VILLA VISTA RESIDENTS RACING RENT INCREASE AFTER SALE OF SAN MARCOS PARK

By: DAVID GARRICK – Staff Writer

SAN MARCOS —- The 85 families living in the Villa Vista Mobile Estates are facing a 27 percent rent increase now that their mobile home park has been sold to a private operator based in Irvine.  Three months after Cal-Am Properties bought the park in March from longtime owner Richard Collins for $5.1 million, the company sent residents letters in late June stipulating that rents must increase by 27 percent for Cal-Am to receive a “fair rate of return” on its investment.

Residents interviewed Monday afternoon said they plan to ask the City Council to nullify the rent increases and the sale of the property, which has jeopardized the residents’ four-year campaign to buy the park themselves. “We’re going to ask the city to please not allow the increase,” said 53-year-old Beth Puzac, who has lived in the park for nearly three years. “It seems ridiculous. He must not have done his due diligence if he needs this extra money right after he bought it.”

Jennifer Knapic, 41, said that the proposed increase in her rent from $588 to $747, will make it impossible for her to make ends meet because she is on a fixed income of $1,000 per month. “I will not be able to buy food and the medications that I need,” said Knapic, a three-year resident of Villa Vista.

Calls to the main office of Villa Vista were referred to Pete Jorde of Cal-Am Properties. Jorde did not return a phone call on Monday afternoon.  Assistant City Manager Paul Malone said the residents can appeal the increases to the City Council based on the city’s rent control rules, which govern how much mobile home park owners can charge residents for the land beneath their homes. Malone said the residents would be entitled to a public hearing before the council if a majority of those residents subject to the increases were to sign a petition.

Puzac said a petition is already circulating around Villa Vista, which is on South Santa Fe Avenue in the northwestern corner of San Marcos near the city’s border with Vista. Only 31 of the 85 families living in the park would be subject to the first wave of increases, which would take effect Oct. 1. The affected residents are on month-to-month leases. Residents on long-term leases will be subject to the rent hikes when their leases expire, according to the residents.

The letters notifying residents of the increase, which were sent by an attorney on behalf of Cal-Am Properties, explained that projected 2006 revenue for the park is $291,000, which is a 5 percent return on the $5.1 million invested by Cal-Am. The letters stipulate that a “fair rate of return” would be 9.1 percent, but the letters do not outline how Cal-Am arrived at the 9.1 percent figure. The letters note that rents at Villa Vista have not been increased since 1999, and that state law allows mobile home park owners to increase rents based on the consumer price index, which typically increases about 3 percent per year.

Puzac said the residents held a meeting shortly after they received the letters in late June. It was decided that the residents should fight the increases and continue pursuing their effort to buy the park for themselves. “I’m still hoping we can buy it,” said Puzac. “Collins sold it to these people despite the city’s ordinance guaranteeing us a first right of refusal.”
Malone confirmed that there is a city ordinance providing the residents a first right of refusal on any sale of the park, but he questioned whether the residents would be within the 45-day limit included in the ordinance.
Malone said the city tried to help the residents buy the park, but that city officials could not recommend that the council approve a deal the residents brokered with Mitchell Properties of Santa Ysabel.

Jerry Fisher of Mitchell Properties said that Collins and the city conspired to prevent the residents from buying the park. “The city has its own agenda of what it wants to do with these people,” said Fisher. “It is my opinion that Collins and the city never wanted a deal to get done with the residents.”

Malone said the city tries to help residents buy their mobile home parks whenever possible, and that the city tries to encourage for-profit companies to sell parks to nonprofits if possible. “Our goal is to assist them whenever possible,” said Malone. “We took several runs at it with Villa Vista, but it never panned out.”

Of the 18 parks in town, seven are resident-owned, four are owned by nonprofits and seven are owned by for-profit companies. — Contact staff writer David Garrick at (760) 761-4410 or dgarrick@nctimes.com.

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Randy wrote on July 11, 2006 7:27 AM:“It is too bad that San Marcos has no rent control ordinance like Oceanside to protect the tenants of mobilehome parks from 27% rent increases!”

jennifer wrote on July 11, 2006 9:09 AM: Villa Vista is in San Marcos and we do have Rent Control Ordinance. The person named Jennifer shes been in Villa Vista 5 years going on 6. We are protected by the City. How can anyone live when you are on a fixed income? From 588 to 795.00? and you are on a fixed income. and after that rent goes i will have nothing no food no medical help. Please Support us Villa Vista Residents. Help us not get these terrible Increase.

