The Chula Vista Mobile Home Residents Association (CVMHRA) was formed in 2009 by residents Deloris Dempsey and Ted Kennedy. In 2010 they offered to pass the association to some new kids on the block to continue their efforts. This turned out to bea very positive move for CVMHRA representing 31 Mobile/manufactured parks with over 3500 rental spaces. These parks represent a large portion of our city’s affordable housing and so we jumped in with both feet, as the saying goes.
The first thing that happened was one of our parks had received a notice of $96.00 per month, per unit increase for everyone and so the “Brentwood Case” was born.
Brentwood MHE was purchased a few years previously by Follett Enterprises.They were able to purchase the business at a substantially reduced price due to its poor condition and lack of maintenance. In fact, the park had numerous health and safety violations. It was seriously close to either fix the problems or suspend rent collection. Follett’s title company would not close the deal with the violation on record.
So a deal was struck with the city (Chula Vista). They would release the violationstemporarily so Follett’s title could close and then re-record them..but Follett would have to make the improvements within a certain time period. They improved the electric and other problems and all was well for a few years. Then the roof came crashing down with a proposed monthly rent increase of $ 96.00 to pay the owners back for repairs made to the park. Mr.& Mrs. Runyan(park resident) contacted Alicia McGinnis and me, Board members of the CVMHRA and asked what could be done. We advised them to petition the CV Rent Review Commission for a hearing. Our first shock: Our own Community Development and Assistant City Attorney handed us a recommending to grant the full request of the park owner. Follett’s lawyer delivered his case file to the city… All 1032 pages!
And so the battle began. Ms. McGinnis and myself presented overwhelming evidence that a significant portion of the increases were not allowed to be apass through as stated in our 9.50 ordinance. We felt our presentations and research gave our commissioners’ the fuel they needed to override the city’s recommendation and find in favor of a lesser rent increaseto be phased in over a three year period.
Our city stood its ground and several appeals ensued. Follett appealed to the 1st District Court of Appeals for a ruling and it came back in favor of the park owner because of one simple fact: The city had NOT hired a Fair Rate of Return Expert so badly needed to rebut park owner’s claim. Their findings also stated they could not consider the research and presentations made by a “non-certified expert”. All this costing tens of thousands in tax payer’s money. Our city did admit later that they made a mistake in trying to do the analysis in house.Hiring an expert would have saved our city money and the outcome would likely have been very different.
Over the years since, CVMHRA has continued to make presentations before the Rent Review Commission especially on change of ownership cases and we have so far prevailed in favor of residents. With Ordinance changes these type of cases no longer occur.
Now, I would like to write about what we in Chula Vista who live in mobile/ manufactured home parks have come to call ”Black Tuesday”. With very little notice on Tuesday, July 12, 2011. The Chula Vista council included a drastic change to our Rent Control Ordinance.
Item 1. The removal of Vacancy Control
The CVMHRA members showed up in force (over 300) for this meeting but were shuffled out of council chambers and forced to folding chairs in the city hall lobby.We got to watch the proceedings on a TV screen. It has been reported that some park owners actually hired young republicans from outlying cities to fill the chamber seats.Most of them had NO idea why they were there other than they were paid and given meals from Taco Bell.
A Brilliant move on park owners’ part (who had just lost a rent decontrol battle in Oceanside). And it worked. Forcing affected residents to find other seating..some seniors and handicapped had to stand and some were unable to stay.
Residents spoke as to their fears of exploding space rents, lowering the valueof their homes and making it more difficult to sell for a reasonable price. CVMHRA came prepared with an application to request a public vote on the whole matter. When it came time for park owners to speak, they backed off on the demand for Full Vacancy Decontrol and accepting the Temporary Vacancy Decontrol (home is back under rent control after sale). Council vote 4-0-1 recused.
Item 2. Fee for Service
We now have to look at “Fee for Service” as an insurance policy.To keep our rent control we must pay a fee (tax) to the city once a year.It is supposed to be a ‘locked fund”. The first installment was $ 60.00/a year per resident, to be adjusted every two years (hopefully down). A home owner has one of two choices, pay keep rent control, don’t pay and the park ownercan raise rents at will, continuously. Please know, and be assured, not all park owners are the same and hopefully will keep rents reasonable. Council vote 4-0-1 recused.
The City immediately began the process of collecting the Fee for Service. The first billing POST CARDS were mailed addressed to Current Resident. WOW what a mess!They looked like junk mail and had 5 flagrant mistakes. They were readily tossed by most residents! One, requirement was expecting a home owner to sign a disclaimer allowing park owners and anyone associated with them to be held harmless and release them from a list of acts including WILLFULL MISCONDUCT. Come on Really! Those of course were recalled and re-printed. CVMHRA collaborated fully with Community Development to re-write the post cards and attended outreach meetings in efforts to inform as many mobile home residents as possible. CVMHRA members took it upon themselves to canvas other parks explaining the “Fee for Service”.
One year later…………..A financial presentation was made by staff to the City Council. We were shocked to see that out of $120,000 plus collected andhad been reduced to only around $ 20,000 to carry over for the following year. “Our account” had apparently been charged for every nut, bolt and washer it took to set up the Fee for Service fund; including our phone calls, emails, meetings we attended to help make correction and who knows what else.
CVMHRA of course questioned the distribution of these funds entrusted to the city. Now we are holding our breath to see what June 2014 brings when a new accounting will be presented.
CVMHRA has been and continues to be a driving force to inform, assist and organize residents, so they are more aware of their rights and not afraid to ask for help. We are always encouraging parks to form HOAs. We strongly support State and Local organizations that believe affordable housing (mobile/manufactured) is necessary.
Chula Vista Mobile Home Residents Association (CVMHRA)