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Rancho La Paz Residents Get Temporary Relief from Drastic Rent Hikes

Facing drastic rent increases of 45-60%, senior residents of Rancho La Paz mobile home park in Fullerton and Anaheim asserted their voices and called upon their elected officials to intercede for them.

And, at least for now, their voices are being heard. After meeting with Anaheim Mayor and members of Anaheim City Council, the new mobile home park owner John Saunders decided to rescind the rent increases, and promised there would be no increases until at least September 1st.

How did this happen? The seniors organized.

An overflow crowd of residents at the March 19th Fullerton City Council meeting.

They crowded into Fullerton and Anaheim city council meetings on March 19th to tell their stories, and to put a human face on a growing problem—the ability of property owners to increase rent as much as they want, with no protections for renters.

“I’m 93. I’m one of the veterans that made the invasion of Normandy on D-Day,” said one resident, “With this increase, a lot of people are going to be forced to leave…I implore you to do what you can for these wonderful people who have gone through so much and have so little.”

Charlie Miller said, “My base rate was $705, now it’s $1,200. I make $1,200. I’m underwater…I don’t want to be homeless.”

Eva Knight, who is disabled with multiple sclerosis, said that although the rent increase may be legal, “it’s certainly not moral.”

A young woman named Charlene spoke on behalf of her elderly parents: “With this $390 hike, it is forcing us to have to think about moving them out of state, away from their family, because they just can’t afford to live here anymore.”

A 93-year old WWII veteran who was part of D-Day is facing severe rent increases at Rancho La Paz.

Dr. Richard Odegar, a retired educator who was wearing his shorts from his part-time job at Disneyland said, “There are 380 units, but that represents 600-700 people—600-700 lives that are being affected by a greedy group of people who want to make money. And I hope that the council will stand up to them and defend us. We vote for you—you vote for us.”

“I’m a cancer survivor, but I don’t think I’m gonna survive this,” said one resident, “You have the power to administer this life-saving treatment for me and my community. Protect your senior citizens. Be our City of Hope.”

Ruth Ann said, “The current increase of almost $400 will certainly take away from my quality of life. Do I eat or do I pay for my medication? I now have less money to move around to see my family, my grandchildren, and my doctors.”

There was one person who spoke against any kind of rent protections for the residents of Rancho La Paz: Julie Paule, who works for the Western Manufactured Communities Association, an industry/lobbying group that works for the interests of mobile home park owners.

“It is unrealistic to think that a new investor can continue with below market rents, or that a resident is entitled to low rents and they will never be corrected. Luckily the park owner has developed a rental assistance program that will assist qualified residents,” said Paule, who faced loud boos from the audience.

It was standing room only at the community meeting at the Rancho La Paz clubhouse on March 20.

This “rental assistance” program forces residents to disclose enormous amounts of private data including bank account numbers, value of jewelry, health status, and addresses, ages, & employers of all family members.

After listening to residents, Mayor Jesus Silva asked the City Manager to draft and send a letter to the new mobile home park owners, “asking them if they would be willing to adjust the rates or meet with the residents, and at the very minimum if they’re going to provide those applications for those subsidies, to have some help filling them out.”

Council Member Ahmad Zahra, in whose district Rancho La Paz is situated, said “I am appalled by this and I can’t see why we can’t find something to do. We are the city of Fullerton and we should do better.”

The following day, March 20th, hundreds of Rancho La Paz residents gathered at the mobile home park clubhouse to learn about how they can organize and dialogue with local elected officials.

Lupe Ramirez, who organized the meeting, said, “The whole thing stands on one thing—unity! We have to get together on this. We’re gonna need a committee, we’re gonna need people involved.”

Anaheim City Council Member Jose Moreno (left) and Rancho La Paz organizer Lupe Ramirez (right)

One resident gave some background information on the new owner of the park, John Saunders of Newport Beach.

Saunders’ company, Peace Ranch LLC, is affiliated with a company called Pacific Current Properties, whose executives include Michael Cirillo and Robert Coldren, a legal strategist who in March 2016 provided suggestions to owners of mobil home parks on how they can make them more profitable.

Here are some excerpts from Coldren’s report:

“Here are some ideas: If your park is designated as a ‘senior’ park, consider changing the status to ‘all age.’ I know this is sacrilege and counterintuitive but consider which tenant profile has more likely to generate income that grows rather than is fixed: senior, or working family? Who is more likely to have time to lobby for rent control: senior or working family? Acquire homes when they come up for sale in your park. It’s much easier to close a mobile home park and convert it to another use or sell it for a higher price to a developer when the park owns some or all of the units. Raise rents…Raise rents…Raise rents again.”