Daryl wrote on July 11, 2006 12:34 PM: “With the sale of land comes in an increase in property taxes. Of course rents will go up.”

I find it hard to feel sorry for you. wrote on July 11, 2006 1:00 PM: . I really find it hard to understand when there are people who want to stay home and be supported by others. I can almost bet most of the tenants at these mobile homes are helped in one way or another by social services. Lately there has been so much attention paid to the illegals problem and how they have to be helped and supported by the people who do work in this country but I don’t hear anything about the American people who are and have always been helped. No matter how many Mexicans get sent home people like these will always be here and women like me will always have to support them. Maybe I should ask for a raise or get a second job so I can pay more taxes in order to meet your rent??”

Christian wrote on July 11, 2006 1:34 PM:“I would love to live in La Jolla, but I can’t afford it, if you can’t afford to live someplace then you move or make more money, that’s just life. I am so tired of people thinking they have a right to live some place they can’t afford. California is expensive we all know that so if you can’t afford to live hear guess what there are 49 other states that would love to have you. ”

Perhaps You Don’t Fully Understand wrote on July 11, 2006 1:45 PM: “It seems these last 4 comments don’t fully understand mobile home living. The residents in this park pay the highest mobile home park rents in San Marcos. ALL THEY ARE PAYING FOR IS DIRT!!! Their rents are generally $600 per month for that dirt. However, they still have their home payment on top of that! So, add another $800 there, and you’re at $1,400 per month. Unlike an apartment or condo, the resident is entirely responsible for all maintence and repairs. Additionally, the residents pay property taxes, insurance, sewer, trash, etc. Unlike a homeowner, these residents do not get any tax write-off for the mortgages on their homes. ”

Peter wrote on July 11, 2006 2:21 PM: If a owner wants to raise the rent then he should. If you cant afford it then move on. Why should the new owner support you? Pay up or move out.”(Continued on Page 10)

I understand all right wrote on July 11, 2006 2:23 PM: “If the rent is to high then move to a place or state you can afford. Why should the owner have to support you?”

A Christian Character wrote on July 11, 2006 2:24 PM: “The residents in this park are entitled to full protection under the laws governing mobile home living in San Marcos. They likely purchased their homes in San Marcos because of those protections. The previous owners of this park violated numerous mobile home residency laws, which is why these residents are paying the highest mobilehome rents in San Marcos. ”

Go Residents! wrote on July 11, 2006 2:39 PM: “These residents ought to sue any of the owners of this park that have violated any of their rights! They should enlist the City of San Marcos to help them. ”

Get Real wrote on July 11, 2006 2:45 PM: “The residents of this park were in the process of buying this park. Cal-Am swooped in and way over paid for the park, snagging it out from under the residents. They either planned on pillaging these residents or they didn’t do their homework. In either case, there are laws in place to protect residents from these coportate rapist! This new park owner should have invested in a city that didn’t have rent protection. ”

Enron Anyone? wrote on July 11, 2006 2:53 PM: “This new park owner isn’t any different than Enron. Just another greedy corporation! Were any of you commentators upset when you were paying those high energy rates a couple of years ago because of Enron? Hmmm… You should have just moved out of California! Didn’t like it ~ did you leave? How ridiculous are these comments against these residents? RIDUCULOUSLY ARROGANT! ”

Bystander wrote on July 11, 2006 3:00 PM: “27% seems like a lot all at once. I think the new owner has a right to raise rent, but I think s/he should do it at a rate like 7% increase every 6 months. That would be 28% over the course of 2 years. At least you could afford to stick around for a little while if you decided to. If you want to leave (or can’t afford it), leave. If you want to stay, pay the extra money. There are much cheaper places to live than Southern CA. I realize moving sucks, but sometimes you have to pay the piper. -Gene ”

They have a pool? wrote on July 11, 2006 3:03 PM: “Maybe they could remove the pool and add more mobile home spots. That might be enough extra money (and less maintenance) to cover the rent increases. -Gene”

