Dispatches from the Mobile Home Park Wars: San Juan Capistrano writes in…




Vern here.  Since I wrote “Huntington Beach’s Mobile Home Uprising – which side are YOU on?” a year and a week ago – a story to which I’ve long been meaning to write a (mostly depressing) sequel which I’ll finish SOON – I’ve been contacted by folks all over OC and San Diego to whom the same abuses are happening.  Sudden rent increases of 100% and higher out of the blue.  Sudden pressure on confused and frightened seniors to commit to unfavorable longterm leases or lose their life savings (their home.)   Refusing, on arbitrary pretexts, to allow tenants who can’t afford the space-rent increases to sell their homes to ANYBODY, often forcing them to abandon their homes to the park owners.  All of these abuses which WE first noticed in Huntington Beach are becoming epidemic. 

This weekend I received the following letter from Carol Brinkman, a homeowner at San Juan Capistrano’s El Nido Park.   She and her neighbors are fighting back against the abusive park owner, they’ve already had a story in the Register (from which I’ve swiped the photos below) and have a hearing at City Hall coming up soon.  I give you Carol Brinkman:

Four Nido combatants;  Carol Brinkman third from left.  (pic Register)

Four El Nido combatants; Carol Brinkman third from left. (pic Register)

To: The Orange Juice Blog
Attn: Vern Nelson

I am writing to make you aware of the current challenge to rent control in El Nido Estates Mobile Home Park in San Juan Capistrano. I am a resident of El Nido and my space rent is due to MORE THAN DOUBLE (effective September 1, 2015). When I moved into El Nido, August 2008, I was informed that this park was under rent control and had been for 39 years since its inception in 1976 – the single biggest reason I decided to relocate here!

As expected, each year rent increased minimally according to CPI (between 1 and 3% annually). In February 2015, I got my usual annual notice of the CPI increase (of 1.3% or $7.80) with my new space rent rising from $600.17 to $607.97 per month. Then in April, I got a notice rescinding the rent increase saying the owner wishes to “further review the current rents…and then make a decision as to any rent increases to be implemented in 2015”. On Saturday, May 16, 2015 I received two more notices. The first was a change in rent increasing last year’s rent of $600 by $641 for a new total of $1241.17 . . . A 106% INCREASE OVER THE PRIOR YEAR! The second notice was notification of park owner’s intention to offer a long-term lease (with some financial incentives to sign immediately – a callous manipulation by the owner on unsuspecting seniors, since signing any lease AUTOMATICALLY FORFEITS your rent control).

nido entranceRichard Worley of Redondo Beach is the owner of El Nido Estates (one of several parks he owns). His attorney is Robert Coldren, a name familiar to the readers of the Orange Juice and to the Huntington Beach mobile home community as “the hired hand” for greedy and unscrupulous park owners who wanted to break rent control there in 2008. The residents of El Nido are united in opposing Dick Worley and Robert Coldren. Per SJC City Council and municipal code guidelines, we have filed a petition of protest to the city, along with the required $500 fee. We have hired an attorney, Bruce Stanton, a warrior in support of rent control in California, to represent us in this action.

On July 9, 2015, the city of San Juan Capistrano approved hiring an “independent and neutral” Hearing officer, re-established the Housing Advisory Committee and appropriated $10,000 towards this issue. A hearing date has been set for Monday and Tuesday, August 17-18th at 9:30 am in the Assembly Chamber, San Juan Capistrano (32400 Paseo Adelanto, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675). During the hearing, both sides will present their arguments in front of the Hearing Officer, Attorney Michael Roush, who will determine whether the rent increase is excessive, then make a recommendation which will be forwarded to the Housing Advisory Committee for review, and then up the City Council for a final decision to affirm, modify or reverse the Hearing Officer’s recommendation.

September 1. 2015 is fast approaching. That is the date the spurious rent increase of $641 takes effect. That is the date that each resident of El Nido must make the painful decision on whether to pay the increase, refuse to pay it, or pay only the former rent amount. Each decision has consequences and creates fear and uncertainty. It puts law-abiding citizens in the unenviable position of deciding whether to follow the rules, however unfair (like most of us have done all our lives), or flout the rules – and in our sixties, seventies, eighties and some of us even in our nineties, embark on a life marked by civil disobedience; hardly a welcome proposition for seniors who only want to spend their golden years in peace and quiet!

Attorney Robert S. Coldren, California's pre-eminent fighter for jacked-up mobile home space rents.

Attorney Robert S. Coldren, California’s pre-eminent fighter for jacked-up mobile home space rents.

El Nido Estates is a “5-star” senior park with a 39-year stable history of rent control. Fear is rampant in our Park. As seniors, many of us are on fixed incomes. I personally will be unable to pay this dramatic increase and will be forced to abandon my home. At age 72, I do not want to do that. I doubt I will be able to sell while this controversy, and possible litigation, surrounds our park. Additionally park owners have the right to refuse any potential buyer who doesn’t pass their arbitrary and self-serving approval process, a further detriment, if not outright blockage to sale.

It is estimated that for each $10 increase in rent there is a $1000 loss of equity. Which means that if this $641 rent increase goes through, each homeowner will suffer an immediate $64,000 LOSS of equity! And Richard Worley will overnight receive a $100,000 a month INCREASE in his investment. ($641 month x 156 residents = $100,000.00 – suggesting a transparent reason why such a weird number as $641 was selected for the rent increase!)

92-year old WWII veteran Hank Medina - this sudden 100%+ rent hike could make him homeless.

92-year old WWII veteran Hank Medina – this sudden 100%+ rent hike could make him homeless.

Moving a house is expensive – if it is even possible to find a park willing to allow an “older home” to move in. My neighbor is a 92-year-old veteran who has lived here for 38 years, another neighbor is blind. Where would we go? We cannot move. We came here to retire and live out our golden years. This storm on our horizon is not something many of us have the resources, income or energy to fight. But there is a gift in this cloud: I am grateful for the unity in our community and that those with greater resources are generously and anonymously assisting those with less. Our park is pulling together in an organized and unified front. New connections, amazing talents, skills, courage and compassion have emerged in our community and we are richer for it.

I am asking the Orange Juice to take an interest in this assault to rent control in San Juan Capistrano that will have a ripple effect in other mobile home parks in the OC. I am a resident of El Nido and can provide documentation, letters, and dates etc. for all the above.

Carol Brinkman

Now read Carol’s letter to SJC Council!

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.