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Mobile Home Park Accord reaches tentative agreement

VISTA — Negotiations to extend the city’s Mobile Home Park Accord have reached a tentative agreement, according to city Councilman Cody Campbell.

The first-term council member said the process started “bumpy,” but over the past year the city and park owners have worked to find a fair and reasonable solution.

The accord, which was signed in 1996 by the city and park owners, is a pseudo rent controlled agreement after numerous residents filed numerous complaints. It is not a city ordinance and expires in December.

“The difficulty in the process is there’s always a lot of miscommunication,” Campbell said. “It drives a lot of emotion in the process. Fortunately, they saw a response from us.”

Homeowners, however, own their mobile home, but not the land it lays on. Park owners, meanwhile, charge rent for the space, which allows park owners to maintain their facilities.

Although the agreement is voluntary and near completion, there are two changes. The deal will allow for some rent increases with the sale of a unit, sharing capital replacement costs and also rate increases tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Campbell, though, said the two sides were miles apart when negotiations began, but have found common ground. He said neither side wanted to go through the ballot process, similar to what occurred in Oceanside several years ago, creating a city ordinance.

One issue for Campbell, though, is the out-of-town investment groups who want to charge more for rent using fair market price as a starting point. The problem, he said, is it would force seniors and military veterans on fixed incomes out of their homes.

They could move to other cities, or in the worst-case scenarios for some would be homelessness.

“At the end of the day, public opinion will go against them very strongly,” Campbell said.

Park owners started negotiations asking for their residents to pay for operating and 100 percent capital replacement costs plus $150 rent increase upon a sale and $50 rent increases in the second and third years.

Generally, the rent can’t increase more than 2 percent although if there is a break in homeowner-to-homeowner sales, rent can increase more.

Yet, another issue was when a tenant leaves, a third party would buy the home and not owner occupied, and a storage lease would be applied to the third party.

When a new buyer came in, the park owners would base the rent off the storage lease, which was not apart of the original accord.

“It was a purely a way to game the system,” Campbell said. “It affects availability for future residents. They want to move everything to market (rate). Of course we have to care about the future because we have this large and growing senior population looking for housing.”

Campbell said several parks declined to disclose their operating costs to him, even though at least one park, Green Valley Mobile Home Park, which is owned by Rutherford Investments, pulled in $1.3 million plus gross (revenue). Average rent in Green Valley is between $725 to $750 plus any existing mortgage.

“Don’t tell me you’re not making a profit,” he said. “You’re just trying to increase your bottom line. I said you don’t want to go before the public on this because they will run you out of town, figuratively speaking, over putting seniors and veterans on the street because they can’t afford their rent.”

If the deal falls through, Campbell said the city would take up the issue and “take a stronger, more heavy-handed approach.”

Despite the outcome of the deal, Campbell said the residents he has spoken with are “cautiously optimistic.”

Campbell said five park owners have been active in the process with 11-12 who is expected to sign as well. There are other parks not owned by investment groups and generally follow the accord without signing the document.

“The deal isn’t over until it’s inked,” Campbell said. “There is also the enforcement side. We can’t have these games that they were playing.”

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