According to residents of Rancho La Paz mobile home park in Fullerton, who are currently in negotiations with the park’s new owner regarding exorbitant rent increases, the negotiatons are not going well.
When Saunders initially purchased Rancho La Paz, he attempted to raise lot rents between 30-60%. Many of the residents are seniors on fixed incomes. In response, residents organized, and city council put pressure on Saunders to consider the residents. Saunders agreed to temporarily rescind the rent increases while he negotiated with the tenants. In response, council postponed any action until July.
“We have not agreed on anything,” Lupe Ramirez, the park’s lead negotiator, said. “Saunders is going in the wrong direction . His figures are now higher than the original increases with long-term leases and rent increases every 6 months. He just does not understand most park residents can not afford his raises…I have negotiated contracts for years and have never experienced the kind of doublespeak and attitude of cruelty John Saunders exhibits. We have not been presented anything written and his comments are shot from the hip. So negotiations are not productive. John Saunders just knows he is holding our homes hostage.”
According to Ramirez, since Saunders bought the park, over 10% of the residents are selling their homes (40 units).
“When I bought here 5 years ago there were 3,” she said.
At the May 21st Fullerton City Council meeting, during public comment, Jean Perez, who is on the negotiating committee from the newly-formed Rancho La Paz Homeowners Association, agreed that negotiations with Saunders, have not gone well.
“I am sad to say that Rancho La Paz homeowners association negotiations with John Saunders have not produced an offer that could be agreed upon,” Perez said. “There have been long-term goals presented by Mr. Saunders that would not allow many living in the park to remain in our homes.”
“I wouldn’t want to see Fullerton and Anaheim put more people out on the street because they have no means to pay,” Perez said. “We’re just hoping and we’re asking that you would help us somehow find a way to be able to afford our homes and stay there to live.”
Todd Harrison, another resident of Rancho La Paz, said that he is one of the “endangered residents” of that mobile home park.
Harrison said that, during one of the negotiations, Mr. Saunders said, “I am not negotiating with anyone. We are just talking.”
When a member of the negotiating team said his new payment would be so prohibitive, he would not be able to buy his grandchildren a Christmas present or take a vacation to see them, Mr. Saunders replied: “You must decide if you want to buy clothes, or go out to eat, or pay your space rent.”
Harrison asked council to direct city staff to prepare you a report with easily accessible public information on Mr. Saunders’ track record.
“His reputation and the trail of misery he has left are blatantly obvious,” Harrison said. “Waiting until the second council meeting in July is likely to be too late to prevent the human toll he’s taking on the residents.”
Harrison asked council to enact some sort of ant-gouging ordinance to protect the residents of Rancho La Paz.
Council Member Flory said, “I am very concerned about Rancho La Paz, and I would like to see our staff take a look at local ordinances that have dealt wth this issue before.”
Flory said she was not sure about rent control, “but I do believe that when a landowner comes into the community and raises rents that forces people out, there ought to be some mechanism for making those people whole…I think we should be prepared if the residents and the new owner are unable to reach a long term agreement.”
Flory mentioned the fact that San Juan Capistrano has an ordinance that protects residents of mobile home parks from exorbitant rent increases.
“I think we would have a rational, justifiable reason for imposing such an ordinance on mobile home park owners in our city,” Flory said.
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