Ramirez introduced the Vice President of the Golden State Mobil Home Owners League (GSMOL), a statewide corporation established in 1962 to help homeowners who live in mobile home parks to know and protect their rights. It was this group that, beginning in the early 1970s, put together the Mobile Home Residency Law, which provides protections for mobile home owners.

If residents of Rancho La Paz organize and join GSMOL, they will have access to resources, advocacy, and legal aid.

Anaheim City Council member Jose Moreno showed up and spoke at the residents’ meeting, even though he normally had to work at that time.

“This gets right to the heart of our discussion of what can the city council do as it relates to rent hikes?” said Moreno.

“We know property owners are involved in property ownership as an investment, but when they begin to hike rents in a way that gouges people, that goes above what people can actually afford to pay—that creates a huge negative impact, not just on the city and the social health of the city, but on the psychology, the stress and the health of the residents themselves. This is a critical issue,” said Moreno.

Seniors gather to dialogue with local elected officials.

The crux of the problem is that, here in Orange County, there are no protections for renters from exorbitant rent increases.

“Our city has no law in place to prevent extreme rent hikes. We have no ability, under any one of our policies or ordinances to prevent this from happening,” said Moreno, “We’re seeing rent hikes in the most extreme way when a property is sold to a new owner.”

One rather obvious solution would be for the cities of Anaheim and Fullerton to pass a “rent stabilization” [aka rent control] ordinance. This would allow the city to place limits on the amount rents may be raised.

Unfortunately, this is a politically unpopular idea in Orange County.

“Some of our council members believe strongly that this is a question of ‘the market’ and that at some point it will correct itself once we build more housing for people,” explained Moreno, “But by the time we build that housing, many of you will be on the streets.”

Recently, the cities of Inglewood and Glendale have passed rent protections for residents. Glendale’s ordinance put a permanent cap of 7% rent increase. If property owners exceed that 7%, the property owner is required to pay the relocation fees of any tenant who cannot pay that increase.

There are 110 cities and counties in California that are covered by some form of rent stabilization, and LA County is in the process of creating a rent control/rent stabilization ordinance—capping rent increases at 3%, according to the representative from GSMOL.

Residents spoke, sharing their grievances.

No Fullerton City Council members or staff showed up, except a young representative of Councilmember Ahmad Zahra, who said that Zahra “wants to work as hard as he can for all of you, to make sure that this solution comes to a resolution.”

On March 26, Saunders met with Rancho La Paz residents in a meeting called by Mayor Harry Sidhu and other council members.

“As a result of our meeting, I’m pleased to announce Rancho La Paz’s ownership has committed to rescind the proposed increases and to spend the coming months working with residents to find common ground,” Sidhu said in a press release.

“We will work with residents on a more gradual transition,” said Saunders, “I look forward to meeting with residents to talk about a way forward that allows time to adjust and also brings improvement to the community.” 

With the drastic rent increases, many residents of Rancho La Paz fear they will lose their mobile homes.

25 replies »

  1. We paid $190,000. to buy a home in a park that had been stable for over 50 years. Now, 5 years in the owners sold the residents down the river to the new owner. His Constructive Eviction of the current residents has already destroyed their equity as the number of homes for sale and the the new higher rents savage the home prices.

    Fixed income seniors whose “nest egg” went into buying their home are now facing homelessness. Not everyone has family to move in with. Show me where, when forced out of Rancho La Paz someone with at best $1,000 a month Social Security or Veterans Benefits moves to? Remember, there’s minor other things like food and prescriptions to buy also.

  2. To all the residents of your fine community Rancho La Paz. I have read every article as well as every comment from those of you who have expressed your ” emotional concerns ” and my heart goes out to each and every resident in your community.
    I too live live in a community in Ventura “Lemon Wood” Senior Community. Here in Ventura we do as most of you already know have “Rent Stablization or Rent Control.”
    Don’t be fooled it also comes with a price, the owners and their attorneys as I write are working on ways to worm around this.
    The owners “The Sun Corperation” one of the largest in the country it seems has found their solution to impose increases on our residents here at Lemon Wood.
    They simply continue to make improvements to our community which on the outside one would say those owners really care for the residents, they simply refer to any and all improvement as “Capital Improvement” which in reality many if not most of all improvements are NOT capital improvements but rather in reality they are Maintinance issues, where upon lies there loophole with the cities blessing, end result you guessed it …increase in rent to each resident here at our fine community Lemon Wood. Owners will and do always find a way to sting you where it hurts the most your pocket.
    I say keep up the fine fight endurance pays off. Remember GSMOL will always be there to assist in any way they can. Look up there track record.

