Santa Paula: Citizen Reports on Oaks Mobile Estates Senior Park Rent Increase

 

 

By Barry Cooper, Oaks Mobile Estates

Currently there is much speculation as to what is happening in the Oaks Mobile Estates in Santa Paula. As a resident in that park I would like to offer an honest, objective point of view about recent past events and where things stand at this moment.

New owners Greg Kirkpatrick and Scott Hamilton, who trade under the name of Saint Clair Management, bought the park several years ago. Apparently they own two other parks and a shopping center. We were never informed of this change of ownership. Sometime during 2017 the main electrical transformer at the entrance blew and caught fire. The fire department handled the fire but no further help seemed to be available and we were without power for 22 hours. Later a band aid measure was applied and power was restored.

Source: MHVillage

 

Sometime later the owners decided to renew all the infrastructure beneath the streets, meaning gas, water and electricity. It was a large undertaking. Would they have elected to do this had the transformer not blown? I cannot answer that. The long term residents have claimed that this park has been a ‘cash cow’ for fifty years with the minimum of upkeep and repair.

The contracting crew and the standard of their work can best be described as a nightmare. They hit a gas line with the back hoe and the Hazmat crew had to be called in. This was one of numerous unscheduled outages. Their manner was indignant and at times arrogant. Many of us suffered frustration. After they installed the water line in my driveway and filled in the ditch, water was bubbling through the asphalt the following morning. When the electrical meter was finally installed, I found that half of my home was without power! I had to pay an electrician to properly finish the job. There are many more stories like mine. For over eleven months we lived in a state of noise, dirt, disruption and uncertainty as to the outcome.

Soon after all of this the owners decided to remodel the clubhouse. Were they merely expanding their expense portfolio? I can’t answer that. We were never informed as to when the work would start, how long it would take or when it would be finished. We were never consulted regarding our preferences, what we may like or dislike. Some enjoyed the sixties ambiance, the big old fireplace and the pool table. The fireplace now looks like a BBQ pit surround by bathroom tiles, the pool table has gone forever.

During the construction the owners have built a massive solar panel system which is about the size of a high school football stadium bleacher. It obliterates what was formerly an uninterrupted view of the mountain range which the residents enjoyed from their rear patios. We do not receive one cent of relief from our metered electricity bills. It powers the clubhouse and street lighting. Could the owner be generating enough power that they actually may be able to sell some back to the power company? I can’t answer that.

Directly beneath the solar systems are tons of boulders and rocks unearthed from the excavation (the park is built on a river bed). They rest upon a bank with a forty-five degree angle and it stretches for about one hundred and fifty yards. One section is adjacent to the car wash bay. Even a small earth tremor could bring them rolling down. Is it legal to store rocks in such a manner? I can’t answer that but these are honest heartfelt questions.

In mid-June 2019 the owners filed an application for a rent increase based upon capital improvements. The residents had no idea that any of this was going on and we received our notification on November 21, 2019, giving us 15 days to appeal a 165-page document that we had never even seen. The appeal now has been filed but we are told it will cost $5000 to hold a formal hearing. The rent increases in some cases will be around 50% raise over the current rates.

The park has numerous old residents whose income is little more than $800 per month. Some spend as much on medications as they do on food. They simply won’t be able to sustain the increase and I foresee some being evicted from the homes they own due to their inability to rent the land that it sits on. What an appalling state of affairs. I would like to quote from Kay Wilson Bolton, a tireless advocate for the homeless in Santa Paula and beyond. “Your average homeless person is not your average homeless person anymore. They are all ages and family types. Most don’t have addictions. Many are being impacted by rising rents or fragile employment. We have to think differently about solutions and causes”. End of quote. You can see where I am going with this.

The owners have held two meetings giving us ‘options’. All of them amount to much the same thing. One of them actually states that the rent will go down after fifteen years! An insult to our intelligence for obvious reasons. This is a senior park.

