Thursday's has the potential to have a massive effect on the residents of Surf and Sand Mobile Home Park.
With a repeal of rent control on the table, park owner Rod Reed could raise rent on the property to figures far above many of the residents' monthly paychecks. Furthermore, anyone trying to sell their home in the park is met with major resistance, as potential buyers likely could not afford the rent, either. Even if a buyer could be found, plenty of roadblocks remain.
Residents have begun to at their own expense as a last-remaining option to get out of the park.
Capitola-Soquel Patch took a trip to Surf and Sand this week to meet with a group of the park's householders. Meet them yourself below.
“I purchased my home. I took money out of my retirement fund. I paid cash for it in December of 2010. I got the low income status because I am low income. Now [Reed] wants to raise my rent to $1,300 on Sept. 1. I could be evicted if I don’t pay the higher rent. He says it’s fair market rent, but our appraisal said fair market rent is $640.
“I can’t afford it. It’s my whole Social Security check, plus food, gas and fees. I can’t stay here. My only option it to figure out what my options are and how to leave here without losing a lot of money. If you get evicted, then you get sued for all the back rent you didn’t pay, or you’re charged for him taking your place down, which is about $8,000. There’s enormous cost. You can’t just walk away without enormous costs.”
Sandy Williams is a retired police officer living at Surf and Sand.
“My home is smaller than the boat he owns at the yacht harbor. How would he like his $300 a month rent at the yacht harbor to go up to $2,400 a month? That’s what he raised my rent to. It used to be about $350.
“We all volunteer in the city. We shop here and we live here. We’re good people. We’re not sleeping. There’s a lot of anxiety. Some people are about ready to drop dead.
“We feel the community support but not the city’s support. There’s too much that’s hidden.”
"My dad, Roscoe, is 89. He’s lived here for 15 years. He came over here and thought he had it good. He enjoyed the beach. Now this happened. If this holds, and we’re all forced out of here, I’m not sure what he’s going to do. He might have enough money to buy a smaller, more modest mobile home out of the area, but then we’re in the middle of Santa Cruz somewhere. He’s not going to enjoy himself there. At least half of his savings will be gone.
"Mr. Reed asked everyone to come here. He asked people to invest in his property to come here and purchase homes so he can earn rent. We did that, and the ordinance protected us. Now he’s going to take our investments from us. That’s what Bernie Madoff did. He asked people to invest with him only to take their life savings. How can Reed say, ‘Come purchase homes here so I can take the rent and now I’m going to take your homes from you’? It’s absurd.”
Jack Alsman is a contractor living at Surf and Sand.
“The council members have been urging everyone to just sign the new lease. At the last meeting, I asked one of the council members if he had read the latest lease. He admitted that he hasn’t actually read it. He knows some of the points and he realizes it’s not the best. But his theory is go ahead and sign it, then if you have problems with anything in the lease, you can go and try to address it in the courts. Well, written right into the lease, it says you can’t take them to court. It has to be through an arbitration company that they select that charges $900 per hour. That’s the way the lease is set up. Sign the contract to buy this car, then we’ll find out what it’s going to cost you.”
“I moved in here 13 years ago. I paid cash for my house, $75,000, which was all the money I had in the world. I’m 63. I thought I could live here. The reason I moved in here is because it was on rent control. I would have looked for another place if I knew it would be up to $1,400 and going up from there. I paid everything I had on this house. I only get a small Social Security check.
“What I don’t understand is when people vote to keep you on rent control, how can the city take you off? A few years ago, I went and voted to keep everybody on rent control and it went through. So why do four or five people get to take us off rent control? When the people vote you on rent control, they want you to stay on rent control. They don’t want the city council to take use off. Why is that legal?
“I talked to the mayor and I asked him not to take us off of rent control. He told me he had to think about the city and the money. I told him he should think about people first, money second. He said he just had to think about the city, and that was just more important.”
Margaret Dixon is a longtime homeowner at Surf and Sand. For the last several months, her daughter has lived on her couch at the park.
“If you look at other mobile home parks through the state, the moment they get to the end of their life as far as needing infrastructure repairs, they try to force people out and do this, because of the cost. It would be millions to redo the plumbing here.
“There’s zero transparency with the city, HKC and the owner. They keep saying, ‘We’ll help you. We’ll hold their feet to the fire on this agreement.’ Every time someone calls though or sends an email, they come back and say it’s out of their control.”
Heidi Hoffacker is on SSI Disability. Her monthly check is less than half of what her rent will be raised to next month.
"I've lived here for about nine years. I'm 31 now, and I moved in when I was 23. He's raising my rent to $1,800 and I can't afford it without working. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Unless I can get money from this place, I won't have money to go somewhere else. I put a lot of money into it, new carpets, new kitchen. It’s just disappointing.”