By JONDI GUMZ

Sentinel staff writer July 22, 2006   Contact Jondi Gumz at atjgumz@santacruzsentinel.com.

Dennis Connors came up with a perfect description for the two-year process that enabled residents at Palm Terrace Estates to buy their mobile home park. “It’s like a birth,” he said. “You have to keep pushing.” Residents plan to celebrate their accomplishment Aug. 5. No longer will they argue with their landlord about road repairs or space rents. They have the security of knowing they own the land where they have invested in their homes.

Connors, 60, a retired English teacher, coordinated the $2 million project as president of the homeowner association. He still has three reams of paperwork to show for it. He got help from county Supervisor Ellen Pirie, attorney Dave Loop, president of Aptos Knolls Mobile Homeowner Association, and Deane Sargent of PMC Financial Services of Hillsborough, who arranged financing. Sale price was $1.5 million.

The deal, which closed Wednesday, was ideal for both sides, former owner Ken Waterhouse said. “It works well for residents,” said Waterhouse, who heads Waterhouse Management of Roseville and owned the property since 1999. “Price-wise, it works well for us.” The sale to residents was a first for Waterhouse. The company owns eight other parks in the county and about 70 statewide. “Properties change hands all the time,” said Waterhouse vice president Ruben Garcia, but noted that sales to homeowners within the parks is rare.

In Santa Cruz County, about 25 of the 70-plus mobile home parks are owned by residents — 36 percent, which is unusually high. Residents formed an association in 1999, when the most-recent owners purchased the park, and gained nonprofit status the following year. Connors said residents felt insecure as tenants. They could be left in the lurch if the owner sold land, he said, noting a developer wants to turn the Pacific Cove mobile home park in Capitola into a parking lot.

People living in mobile homes have few places to relocate because most parks have no empty spaces. To investors, mobile home parks are attractive despite rent control, Sargent explained, because they are usually full and generate a constant stream of revenue. Residents enjoy the affordability, but park owners have little incentive to upgrade because their profits are reduced and rent control makes it difficult to recover the investment.

Connors talked up the benefits of ownership so much that 42 out of the 48 households joined the homeowners association, which cost $12,000 per household. Those who could not afford to pay cash put $600 down and financed their share. To pay off the loan over the next 20 years, space rent will go up from $255 a month on average to $397 a month, starting Aug. 1. Part of the loan will be used to repair a retaining wall where a slope failed.

The six households that did not join the association will pay same rent because they are protected by rent control. The difference is the landlord is their neighbors. The residents at Palm Terrace Estates are a varied group, ranging in age from 26 to 96. They include working couples, working singles, widows and retirees. About 60 percent are white, 30 percent Latino and 10 percent Asian. The average resident has lived there 16 years.”I come home at night and it just feels so different from before,” said resident Billie Post. “It’s like I’m in a dream.”

SEPTEMBER 2006

Some members have said THE VOICE is too long!  It should be four pages or perhaps no longer than 12.  This month we started out at 12 pages, but there is so much information and news to report that it has grown to 20 pages again.  Of course we are always open to your suggestions and comments.  Just email us at comocal@yahoo.com or call at 1-800-929-6061 seven days a week until 9:00pm.

It’s time for some good news for a change.   THE VOICE, this month, is unlike any in previous months.  The article “American dream is reality at Palm Terrace” shows what residents can do, of course, with the willingness of their park owner. We’ve just chatted with Dennis Connors and the residents are still in heaven.  We all need to think about buying our parks.

The article on Page 6 shows how the mayor of Torrance worked to help   mobilehome owners.

CoMO-CAL again played a role in another WIN for Locust Grove in      Lancaster—article on Page 4.  Congratulations Locust Grove residents and good work Ralph, Jeanette, and all those who were involved.  Often times an attorney is not required. In this case a CPA was involved and did a terrific job.

Of course Proposition 90 is still our priority #1 until the election in November. CoMO-CAL is one of over 50 organizations that are against Prop 90.  The Field Poll, taken about August 1st,   indicated 46% in favor, 31%      opposed, with 23% undecided.  We have much work left to successfully defeat this very dangerous initiative.  We will post articles of importance in the members only section of comocal.org.

We are publishing an article about Ville Vista in San Marcos, along with comments from the general public. Some comments are indicative of the mind set of many who are not familiar with our life in mobile home parks.  We hope this will be enlightening.

The Mobile Home Park Task Force is again meeting, this time with a slightly different group of members. Unfortunately it is not helping us and those   mobile home owners who are members are NOT working together.

Finally our President’s editorial beginning on page 16 brings to light the reluctance of other organizations to UNITE as a team.  If you are reading this and belong to another advocacy organization, please write or call your leaders and demand they work together with CoMO-CAL and other advocacy groups.  We can not afford to isolate ourselves.  There are so few working for the rights of mobile home owners.   Remember:

UNITY – LET’S DO IT TOGETHER