I have been a member of the Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League (GSMOL) for several years. I have enlisted the assistance of Jill Martinez, the Associate Manager of Zone B1. She has already been an enormous help. Bruce Stanton, their corporate counsel will be handling our appeal and he has submitted a rebuttal which raises many questions and reveals what appear to be numerous legal irregularities. We will of course be facing the appropriate legal costs.

Affordable housing is currently a hot political topic. It is in short supply for the very low income population, including seniors. Mobile home parks have become a target in the past seven or eight years for unscrupulous owners to make a quick and easy profit. A recent letter in the VC Reporter regarding Imperial Park in Oxnard, shocked me to the core. Many of the occupants of these parks have not enjoyed large incomes during their working lives, but they have been upstanding citizens who worked hard and paid taxes. They should be allowed to complete their lives with a quiet, peaceful retirement without threat of financial devastation.

The degree of uncertainty, unrest and stress that the residents of this park are suffering can hardly be measured at this point and I fear that some of the infirmed will suffer further ill health as a result of all of this. Many chose Santa Paula and this park as their final resting place. Can this really be happening in our charming little town? Sadly, the answer is yes.

Note: a previous article about this situation can be read here.

This editorial was originally published in the print edition of the Santa Paula Times on 1/10/2020.

 

2 Responses to Santa Paula: Citizen Reports on Oaks Mobile Estates Senior Park Rent Increase

  1. C E Voigtsberger January 25, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Arrgghhh ! ! ! Typo! ! ! Supreme Court says you CAN’T make them move . . .

    Reply
  2. C E Voigtsberger January 25, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Right off the bat it sounds as if St Clair Management has a communications problem that has resulted in a public relations brouhaha.

    It appears that they had better improve their communications to their customers promptly before they find themselves engaged in a long and costly struggle with a significant loss in income.

    Sure, they can evict tenants for non-payment of rent but that is lost revenue for the period the rent isn’t paid. They may have a provision in the rental agreement that ownership of the improvement on the land reverts to the park, but really, what is the market for a very used 15 or 20 y.o. mobile home with appliances that are also that age? Cost more to haul it to the junkyard than it would bring in the marketplace. I can assure St Clair that if the tenant is evicted, the “improvement” will be more of a debit than an asset.

    My recommendations to St Clair: Improve your communications with your customers before you lose them. Secondly, there is a difference between what you are “entitled” to and what the market will bear. Make sure you understand the difference before it is too late.

    As for the City of Santa Paula, you don’t have a serious homeless problem presently. While St Clair may well be within the rules of the City, it is incumbent upon your elected officials and their subordinate city employees to make certain their official actions do not create a problem that does not presently exist.

    A senior citizen on a fixed income who has been retired for many years despite rumors that all retired are wealthy, may not have a large 401K or IRA salted away that he and especially she can tap to pay first and last month’s rent, utility deposit, and the other assorted costs associated with a change of domicile.

    For several years when the State had a renters’ assistance program, I helped seniors prepare the application for the assistance. It was shocking to me how little money many female seniors were getting by on each month. While their long-deceased spouse may have worked regularly during his lifetime, his social security deposits were small and as a result his spouse’s income, based on his earnings were correspondingly small. Sometimes the $400 maximum assistance money equaled a whole month’s extra income for them.

    If a senior is getting buy on the minimum Social Security payment, even a $50 a month sudden increase in their monthly costs may well push them into living in their car. Does the city really want to have a sudden increase in elderly folk living in the back seat of a 1978 Volkswagen on their streets? The Supreme Court says you can make them move unless you have adequate affordable housing for them. Does the City of Santa Paula really want to get into the housing business?

    Might I be so bold as to suggest that the most economical solution might be for the city to approve a partial rent increase and for the city to make up the difference between the current rent and the increased rent. You could require the seniors who need that assistance to fill out a SIMPLE financial questionnaire, not one that requires the assistance of a CPA, but one that can be filled out by a housewife who has never worked in her life.

    That might provide a win-win situation for all three sides without the necessity of lengthy legal wrangling which only the lawyers win. Santa Paula might also waive the $5,000 appeal fee which seems grotesquely out of line.

    Reply

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