Bob Richards: "My buyer decided to walk away."
Even though mobile homes remain the largest form of affordable housing in California, a state of California/Stanford University report said that because mobile home park property is worth five to six times more if it is instead used for high density development, the homesteads long known as trailer parks are “vanishing.” There have been no new mobile home parks built in California since the 1980s.
What will happen to the residents of Mission View West when their land lease expires August 31?
Oceanside is thought to be a haven for mobile home park ownership because of a 1982 rent-control ordinance. Yet some warn the future is looking bleak for some of Oceanside’s 2,500 mobile home tenants.
For decades there were 17 Oceanside mobile home parks, most built in the 60s or 70s. But in 2017 the owner of the 21-space La Playa Vista park flat out ignored the city’s ordinance that mandated a mobile home park owner advise the city and then get approval of its closure. Condos are being planned for the La Playa property on Tremont Street west of Coast Highway.
Why did the owner of Terrace Gardens try to install double-wide homes in single-wide spaces without getting city permits?
There are now 16 Oceanside mobile home parks. And by the end of the year there may be 15.
Consider the Mission View West park near the intersection of Douglas Drive and Mission Avenue. A 65-year land lease that allows Mission View to exist expires at the end of August. On Tuesday Steve Epsten of San Diego who owns Mission View Mobile, Inc. was asked what might happen to his park with 108 spaces.
“I do not comment on private business matters,” Epsten said by phone. Epsten declined to say if his Oceanside park may succumb to a high-rise residential redevelopment which would displace the Mission View West mobile home residents.
Bob Richards lives in the 433-space Rancho San Luis Rey Mobile Home Park. He says that when he tried to sell his home the sale was thwarted because park management harassed him by demanding, among other things, that he tear down the six-foot wall surrounding his home even though there are other six-foot-high walls in his park and Oceanside city codes specifically say fences up to six feet tall are legal.
“I had a buyer from Palm Springs who was approved,” says Richards. “They came after me,” he says of Star Management which runs Rancho San Luis Rey. He says Star would not relent on its demands to tear down the fence which halted the sale. “They are completely predatory. They don’t want it to look like too many people are leaving because it will look bad to their investors. My buyer decided to walk away because he saw what [Star Management] did to me.”
A request to Star Management at its Santa Ana headquarters for comment was not returned.
“This is an absolute mess,” says Richards, “I will fight back. But most of these people are in their 70s and 80s and they don’t want to rock the boat. They are older people who are afraid of retaliation.”
Linda Walshaw was honored last month as the Oceanside Senior of the Year due to her efforts with her fellow mobile home residents and area attorneys. She says seniors and veterans are getting coerced into signing away their rent control. "I try to educate homeowners not to sign away their right to rent control and seek legal help and resources as soon as possible. Oceanside has lost over 600 rent-controlled spaces."
“There are a lot of people who are afraid to speak up,” says Vicki Tillman, who lives in the 92-space Westwinds Mobile Lodge. “They tell people who want to move here that we don’t have rent control. Let’s say your lease is up in October. They’ll tell you that you have to sign this new lease [without rent control] or your rent will go up by $150. We have proof, and that’s illegal.”
Tillman says that fear drives these home-owners into submission. “These people don’t have money to fight it on their own. We tried to get a class-action lawsuit together. Wes sent out these surveys and people were afraid to turn them in. One lady said they threatened to report her to the border patrol.”
Tillman says some parks are worse than others. “Every park has its own manager. They make up their own rules. This is supposed to be your home. You shouldn’t have to be afraid to laugh too loud or play music.
Daren Douglas is a realtor who says he knows first hand of Star Management killing sales by making demands on would-be sellers that sometimes are impossible to fulfill.
“They wanted one seller to replace the skirting with the same stuff that was there before,” says Douglas about the material that wraps around the bottom of each home. “They said it had to be aluminum just like the old one. But they don’t make aluminum siding like that anymore. The seller was happy to replace with vinyl but they demanded it be aluminum, which does not exist. The law clearly states vinyl is ok.” He says the furor held up the sale. “And who is there to stop these park owners from doing this?
“They like being bullies,” says Douglas. “There was one guy trying to sell his coach. It was spotless. They picked the guy to death about things like stains on his driveway when state law says the property owner is responsible for repair and maintenance of driveways. There was a little old lady who was selling. The buyer had all cash. It took them three weeks to come out and sign off on the inspection. Because it took so long, the buyers backed off.”
Walshaw says some of the parks are buying up the homes within the park, allowing the owner to collect market rate rent ($2,000 to $2,500) versus rent-controlled space rent which is usually around $500. That, plus the effort to convince mobile home owners to sign away their rent control with new leases, has drastically taken down the amount of Oceanside residents still on rent control.
Angie Hanifin, housing administrator with the city of Oceanside, says there is nothing to prevent park owners from purchasing mobile homes and turning them into park-owned rentals.
Although La Playa Vista owners did not notify the city when it ceased operations as a mobile home park, Hanifin says it is still the law that the city council must approve all park closures or conversions.
Residents of Terrace Gardens on Oceanside Boulevard claim their new park owner tried to install 11 double-wide homes in single-wide spaces. Residents of the Mira Mar Mobile Community overlooking the harbor tore out a clubhouse and wash room without getting city permits.
Walshaw says city data show that Pacific Trailer Park on Oceanside Boulevard has only one or two of its 62 spaces still under rent control. She says the Mobilehome Advisory Committee is one of the few resources available to Oceanside mobile home owners.