If Oceanside residents who occupy some 2,500 mobile home spaces think they have housing security, maybe they should think again.
The 57-space Catalina Mobile Home park on Coast Highway in South Oceanside has been razed to make way for 38 three-story condos which are now under construction.
Debris presently sits on South Tremont Street west of Coast Highway where the now-demolished 21-space La Playa Vista mobile home park was in operation until last year.
And residents of four other parks, on or near Coast Highway, must face the reality that they may be headed for extinction if current trends continue.
Many Oceanside seniors are confident that the Manufactured Home Fair Practice Act of 1982 protects them from park owners who can radically increasing their space rent or those who choose to get out of the mobile home park business entirely.
And while it is true that many mobile home owners are protected, their numbers are diminishing due to park owners who have found a way to work around the law.
Linda Walshaw is a mobile home owner herself and serves as a member of the Oceanside Housing Commission. She is chair of the Oceanside Mobilehome Advisory Committee which has representatives in most of Oceanside’s 16 remaining parks. Walshaw says she has noticed that park owners are slowly but surely acquiring the homes to use as park-owned rentals and then charging a much higher market rate, or pushing for long-term leases that opt homeowners out of rent control.
Consider Pacific Trailer Park just three blocks from the ocean on Oceanside Boulevard (across the street from Larry’s Beach Club). There are 62 total spaces, but according to the city of Oceanside’s director of housing and neighborhood services, Margery Pierce, there were only 12 remaining rent-controlled coaches in Pacific Trailer Park when the city last compiled data in November.
“I think there are maybe five left,” says Brent Conley, a tenant of Pacific Trailer Park, about how many coaches are still protected. “Within the last four months -- two were purchased by the park owner and one by a different private party.”
Conley says he is not sure what the future holds. “I understand the owners are planning to do a lot of improvements with the sewer and electrical, but they aren’t telling what it’s for. It’s always been speculative. We aren’t privy to their plans. We are hoping things will stay the way they are, but they don’t have to tell us. We don’t have a homeowners association.”
Sandy Shores Trailer Park on the north side of Coast Highway was sold to a developer last year. Only 15 of its 40 spaces were reportedly rent control protected at last count.
La Salina Mobile Village, located in the Loma Alta Creek floodplain on Coast Highway now has only 20 of its 101 coaches protected by rent control.
Mira Mar Mobile Village is located at the north end of Cleveland Street. Its tenants once had a spectacular view of the harbor until it became obscured by newer development. Of its 175 spaces, only 29 are now protected by rent control. Homeowners have reported that a number of mobile homes have been demolished and removed.
“Since 2012, hundreds of rent-controlled spaces have been lost,” says Housing Commissioner Walshaw. “The spaces are still there, just no longer protected by rent control.”
Oceanside’s most outspoken advocate of mobile homes and author of Oceanside’s rent-control ordinance was two-term councilwoman Melba Bishop who worked for the cause even after leaving office. Since she died three years ago, mobile home residents have not had a strategist to help seniors preserve their homes, many of whom became Oceanside mobile home residents because of the rent-control ordinance.
“If mobile home owners are not diligent in defending their rent-control ordinance, they will lose it over time,” Bishop warned.
“I can’t really say how we stack up,” says housing director Pierce about how Oceanside compares to other cities. “We have had rent control for over 30 years and we have successfully defended challenges to the validity of the ordinance.”
But commissioner Walshaw says park owners have found ways around the law through rentals and their own long-term leases.
Walshaw says that once a landowner buys a coach, it is no longer subject to rent control, the park owner no longer has to pay rent control fees to the city on that space, and that space rent can increase from, say, $500 to $1250 a month. “It’s whatever the market will bear and renters are paying that much now. Some double-wides that rent for as much as $2,000.
“Many seniors are desperate. There are no affordable places for them to go.”
There have been no new mobile home parks built in California since the 80s according to State of California data.