    Resident of Lemon Wood, Ventura

  3. We have received a reprieve from the new owner! He will hold off on any increase until Sept 1, and then possibly be open to negotiating for an increase over time. This is a huge THANK YOU to our team of 5 people at the park that worked day and night to gather information and to reach out to both Anaheim and Fullerton mayors, and elected officials. We received great support from our elected officials and I know I speak for all the residents at Rancho La Paz when we give our gratitude and prayers for all those that stepped up to help.

  4. Absolutely outrageous!
    This seems to be a “cancer” that seems to be finding its way in many counties here in southern California.
    Even in areas where rent control is “in place” the new owners with the paid assistance of there high paid attorneys or “bottom feeders” are attempting as I write this are attempting to weave there way into the courts ……we could go on, couldn’t we all!

  5. If he needs to raise rents and if Orange County ends up with a SanFrancisco rent control then he will make the choice to cease its operations, condemn and redevelop it into condos or multistory apartments.

    Granny units are not impractical, they can be utilized later for their own family. I do not need help financially but I am aware of the high cost of housing but you cannot dictate what this owner can or cannot do with his property until the state makes new mandates.

    Until all senior housing, apartments all housing is scrutinized by each municipality, County and State and prevents all foreign investors to purchase.

    For example, in Vancouver, Canada property has been purchased by Hong Kong investors/millionaires it is more cost prohibitive for all Canadian citizens to afford homes, the have to buy homes in Calgary.
    All because their government does not set limitations on foreign buyers, now Vancouver has transformed into New Hong Kong,multistory structures.

    I would prefer our state halt all investor sales until they come up with alternate housing.
    Doing one community at a time will not help in the long run, you need to stop it at the root. It is not a lack of respect you either support politicians who will follow through with a mandate to halt all foreign investors on all real estate. Not loopholes or shadow investors.

    The state has allowed for all SF homeowners to build a Granny unit because housing is crazy expensive. And you may think other places are impractical and inconvenient but if I did not have any choice I would live elsewhere where I would have a home not on the streets or a burden to my family. And yes I have have been homeless as a child which is why I was aware 40 years ago that property will be almost unattainable for many and prompted me to focus.

  6. “Our city has no law in place to prevent extreme rent hikes. We have no ability, under any one of our policies or ordinances to prevent this from happening,” said Moreno, “We’re seeing rent hikes in the most extreme way when a property is sold to a new owner.”
    This is a bunch of El Toro Poo Poo! The city council’s can put rent stabilization into effect! There are at least 100 parks in CA with rent stabilization already. There have been many court cases where it has been shown to be legal, just as legal as this new owner raising our rent over 50%. My feeling is that writing letters and meeting with this guy are very much unlikely to change his mind. A perfect example is Julie Paule, who works for the Western Manufactured Communities Association who attended the council meeting and who indicated the this ‘investor’ has to pay the huge increase due to losing the prior owner’s prop. 13 tax benefits. While this is true, nobody forced him to buy this place. Mr. Moreno, there is nothing to prevent this owner from raising the rents in July or August another $390.00. It is past time delaying (“We Have No Ability To Prevent This”) and put in RENT STABILIZATION NOW!

    • The Fullerton City Council will discuss Rent Control in Mobile Home parks at the Tuesday April 2 meeting which starts at 6:30pm at Fullerton City Hall, 303 W. Commonwealth. Hopefully some people like yourself will attend and make suggestions.

  7. Ventura county has rent control for the senior mobile home parks. We also have a board of our reps from each MH Park that speak at city council meetings and are our watchdogs. Check into county and state laws. Keep this in the news so he feels like a jerk.

  8. @333sturm your reply shows a little ignorance and short sided view to how mobile homes park work.
    It also comes off a bit callous and insensitive as well.
    These people did buy. They own the homes they live in. They are only renting the dirt it sits on, that’s it. Most of these people have downsized from your typical house and have lived in this area all there lives and want to stay close to friends and family and doctors. They are not asking for a rent freeze just a reasonable solution.
    Imagine if your mortgage suddenly went up 50% because you bank decided it needed to make a killing. I’m not against making a profit, but this is a killing and this is typical of the new owners actions. This is not the first time they have done this.

