To Whom It May Concern Letters . . .
from Contempo Marin Residents and Friends regarding ELS Lawsuit
To Whom It May Concern;
Recently, my wife and I were flooded out of our apartment in San Anselmo. Displaced, with a baby on the way, both of our families came together and helped us buy our first home. It was a noble and life changing effort, enabling us to achieve the dream of home ownership just as our first baby is due the following month. A month after closing escrow, our great happiness was overshadowed by a malicious force. The company owning Contempo Marin, Equity Life Style Properties won a court ruling by Judge Walker, deeming San Rafael's rent control to be unconstitutional.
My wife and I live in a mobile home community, in which you purchase the home, but rent the land. Our mobile home was the only real estate my wife and I could afford, being a young married couple in Marin county (where rents and home prices continue to go up). The rent for the land seemed high, however the mortgage was low enough to make it affordable housing. No where else in Marin would we be able to buy a home big enough for our growing family.
Since the Judge's ruling, all that has been jeopardized as the park is now threatening to raise the rent on the land underneath us from $723 to a whopping $1925. They informed us of this by giving us a threatening letter a week before March 1st (when they intended to raise the rent) as notice. While they claim they are trying to keep up with market value for the land - this seems unreasonable. A $300,000 mortgage on a home would cost about the same amount, which includes the land and a house. We could even rent a house for that amount on land the same size. What they are proposing is that in addition to paying our mortgage for our home, we would have to pay an additional $1925 per month in rent - which we could not afford. We would lose everything.
This would also mean that the city of San Rafael would be sacrificing a significant amount of their low income housing. Not only is this low income housing in a city where that is becoming less of a reality - this is low income with no crime. Low income and no crime are rarely found together. It is truly a sad day, when an affordable housing community that consists of retired citizens living on a fixed income, teachers, single parents, young working families and many other working class members of our society's homes are stolen from them.
They are trying to forcibly evict some 396 homes by forcing them into foreclosure, so that they can steal back their land (perhaps to sell it to a developer which might build more million dollar homes). I am stunned to find that in this day and age, a corporate titan, which owns over three hundred mobile home parks, could attempt such a brazen, greedy and malicious act. I find myself in shock that this country could allow for the fifty second richest man in the world to force so many low income people into bankruptcy just so he could make a slightly better profit margin for his company.
While Judge Walker has temporarily stopped ELS from this rent hike, they are sending residents billing statements to the amount of $1925 and listing it as being in "dispute." They have made it perfectly clear that as soon as they can, they will hike the rental rates to an amount no one can afford and force us all out on the streets, losing our homes, our life savings, and our credit - all for their own private gain. Whatever the true intention of ELS is, one thing is for certain - they must be stopped! If they are allowed to complete this greedy act, it will set a precedent in this already unstable economy, the effect of which will be long reaching.
Please, I urge you to help those of us in the most need. It is time for someone to step up and save all 396 homes, which make up the fabric of our society. We can not do this alone and while our community here at Contempo is united, it is time for everyone else to step in and show their support. It is time for us to tell this unjust, greedy corporation that people matter more than profit. I ask you to help in any and every way you can before its too late.
Ben and Katie Ludin
2/22/2008 – Patti Newman
Contempo Marin fears
I am a 75-year-old grandmother who lives with a daughter in a mobile home park in San Rafael called Contempo Marin. My daughter and I take care of another daughter (who is chronically ill) who also lives here in a small mobile home. A federal judge just declared our San Rafael ordinance unconstitutional (IJ, Feb. 14). Now the park owners (Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc.) want to increase the land rent from $780 to $1,925. There is no way my family can afford to remain here. This is home. Where in God's name would we go?
I have volunteered (as has my daughter) to help others for years. What I would give for a simple worry-free life. To have to pay almost $2,000 a month for rent, plus carry a monthly mortgage, would be impossible. This is supposed to be "affordable housing." I'm holding my breath until March 1 when the rent may go way up.
Patti Newman, San Rafael
3/4/2008 – Dick Heine
Contempo owner 'a bully'
Peter Underhill's letter (Readers' Forum, Feb. 29, "Park's owner responds") reveals his company for what it is - a bully.
He adopts the bully's position - give me what I want and I will leave you alone; you won't be able to live with what I want, but I will leave you alone.
