One of the last affordable housing niches along Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach is closing. Those living at Siesta RV, Trailer and Mobile Home Park are mostly low income, elderly, living on fixed incomes. Where will they go?
A number of anxious residents turned out last month to implore the city council to intervene.
Elanie Chavez, 19, has lived at the park with her mother and grandmother for six years. She fought tears as she told how the family is barely scraping by as it is, and that the park is "mostly elders." They want to stay, "not end up homeless."
Anders Rindell, an elderly geologist-turned-poet, is being evicted. Despite having nowhere to go, he'll stay in Imperial Beach, he said.
The first round of 30-day notices went out after a meeting in January with Overland Pacific & Cutler, Inc., a Long Beach firm hired to handle the park closure. "Nobody's heard anything" from that company since then," said resident John Watson. "I don't think there's any denying this is going to be a huge impact for many people personally."
Mobile home and RV parks are regulated by the state, and while owners can legally close or covert them to another use, a protocol must be followed. It begins with a closure impact report that analyzes the demographics of those being displaced, and what other housing options they might have, and suggests reasonable compensation. Once complete, it will be evaluated or approved by the city council.
"The report that was submitted was found to be inconsistent with some of the state provisions and they have been informed that modifications will be necessary," says city manager Andy Hall in an email.
What residents learned in the draft they received last month didn't ease their fears.
"Only 3 of the 104 units will qualify to be relocated," said Connie Villalpando. And for everyone else? "Probably we're gonna end up in the street."
In a county with a years-long wait for housing vouchers, and a shortfall of over 142,000 affordable homes for low-income renters, it's hard to see where they will find homes. The San Diego Housing Federation defines affordable housing as "rent-restricted and/or rent assisted such that it is affordable to households earning 60 percent or less of the Area median Income."
Daniel Furr, who works for the company preparing the closure impact report, said the plan will comply with state laws, and outreach meetings have been held. Residents would be notified two weeks before the council considers the closure. The plan is currently a draft, he said, so there may be changes in the final version. "Mitigation measures will address the minimum required by the state."
City officials said they had seen no project or permits yet. "We haven't had any communication with the owner of this property," said mayor Serge Dedina, who suggested arranging a meeting with residents, park owners, and state representatives.
City manager Andy Hall says in an email that he isn't aware of a meeting involving all parties being scheduled. "However, we have met with residents on several occasions to address some of the concerns they have" about the potential closing of the park.
What will replace the homes?
"The developer has expressed interest in residential units and indicated they prefer a 'for sale' product such as condominiums," Hall says. But it's too early in the process to know if this will be the final proposal, he adds.
Grace Martinez, executive director of San Diego Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, noted the meager help proposed for moving on. Some of the relocation aid would be three months rent at the park, about $2,500, she said. "We're asking City Council to reject the Closure Impact Report and support residents' efforts to stay in Imperial Beach."
Of the housing options the report considered for those who don't qualify for assistance, one thing stood out as less than helpful to Villaponda. "There may be additional opportunities with less restrictive admission standards in Tijuana, Mexico."
"So, practically they're saying if you don't qualify, you don't meet anything in here, just go across the border."