    • It is ignorant to purchase any mobile home or condo.
      Share rooms, rent rooms. The owners of the mobile home park need to ask for more money, they pay higher property taxes and they increase every year.

      • My parents live there. They bought their home outright. Share rooms? Rent rooms? Seriously? That’s the best option you can think of for seniors on fixed incomes? Mobile homes are/were affordable places for seniors. I know the owners have to pay property taxes, but the 50% increase is exorbitant, greedy, and abusive to elders who have nowhere else to go and no more money to pay for the increase.

      • Wow – the elderly people bought into this park when the world was a kinder gentler place. Nobody was ignorant. It was a nice way of life for those with little more than just a safe modest place to live. One day you will be disposable too.

      • Patty: I don’t believe anyone FORCED the new owner to buy Rancho La Paz.

    • I agree there are cheaper places.
      Many people opt to move out of state or if have stable family with a house they can install a Granny unit. Otherwise move to an affordable place.

      When I was young I was planning on buying a mobile home, but I found out you lease the land, it is just like a condo/townhouse, never have and never will pay for a lease or association dues., as it is we pay a ginormous amount in California taxes.

      There are nice senior parks in Cherry Valley, under $200 in lease fees. You can buy a property in Ridgecrest with a mobile home or small home.
      California City has ample affordable housing. Tehachapi is a good place too.

      I am for affordable housing but not all new construction. Fullerton does not have Too many money making tax options.
      The young voters, taxpayers are choking from everyone and their grandmothers asking for more accommodations. The young need the help more.

      • Yes, there are cheaper places. However, my parents live there and chose to stay in Fullerton to be near their 5 grandkids. There needs to be affordable housing here! You go live in Cherry Valley. Many seniors live here because family is nearby if they have an emergency.

      • Where do I start with this one Patty. How about the top.
        Where these people currently live was affordable housing to where they could be close to family and medical assistance when and if they need it. A lot have no family and are living out their twilight years so you idea of a Granny Shack doesn’t fly and your FINAL SOLUTION to send them off to the far reaches of the state is ludicrous. The cost of relocating and re-establishing themselves is too much stress for most of them. Ridgecrest? California City? Cherry Valley? Hey! I hear Manzanar was just remodeled why not intern them there?
        I bet THAT would make you Mike Cirillo and John Saunders happy!
        Most of these people have sold there houses and downsized to make there lives more affordable and less demanding. They have worked hard all there lives to get where they are, which is something I doubt you have yet experienced in your younger life. They deserve your respect and the consideration of the city (both Anaheim and Fullerton) to maintain their standard of living in their golden years.
        As for the you needing help. Your right, but in a different way.
        They need help in learning values and learning how to make a living and showing respect
        Life is hard and it doesn’t owe you a thing.
        You want something, you work for it.
        You worked for something and someone is trying to take it away, YOU FIGHT FOR IT.
        You want respect, You earn it.
        Don’t play the victim, be a victor.
        I part with this to you Patricia
        May your life be filled with trials and tribulations. It will build character, knowledge, and compassion.
        It will give you a life of experience and a better understanding of life itself and help you appreciate the true good times you do have in life. You have a long way to go.

    • If you cannot afford the increase move in with your family, sister, brother. As I stated before a granny unit. I have rentals and several homes and rent out my rooms because I know many cannot afford the American Dream. I have been doing this for 20 years it has been beneficial to each person. I have them fill out a rental application and after a background check a rental agreement is done.

      Stubbornness, pride is no excuse not to rent rooms. You either adjust or move elsewhere.

      • We are not allowed to rent out rooms or our units. This has nothing to do with stubbornness or pride. Again lack of knowledge of the facts or just plain shilling for Star management and like of Mike Cirillo and John Saunders.

      • That’s just not right. Mobile home owners OWN their homes. Parks can be run for the benefit of both landowner and homeowner. It’s GREED that is forcing rents up- not maintenance – not services – not repairs. The cost of doing business has not escalated like the space rent.

    • I am 86 years old and I have lived in this park for 26 years. My husband and I sold our home when we retired so we could live in a gated community, that was a safe place to live. My husband died almost 2 years ago. I have attended the same church for 60 plus years, Most of my children and grandchildren live near by, to suggest that I or any other resident should pull up roots and move away from our family is rather callous. Besides with all the publicity about this park right now, who is going to buy a home in here?

      • Not to mention the reputation of the new owners and Star management as being preditorial cutthroat people who view seniors as surplus population that should be run out on a rail and interned. They won’t treat the new tenants any differently if not worse.