Every Where is Expensive wrote on July 11, 2006 3:25 PM “People, everywhere in southern Cal is expensive. Home prices in the last 5 years have increased by a lot more than your rent increase. You can’t even buy a home for under 400k in SM. I know it sucks but that’s the way it is in southern Cal, the people in the parks are just now feeling the pinch. I understand that some of you are on fixed incomes but you know what a lot of “non” retired people are on fixed incomes too…I don’t have unlimited earning potential, I just make a fixed amount at work and that is it. ”

Fight a Good Fight! wrote on July 11, 2006 4:46 PM: “Residents: Don’t listen to these nay sayers; they’re probably corporate rat-bastards! If they’re not, then I guess the days are gone when citizens stood together to fight injustice. If SM has rent control, then the city needs to stand behind it. Of course it’s expensive in California, but this corporation shouldn’t have bought in a rent control city. Stand tall and fight a good fight and kick that corporate butt!!! I’ll keep you and all those suffering under corporate greed and injustice in my thoughts and prayers. I pray in the end, you are dancing on top the table of injustice. God be with you!”

Go Residents! wrote on July 11, 2006 4:48 PM: “I’m certain you are willing to pay a fair rent increase; you’ve probably been doing that all along. The consumer price index of 3% is fair; 27.03% is rape.”

What about the elderly? wrote on July 11, 2006 5:47 PM: “In most mobile home parks there are elderly individuals. What would those of you saying “hit the trail” do with them?”

Shows You How Much They Know wrote on July 11, 2006 6:02 PM: “Who ever said these residents were being supported by anyone. I’ve never heard of a mobile home park supporting residents. Every park owner is making a bundle! They wouldn’t be in the business otherwise. These residents get rent increases every year, just like every other park. This is about fairness in the rent increase. ”          (Continued on Page 11)

Hit the Trial Eldy i f you cant afford it wrote on July 11, 2006 6:06 PM: “You made your bed now lie in it, or figure out someother way to survive. Its a peronal issue not a government problem. Move to Mexico and get on their welfare system!”

Don’t do more than CPI wrote on July 11, 2006 6:27 PM: “There are approximately 90 rent control cities & counties in California. Malibu only allows 75% of CPI; Morro Bay 75% of CPI; San Francisco 60% of CPI or 4-7%; Napa 8%; Pismo Beach 6% or 75% of CPI; Santa Barbara 75% of CPI; San Juan Capistrano 100% of CPI. These cities are much nicer than SM, and they are able to control their rents. How does an owner in SM get off asking 27.03%?”

Puzzled wrote on July 11, 2006 10:23 PM: “This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with American in the last 30 years — entitlement and “rights”. Should I have the “right” to rent controlled housing in one of the least affordable areas in the nation at the expense of the property owner (and in the general expense, everyone else, as this drives up real estate prices)? No one has been “forced” to live in expensive California while there are much cheaper places throughout the majority of the United States. Just about any retirement planning book/seminar/course points out that choosing a high cost of living area is stupid. ”

Welcome To San Diego wrote on July 12, 2006 11:24 AM: “I agree that this is an issue not to be publicized by the media. In my real estate office, this would be addressed in a homeowners association meeting. But then, this is how the complainers attempt to get things done. And, as they will insist, they have the right. Actually, they also have the right to tear out the pool, and add more spaces for additional rental income. When you live in an area such as ours, you need to realize that it is absolutely all about the money- and not compassion. We all wish you the residents, and the new owner, good luck for the future!”

MHO wrote on July 12, 2006 2:07 PM: “How does one make a public comment on an issue they know NOTHING about? Had any of you naysayers educated yourselves on the past 30 YEARS of Mobilehome Residency Law in California then you might have a bit of a clue, ITS THE LAW! But you’re most likely spending your time looking for DUI attorneys to defend you.I notice no comment in the article from the President of Golden State Manufactured/Mobilehome Owners League and he lives here….ummm ”

MobileHomeOwner wrote on July 12, 2006 4:24 PM: “Trailer park residents should be proud of their pseudo- properties, and . when I capitalize my letters LIKE THIS, it means I’m shouting! How RUDE is that? Golden State Manufactured/Mobilehome Owners League is my only hope at this point. There are no amenities with or without the swimming pools or clubhouses. It can be a tough ownership. Next time get a condo! And thanks for the hope, Welcome!”

