreed to design the units to be senior-friendly.

"This groundbreaking agreement will pave the way to ensure fair and equitable treatment for mobile home park residents facing redevelopment pressure throughout the state of California," said Mayor Sam Liccardo. "I credit the tenacity of Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, Dave Johnsen and the Winchester homeowner's board, Lee Arioto, and Pulte's team for pushing to get this over the goal line."

Attorneys with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley took the case pro-bono on behalf of the residents. They hope the agreement serves as an example of how re-development should happen in the future.

"It should be development that's equitable, where the parties come to an agreement, where people are not being displaced, and that residents get to stay in the community that they currently live in," said Nadia Aziz of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.

The city still needs to approve the plan, but Pulte hopes to break ground on the project in the fall of 2020.

"By working in a collaborative process with the Board and the Residents of Winchester Ranch, we create a win-win that allows us to bring much needed new housing to the City of San Jose, while ensuring current Residents are able to remain in their neighborhood," said Dan Carroll, Pulte Group's Vice President of Land Acquisition.

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