By Susan Luzzaro
An 83 year-old mother and her 60 year-old disabled son, who live in a mobile home park in south Chula Vista, have filed a civil lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court against Granada Mobile Estates, LLC and Dolly Newstrom the agent/park manager.
The complaint alleges breach of contract, housing discrimination, and civil rights violations.
The struggle between mobile home park owners and mobile home tenants has a long and bitter history in Chula Vista. In 2012 the city council voted to do away with rent control for mobile home residents, protection that had been in place since 1982. The council approved an amended ordinance which contained something called temporary vacancy decontrol; essentially, when a mobile home is sold, park owners can increase the space rent to market rate.
Mobile home owners have historically needed protection because as the city’s amended ordinance states, “The city council further finds that the unique nature of the ownership of a mobile home within a mobile home park makes mobile home owners particularly vulnerable to the threat of loss of their investment in their mobile home.” The ordinance elaborates on the difficulties of owning the home but not the land beneath it, and the expense to move the investment from one place to another.
The city also amended the ordinance to recognize “for the need of mobile home park owners to receive a just and reasonable return on their property.”
According to the complaint filed in February by Gladys Clark and Steven Clark, Chula Vista’s rent control ordinance “prohibits the increase in rent of the space when a resident owner of the mobile home passes away, provided there is another title owner still in residence.” As Gladys is elderly and her health is fragile—this part of the ordinance is key to her and her son’s future.
In 1988, the complaint states, Gladys and her late husband John entered into a rental agreement with Granada Mobile Homes, a park for seniors. In 2010, the couple’s son, Steven, moved in with them to act as caregiver. After a brief illness John passed away and Steven stayed on to give his mother “physical, emotional and financial support.”
In 2011 the complaint alleges, Gladys and Steven had a meeting with Dolly, the park manager, and they came to an agreement that Steven could remain in the park as a resident—not a guest—if his name was added to the mobile home title. The distinction is that guests must adhere to specific rules and pay additional fees.
In April 2011, the complaint continues–prior to the city ordinance change–Gladys and Steven went to the Department of Housing and Community Development and added Steven as a registered owner, and Stephen lived as a resident, without any of the strictures of a guest, from 2011 until January 2015.
Events, according to the complaint, took a new turn on January 15 when Gladys experienced a cardiac episode and paramedics were called to the park. Shortly after the incident, Gladys was served with a 7-day notice, which threatened terminating her tenancy if she did not register her son as a guest and sign a Permanent Guest Agreement.
The complaint alleges that defendants “realized during Gladys’ health scare in January that if Gladys were to pass away, the Defendants would have to honor Gladys’ rent under the pre-2012 rent control ordinance. The complaint alleges that the “defendants actions were motivated by greed and avarice.
Amy Lepine, attorney for the Clarks, said she sought to get this docketed sooner because normally in cases where the plaintiff is over 70 and has fragile health the complainant is given preference. However, she said the judge wanted additional information. Lepine is concerned because “living with the threat of eviction is driving Gladys Clark’s blood pressure through the roof.”
The Clarks still reside in Granada Mobile Home Park. Phone calls to park manager Newstrom were not returned.