GERALD wrote on July 12, 2006 8:16 PM: “The President of GSMOL lives in this park & says NOTHING? Is he/GSMOL impotent? Doesn’t GSMOL brag the eintire state about helping mobilehome residents. Is GSMOL, a once-proud group now just another scam on mobilehome park seniors?”

ex-gsmoler wrote on July 12, 2006 10:00 PM:“If you think GSMOL or EMPAC have helped any homeowner in the last ten years think again.They didnt help my park when we needed it.They are still living off the glory,guts & hardwork of the old guard.Like Gerald Lenhard.He never hid under rocks like these current leaders.He fought to bring power to the homeowners.Bring him back and kick the bums out! ”

Rachel wrote on July 13, 2006 8:28 AM:“All these smack those residents down chatters should shut up! You pseudo homeowners especially! You don’t own your homes! You’re renting them from your lender! If today, your lender told you they were raising your interest rates by 27.03%, I’m sure you’d be putting up a fight. Oh you have a contract you say, well so do these residents! Oh you’re protected by laws governing those contracts. Well, so are these residents. When a new lender purchases your home loan (contract), will you be willing to pay an additional 27.03% in interest? It isn’t any different; SO SHUT UP! Get behind these residents and back their right to be protected under the LAW or be prepared to be next!”

mobilehome owner wrote on July 13, 2006 11:20 AM:“I’ve resided in cali since 87, I love it here but don’t think that persons living in mobilehome parks should be asked to pay that percentage of increase in one year. Gradual increases yes, but 27% is outrages. They have the right to fight for reasonable increase under the law and you folks go for it, I support your efforts. Good Luck. All others who are not familiar with these peoples situation just Shut Up!”

Liz wrote on July 15, 2006 6:16 PM: “What about the silver foxes crying that they’re not getting enough handed to them when the majority outlived their social security benefits decades ago. Medicare, low-income housing and the prescription drug benefit debacle all come at the expense of children – even if this is a “family” park, I doubt it’s kid-friendly. The obvious solution is to eliminate the age-discriminatory “senior parks” and open them up to families as well. Then their artificially low rents will reach an equilibrium as rents in family parks decline. We need to eliminate senior discounts in every area and begin supporting the future rather than continuing to subsidize the past.                                                                                                           There are forty-nine other states…if the cost of living is untenable here, MOVE. ”      (Continued on Page 12)

(Continued from Page 11)  Resident supporter wrote on July 19, 2006 12:56 AM: It is terrible to think that someone could buy a property and boondoggle the residents with such a huge rent increase. I am shocked by the ignorant and rude comments that the press shouldn’t be covering this issue. This sort of abuse is what we need to hear more about. Of course, the new buyers supporters and various real estate people are going to make such comments. People who take advantage of others always cry foul when their greedy deeds are exposed. The comments telling people to “move!” are usual for the sheep-like people who won’t fight back against injustice and unfairness. Shame on you! You give real Americans who still fight for their rights a bad name. ”

Satan at Work wrote on July 20, 2006 11:31 AM: “It’s quite likely the terribly negative comments are being made by the new owner of this park and his crew. Who else in the world would have any interest in this whatsoever? Absolutely no one! This isn’t costing anyone a dime, except the residents. It’s isn’t a taxpayer issue, etc. The owner would make a profit without raising the rents whatsoever. He is entitled to raise them according to the mobile home residency laws of San Marcos. 75% of CPI is fair; 27.03% is evil; it’s Satan at work here. ”

Mark wrote on July 26, 2006 9:06 AM:“I recently purchased a home in a park in San Marcos. I, like many others, chose SM because of rent control and I’m watching closely to see if the city is going to enforce the law at that park. If not, it could ripple through all parks and hurt the many seniors on fixed incomes. Many of these seniors served and defended their country in times of war and do not deserve the hurtful comments I have read above.”

Editor’s Note:  I’ve included all comments to date on this issue.  There are some very interesting comments, especially those against the owners of mobile homes.  This should give you insight into the mind set of those who have never lived in a mobile home park.