The majority of those remaining plan to stay until Archstone-Smith kicks them out, or as one neighbor describes it, “until they roll me out of here feetfirst.”
Carolyn Gunnon, president of the homeowners’ association, speaks up as some neighbors express their anger. “I think that’s what Archstone is hoping for is that people will just give up and leave. If we leave, then we don’t get anything. It’s money for them.”
In December 2009, the Mission Valley Village Mobilehome Association hired lawyer Peter Zamoyski to represent homeowners in a multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against Archstone-Smith. The lawsuit alleges that Archstone violated the Mobilehome Residency Law by denying homeowners the right to transfer relocation benefits to new buyers or heirs. The lawsuit contends that the developer, by delaying park closure, caused home values to plummet. It accuses Archstone of “fraudulent conduct and misrepresentations” in inducing owners to sell their homes to Archstone.
The suit also asks Archstone-Smith to base the rental subsidy on the rent at the time the park was purchased, $725 a month, and not the new rate that’s $50 higher.
“It doesn’t sound like much,” explains Zamoyski, “but one of the largest components of the relocation package is seven years of rent differential. Every time they raise the rent, the benefits get smaller.
“They have done everything to make life more difficult for these folks, to try to help out Archstone-Smith’s bottom line at the expense of the owners,” says Zamoyski during a September 21 phone interview. “That much is clear.
“Archstone-Smith said…they would not raise the rent as long as they were closing the mobile home park.” But some residents became ill and needed to move. Archstone-Smith told them that “they would buy the house for $5000 if the owner agrees to waive the relocation benefits,” says Zamoyski.
To prevent Archstone-Smith from raising the rent a second time and from speaking to previous tenants or to heirs, homeowners asked the court for a restraining order. Days before the judge was expected to rule on it, lawyers for the developer asked to take the case into mediation.
In the meantime, the nearly 100 people living in the park remain unsure of their future. Sitting at the dog park on that September afternoon, the residents are upset and scared.
“So many people just don’t know what they’re going to do, and you can tell it just weighs on them,” says former homeowners’ association president Homer Barrs. “It could be months, two or three years, or maybe five years. We just don’t know. A lot of people don’t know we’re still here. They forgot about us.”
After Barrs finishes his comment, resident Heather Manues speaks in an embittered tone: “The City, Jim Madaffer, the mayor, they sold the park right out from under us, and they just are having us sit here, like we’re nonentities.”
“This was where I was going to die,” says 22-year park resident Doris Melvin. “I was devastated when I heard the news, but I refuse to let them chase me out.”
Archstone-Smith failed to respond to requests for comment. Lawyers are continuing mediation sessions.