By Sam Richard (Contact)
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Photos by Joseph A. Garcia / Star staff El Dorado Mobile Estates resident Dick Schuck takes his dog for a walk. Schuck supports a rent-control ordinance.

“Yes on rent control in El Dorado,” a sign announces, while another at a different mobile home urges: “No Rent Control.”

The differing opinions on a rent-control proposal are heard in conversations and seen on signs posted at El Dorado Mobile Estates. And the issue has become a divisive one at the Fillmore mobile home park.

City officials have come up with a plan that includes an advisory vote by the park’s residents, who are 55 and older. After the vote, the city could enact an ordinance regulating rent increases at the park.

“They have to vote. That’s the key,” said Tom Anderson, a resident at the mobile home park for eight years.

Supporters want a rent-control ordinance partly because they are struggling to pay annual rent increases of 4.5 percent.

Opponents, however, say if an ordinance is adopted, the park’s management company would change El Dorado into a condominium park or could drop the age restriction for tenants. Residents would have the option to purchase the property beneath their coach if El Dorado were converted into a condominium park.

Although a date has not been set by the city, residents will likely vote in a straw poll by early March, officials say.

The ballots likely will include a draft city ordinance and an alternative offer from Santa Ana-based Star Management, which runs the mobile home park at 250 E. Telegraph Road.

“This is inciting nerves and dislikes,” resident Ray Brown said as he walked his Chihuahuas, Chica and Pete’e. “It pits neighbor against neighbor.”

Brown, 63, moved to El Dorado in August 2006 because it was a mobile home park for older people. He said he’s not mad at management’s desire to change the park and respects the right to pursue that. But if the park is converted into a place for all ages, Brown said, he will leave.

“I’m disabled with a heart problem,” he said. “I just can’t have all the excitement and clamor that come with kids.”

Having an all-age park could bring in families of three to five people per home, and they are more “economically viable,” said Mike Cirillo, president of Star Management.

“From the owner’s perspective, the new (people) have an ability to pay higher rents,” he said.

Star Management opposes a rent-control ordinance and considers condominium conversions a viable economic option, according to Cirillo.

The park, which has about 420 residents, is not low-income, and people who have seen rent increases agreed to them in their leases, he added.

Anderson, who said he is neutral on the issue and believes rent control is not the answer for everything, is working on the offer with Cirillo. He said the offer could include lower annual rent increases and an agreement not to convert the park to an all-age property.

John Ohngren, 60, who supports an ordinance, said he is struggling to pay rent because of changing circumstances in his life. His wife died in July. He said it is a financial squeeze to meet rent increases and pay for medication and other essentials. A rent-control ordinance would be a big help, he said.

“It makes sense,” Ohngren said. “I could see (rent) going to $1,000. That’s crazy.”

Cirillo said Star Management recently started a program at El Dorado to assist seniors struggling financially. Depending on their circumstances, they can receive monthly rent credits, he said. Several applications have been received, he said.

Richard Schuck, an 82-year-old resident, said he hopes an ordinance is passed soon. Higher rents “will price a few out of the park,” he said.



Comments on Article by Frank Wodley, CoMO-CAL President

This article should not be entitled “The Pros and Cons of Rent Control.”  Just talk with any mobilehome owner in a rent control area – there are few “cons.”

I know, I live in Chatsworth and we have rent control.  Two parks just a few miles away (Mountain View and Summit) are not in L.A. City and do not have rent control. Their rents are as high as $1500.00.  Without rent control, my rent would probably be at least $500/month higher.   Not only would I not be able to pay it, but my home would essentially be worthless!  I’d probably have to walk away and leave it, but to where?

If I were a resident of El Dorado, I’d opt for rent control, hands down.  Then I’d band together against Star Management and Mike Cirillo to stop any “sham” conversion or change to an all age park.  (We all know condo conversions are just another way to break rent control and/or double the cost of the park.)

When will cities finally realize people are suffering?  The time for “rental parks” should be a thing of the past.  No one should be controlled by a park owner or manager or pro-management residents.  Residents deserve better.  Cities should step in and help residents purchase their parks.  There should be NO MORE “rental parks.”

This is no way to treat seniors!


Frank Wodley, President

Coalition of Mobilehome Owners – California