THE TUSTIN NEWS Tuesday, May 8, 2007
BY ERIKA M. TORRES
But some residents at Tustin Village Mobile Home Park on the 15300 block of Williams Street are worried their quality of life may suffer now that it is accepting residents of all ages after being a seniors-only community for more than 25 years.
On April 24, Sierra Corporate Management of Anaheim, the park’s caretaker, announced that over a period of six months the community would become an all-age park.
“Affordable housing for anybody, not restricted to seniors, is in high demand, especially in Orange County,” Sierra Management President Abe Arrigotti said.
But some seniors, including Billy Hall, say the decision violates a verbal agreement made two years ago with Arrigotti and Mayor Lou Bone and Councilman Jim Palmer. The agreement was intended to ensure the park would stay a seniors-only community if residents accepted gradual rent increases.
Since two years ago, when Sierra took over from the previous ground-lease holder, rents have increased from $600 to an average rate of $780, according to Arrigotti. Per terms of the agreement, he also provided applications for the county Mobile Home Rental Assistance Program which gives qualified residents a 10 percent rental discount.
Arrigotti called the agreement a “good-faith offer” but maintains the residents have not upheld their end.
Bone agrees with Arrigotti saying the seniors violated the terms of the agreement by “beating him (Arrigotti) up all the time” and complaining of rent increases. “This is a property rights issue; it has nothing to do with the city.”
Bone requested that Arrigotti conduct a survey to see if residents preferred an all-age or seniors-only park. The results of the survey will not be known until the end of the week, but Arrigotti said even if the results show residents prefer a seniors-only community, the transition toward an all-age park will continue.
Arrigotti said the decision comes because of market demand. He adds that Sierra’s 15-year ground lease extension shows the company’s commitment to preserving the park.
Some residents say they are struggling to keep up with rent increases while they battle to keep the community all seniors.
“We moved here to live a peaceful life,” Resident Audrey Swearengen said. “We thought we were set and now we have to compete.”
Tustin Village Mobile home has no parks or yards, and children play in the roadways where residents drive, Swearengen said. “The worst part is neither the seniors nor the children are going to be safe.”
Since the park began changing to an all-age park, no non-seniors have moved in, Arrigotti said.
Six residents have written letters to Swearengen stating they were misled to believe the park would stay an older-persons community. Mark Rohde said a manager told him the owners had recently signed a 30-year lease and “absolutely did not want children in the park.”
But not all residents feel the same. Maureen Leonard, 62, is happy with the new agreement. Leonard could not afford the park’s rent increases but was unable to sell her home because of the age restrictions. She also is happy the park will now offer affordable housing to families.
“The majority of (seniors), because they are on a fixed income, cannot actually stay here and afford the large increases in our rent,” Leoanard said. “They’ve got to start exploring their options, and there are options.”
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