Chapter 59.23 RCW Interpretation

In Hogue v. Port of Seattle, 54 Wn.2d 799, 825, 831, 837-38, 341 P.2d 171 (1959), the Court concluded "it is the duty of the courts to uphold the rights of private property owners against the inroads of public bodies who seek to acquire it for private purposes which they honestly believe to be essential for the public good." Hogue, 54 Wn.2d at 838. Chapter 59.23 RCW authorizes the State to take from the park owner the right to sell to anyone of choice, at any time, and gives tenants a right to preempt the owner's sale to another and to substitute themselves as buyers. Then, after a mobile home park has been forcibly sold to a "qualified tenant organization," no member of the public can use the park. In fact, only the park tenants can freely use it. Although preserving dwindling housing stocks for a particularly vulnerable segment of society provides a "public benefit," this public benefit does not constitute a public use. See In re Seattle, 96 Wn.2d at 638; Hogue, 54 Wn.2d at 825; Oregon-Washington R.R. & Navigation Co., 155 Wash. at 657-58. The conclusion that chapter 59.23 RCW results solely in a private use is further supported by the Legislature's silence concerning public entitlement to occupy and use the park after the private tenants buy it. To the contrary, chapter 59.23 RCW would vest ownership (and, by extension the new owners' and former tenants' right to possess, exclude others, and dispose of it) in a "qualified tenant organization" with membership requiring "(a) Payment of reasonable dues; and (b) being a tenant in the park." RCW 59.23.020(3). On the face of the Act, the public would not be entitled to "use" the park if a "qualified tenant organization" became the owner.