Mobile Home Residents in Uproar Over Sale Plan

By Gene Maddaus, DAILY BREEZE

The new owner of Carson’s second-largest mobile home park plans to convert it to a “condominium park” — forcing some residents to either buy the land underneath their homes or face dramatic rent increases.

By converting Colony Cove Mobile Estates to “resident ownership,” the owner, James Goldstein, would be able to circumvent Carson’s strict rent control ordinance. Goldstein also stands to profit from the sell-off, and has made it clear through representatives that he is unmoved by widespread opposition to the plan from the park’s residents.

Residents John Goolsby and Grace Follette oppose property owners efforts to make tenants buy the Colony Cove mobile home park. Residents have banded together to oppose the idea, packing the park’s clubhouse to overflowing Tuesday night in a show of solidarity. “I’m gonna fight him at every step of the turn,” said John C. Goolsby, president of the Colony Cove Rental Committee. “This’ll be 10 years before he can pull this off.”

Goldstein and two partners bought the park, on the east side of Avalon Boulevard south of Albertoni Street, on April 5. He already owns the city’s  largest park, Carson Harbor Village, which is across the street to the west  from Colony Cove. For the past three years he has been working to convert  Carson Harbor Village to resident ownership, though the city has tried to  block the effort.

Colony Cove is home to 400 mobile homes owned by seniors above the age of  55. They rent their spaces for about $400 per month. Residents received  fliers announcing the change of ownership a few days ago. Under the plan, residents could buy their spaces and join a condo  association, to which they would pay dues. The sale price of the spaces  will not be known until Goldstein commissions an appraisal, but residents guessed it would be in the range of $100,000 to $140,000 per space.

Many residents said they had no interest in buying. “There would be no way  I could afford it,” said Lou Howlett, who has lived in the park almost 20  years. “I’d have to deplete all my savings and then have nothing left to fall back on.”

The conversion would remove the park from the Carson rent-control ordinance.  The owner would then be able to raise rents dramatically for  moderate-income tenants, perhaps as much as doubling rent in four years. The state rent-control law would protect low-income tenants — for singles,  that means those earning less than $38,800 per year — which is perhaps a  majority of the park.

The fliers pitched the change as “an opportunity to choose what is best for  your household and benefit from increasing land values!” “I guess they  think because we’re a senior home, we’re senile and stupid,” Goolsby said.  “We are not stupid.” “They don’t have our interests in mind at all,” said  another resident, Regina Galyean.

Goldstein’s attorney, Sue Loftin, held a meeting on the conversion on  Wednesday afternoon. Though a reporter and photographer were barred from  the room, residents said the meeting was confrontational. “They said it’s a foregone conclusion,” resident Hugo Bakos said. “Most  people objected and said, ‘No, you’ve got to put it to a vote.’ “One woman  was in tears, residents said, as she told the attorney, “This is my golden years. I wanted peace and quiet.”

Richard Close, an attorney representing Goldstein, said that in other parks residents come to see the benefits of ownership. “It’s premature to measure  happiness (with the plan),” he said. “It’s a complicated process. When people understand the process, they’ll understand the benefits and they will support it.”   The owner plans to submit a condo-conversion application with the city by midsummer.

The city has “very limited, if any” discretion to deny the application, said Ron Winkler, the city’s economic development general manager.

Goolsby said state law requires a survey of resident support for the conversion before it can go forward, but Close said the survey is for information only, and residents cannot vote to stop the conversion. Residents were gathering funds to hire an attorney, and the issue seemed likely to end up in court.

Mayor Jim Dear said he would do “whatever I can” to protect the mobile home residents, but acknowledged the city’s powers are limited.”Free enterprise allows the seller to sell to who they want to,” Dear said. “It would not be my first choice for a buyer.”