Approval of vacancy decontrol strikes fear in seniors

OCEANSIDE — City Council approval of vacancy decontrol for mobile home park spaces struck fear for the future in many seniors, veterans and working poor, who make up a large percentage of mobile home residents. The OK was given in a 3-2 vote on May 4 in which Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no.
“I think it’s our job to protect the ordinances,” Wood said. “At some times government does have to step in and protect people.”
There were 160 requests to speak on the item and an estimated 100 residents were turned away from the meeting due to lack of space even after two overflow areas were opened.
At the start of the meeting it was understood that Councilmen Jerry Kern and Gary Felien did not support rent control and would likely vote yes.
Residents shared stories of tight budgets and concerns that higher rent would mean lower mobile home resale value in an attempt to sway Councilman Jack Feller to cast the third no vote.
Feller was not convinced that ordinance 16B was needed. “I think the council was sold a bill of goods on rent control,” Feller said.
The city code has been in place since 1982 in order to control rates for mobile home owners who must rent park spaces. More than 2,000 space renters will be affected by the amendment.
“It’s a vote to confiscate the property of seniors, veterans and widows,” George McNeal read in a letter written by former Councilwoman Melba Bishop. “I beg you to put yourself in the shoes of these seniors and protect those who need our protection.”
Some called the motion a “backdoor way of stealing” seniors’ property and life savings. “No one is going to buy a mobile home when they can buy an apartment at the same price,” Bob Ogle, Oceanside resident, said.
“You’ll be relegating us to our kids’ back bedrooms, rest homes or worse,” Barbara McCluskey, Mira Mar Mobile Home Community resident, said. “We all deserve better.”
The thought of many who spoke is that when the space rents increase the resale value of mobile homes will go down. Seniors said they will not have the needed economic return they anticipated to live on when they sell their mobile homes.
“We want our independence,” Judy Choitz, Rancho Calavera Mobile Home Park resident, said. “The aging baby boomers will have no options without rent control. This agenda item is about greed.”
“I resent having to stand here and beg for what we thought we had when we purchased it,” Tom Stanley, Rancho Calavera Mobile Home resident, said.
Mobile home park owners also took to the podium and said rent increases are needed to make a reasonable profit and have funds for park upgrades.
“It’s horrible to own a mobile home park,” John Grant, former owner of Catalina Mobile Estates, said. “Rent is $162, $195 two blocks from beach.”
“The owners have no incentive to stay in the mobile home park business,” Felien said. “Keeping things the way they are is unrealistic. Some kind of decontrol does the most good for the most people.”
Council will introduce the amendment on May 18. Residents may seek a referendum.

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