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Imperial Beach's Siesta RV Park finally sells

Tenants face rent raises and evictions

"If you stay there over nine months you become a permanent resident. They don't want that."
"If you stay there over nine months you become a permanent resident. They don't want that."

A few years ago, residents of Siesta RV park in Imperial Beach caught a lucky break when plans to sell the land to a developer fell through.

Now, after a surprise change of ownership in January, residents say they are struggling anew. Rents are going up for many, utility bills seem inflated but there's no one to call for answers, and some tenants - and their trailers - are forced to move out every six months for 48 hours.

On the Siesta website, lots are said to rent from $800 to $1600. According to Andy Hall, Imperial Beach city manager, there are mobile home slips and recreational vehicle slips. The latter can be used only if there is no permanent residency. Thus the required rotations.

Last week, park residents packed the Imperial Beach Council chamber during public comment, begging the city to intervene.

"As you know, we were here two years ago, fighting the same thing," said Maria Hirneisen, a 25-year park resident. No one even notified them the park was for sale - or when it sold, she said. "How is a trailer park allowed to do that? We do have a homeowners association, and they still have not notified us."

According to realtor.com, the 4.7-acre property at 409 Palm Avenue sold on January 14, 2022 for $11,350,000. A previous sale, in 1984, was for $550,000. The park sits on land five blocks from the ocean and six blocks west of the Silver Strand (highway 75) as it becomes the commercial artery of Palm in Imperial Beach.

Court documents show the new owner, real estate company Miramar Imperial Beach LLC, filed a property-related lawsuit on September 27, 2021 against Siesta RV Park Inc. in San Diego County Superior Court.

Mayor Dedina: "It's really clear that predatory investors are looking to trailer parks as profit centers,"

While Hirneisen didn't get a rent raise, for others it has gone up to $1,250 a month, she said.

Steve Running Wolf, a 70-year-old disabled vet who lives on a small fixed income, faced a rent increase of $42 in January under the new owners. On top of that, "we're being told by park management we're going to be charged for water, sewer, and trash fees," which they have not been charged in the 11 years he's been there.

According to the city attorney, mobile homes don't fall under California rent control law, which limits rent increases to five percent plus the local rate of inflation. However, cities and counties can pass local ordinances, such as rent control.

"This is something we're seeing all throughout the county, and right here at Siesta park," said Jose Lopez, the director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. It's not just the rent increases and evictions causing hardships, Lopez said, but people "having to rotate every six months."

One single mother who has had to move twice said she didn't understand this rotation when a resident wasn't being evicted, but would return within days. She bought an RV with her life savings; "I didn't buy a truck to move it because I was planning to live in it."

Mayor Serge Dedina said she should "never have to justify why it's hard to have to move out every six months. We're as outraged as you are."

Each time a low income tenant has to move, they face a string of costs. They pay to move the trailer out, then again to move it back, which they said costs $200 each way. One man said he had to take two days off from work to move his trailer. Food gets tossed. And they must pay for motels and eating out.

"If you had a shed in there, they make you take the shed apart, inch by inch. You cannot leave your plants or barbecue at the neighbor's because you come in 48 hours after," said resident Consuelo Villalpando. It's not allowed.

"Why is that? Because we know for sure that if you stay there over nine months you become a permanent resident. They don't want that."

The topic will be brought back to the council on a future agenda. Council member Ed Spriggs said he would like to see what the rent increases have been on average, how they compare, "because I think that's a good data point regarding the overwhelming request to do something about rent increase management in the RV parks in Imperial Beach."

Mayor Dedina stressed that the city will be following up. "It's really clear that predatory investors are looking to trailer parks as profit centers," he said. "It's awful, what we've heard today. I am so sorry that this is happening in our city. It's unacceptable."

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"If you stay there over nine months you become a permanent resident. They don't want that."
"If you stay there over nine months you become a permanent resident. They don't want that."

A few years ago, residents of Siesta RV park in Imperial Beach caught a lucky break when plans to sell the land to a developer fell through.

Now, after a surprise change of ownership in January, residents say they are struggling anew. Rents are going up for many, utility bills seem inflated but there's no one to call for answers, and some tenants - and their trailers - are forced to move out every six months for 48 hours.

On the Siesta website, lots are said to rent from $800 to $1600. According to Andy Hall, Imperial Beach city manager, there are mobile home slips and recreational vehicle slips. The latter can be used only if there is no permanent residency. Thus the required rotations.

Last week, park residents packed the Imperial Beach Council chamber during public comment, begging the city to intervene.

"As you know, we were here two years ago, fighting the same thing," said Maria Hirneisen, a 25-year park resident. No one even notified them the park was for sale - or when it sold, she said. "How is a trailer park allowed to do that? We do have a homeowners association, and they still have not notified us."

According to realtor.com, the 4.7-acre property at 409 Palm Avenue sold on January 14, 2022 for $11,350,000. A previous sale, in 1984, was for $550,000. The park sits on land five blocks from the ocean and six blocks west of the Silver Strand (highway 75) as it becomes the commercial artery of Palm in Imperial Beach.

Court documents show the new owner, real estate company Miramar Imperial Beach LLC, filed a property-related lawsuit on September 27, 2021 against Siesta RV Park Inc. in San Diego County Superior Court.

Mayor Dedina: "It's really clear that predatory investors are looking to trailer parks as profit centers,"

While Hirneisen didn't get a rent raise, for others it has gone up to $1,250 a month, she said.

Steve Running Wolf, a 70-year-old disabled vet who lives on a small fixed income, faced a rent increase of $42 in January under the new owners. On top of that, "we're being told by park management we're going to be charged for water, sewer, and trash fees," which they have not been charged in the 11 years he's been there.

According to the city attorney, mobile homes don't fall under California rent control law, which limits rent increases to five percent plus the local rate of inflation. However, cities and counties can pass local ordinances, such as rent control.

"This is something we're seeing all throughout the county, and right here at Siesta park," said Jose Lopez, the director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. It's not just the rent increases and evictions causing hardships, Lopez said, but people "having to rotate every six months."

One single mother who has had to move twice said she didn't understand this rotation when a resident wasn't being evicted, but would return within days. She bought an RV with her life savings; "I didn't buy a truck to move it because I was planning to live in it."

Mayor Serge Dedina said she should "never have to justify why it's hard to have to move out every six months. We're as outraged as you are."

Each time a low income tenant has to move, they face a string of costs. They pay to move the trailer out, then again to move it back, which they said costs $200 each way. One man said he had to take two days off from work to move his trailer. Food gets tossed. And they must pay for motels and eating out.

"If you had a shed in there, they make you take the shed apart, inch by inch. You cannot leave your plants or barbecue at the neighbor's because you come in 48 hours after," said resident Consuelo Villalpando. It's not allowed.

"Why is that? Because we know for sure that if you stay there over nine months you become a permanent resident. They don't want that."

The topic will be brought back to the council on a future agenda. Council member Ed Spriggs said he would like to see what the rent increases have been on average, how they compare, "because I think that's a good data point regarding the overwhelming request to do something about rent increase management in the RV parks in Imperial Beach."

Mayor Dedina stressed that the city will be following up. "It's really clear that predatory investors are looking to trailer parks as profit centers," he said. "It's awful, what we've heard today. I am so sorry that this is happening in our city. It's unacceptable."

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