Comparing mobile home park rents to apartment rents is comparing apples and oranges. An apartment dweller can pack up an leave if they do not like a recent increase. A mobile home owner does not have this choice unless they decide to abandon the equity in their home.
Underhill ignores the fact that mobile home selling prices also reflect the improvements the owners have made. He also needs to check his apartment rental figures, as they are not reflective of rentals in this area.
Finally, San Rafael is not wasting taxpayer dollars and fostering uncertainty - it is defending an ordinance passed to provide certainty and protect affordable housing, not just at Contempo Marin in San Rafael but throughout the county and the state.
Richard Heine, San Rafael
3/4/2008 – Samantha Glorioso
Rent control essential
Thank you for your editorial (Feb. 25, "Affordable housing must be protected") on the battle to protect Contempo Marin as a rent-controlled park. I am a 20-year resident and would lose my home if this rent increase goes through. The editorial says: "Not surprisingly, attorneys for the park's owner see things differently. One said homes in the park are selling for $100,000 more than they are worth because of the rent-control ordinance."
The attorneys for ELS, as usual, exaggerate the facts. Homes in Contempo Marin usually sell for $140,000 to $175,000. Where in California can you buy a three bedroom home for that?
Before the recent court ruling, I have been paying $837 a month for rent. I paid $60,000 for my home 20 years ago, and was paying $320 a month for rent. Rents have almost tripled in 20 years, but the value of my home has not tripled. I probably could not have sold it for more than $150,000 before the proposed rent increase, and I will probably have to walk away from it if the increase goes through.
Starting over at age 60 is not something I look forward to. Most of the residents here will probably be made homeless overnight, through no fault of their own. About 1,000 people will be affected.
Thank you, again, for your support.
Samantha Glorioso, San Rafael
3/9/2008 – Karen Kindig
Park owner's facts questioned
The Feb. 29 IJ included a letter from Peter Underhill of Equity LifeStyle Properties, which owns Contempo Marin (billionaire Sam Zell is board chairman). Underhill states that a two-bedroom apartment in Marin rents for $1,963 a month. His company is using this as a basis to charge mobile homeowners in Contempo Marin $1,925 a month to rent the plot of land (usually about 40 by 80 feet) that their homes rest on.
Underhill states that "readers deserve to be fully informed of the facts of this case," yet he left out some facts. There is a big difference in what one receives when renting an apartment vs. renting a small plot of land. When one rents an apartment, a dwelling is provided and the landlord is responsible for maintaining that dwelling (painting, roofing, plumbing, etc). ELS does not pay for, nor maintain, the mobile homes, nor does ELS even maintain the plots of land it rents out. The homeowners buy the mobile homes ($69,000 to $200,000, depending on age, size and location), maintain them, and then pay rent to ELS for the land. It is absurd to compare renting a plot of land to renting an apartment.
In its lawsuit, ELS complained of "unconstitutional private taking," and yet that is exactly what it is planning to do to Contempo Marin homeowners. If ELS is really concerned with the fairness of private taking, it should pay fair market value to each homeowner in Contempo Marin for their homes. Its real motivation is to drive out all of Contempo Marin's occupants, causing them to lose the equity they have in their homes, and use the land for more lucrative purposes.
Karen Kindig, San Rafael
3/9/2008 – Debbie Daniels
Affordable housing at stake
I am responding to Peter Underhill's letter (IJ, "Park's owner responds") about the issue of the Contempo Marin Mobile Home park and the author's accusation that homeowners have inflated the prices of their homes from $27,000 in 1999 to $157,000 in 2007.
I have been a resident since 1976. I purchased my mobile for $22,000. I refinanced in 1989 for $43,000. My mobile home now is worth about $150,000. Newer homes were purchased at higher prices and are worth $200,000 or more. Our mobile homes are affordable compared to the prices of homes in Marin ($400,000 and up).
My rent in 1976 was $156 and now is $728. With my mortgage and rent, I pay $1,240. I couldn't find a two-bedroom apartment for this amount. If the rent is increased to the suggested price of $1,995, I would be paying $2,585. This is not affordable housing. The reason I moved here in 1976 is because I couldn't afford a house then and I still can't.
The park's owner says we should just lay down and except this last court judgment. I will continue to support the city of San Rafael's and the Mobile Home Association decision to appeal this judgement.
Debbie Daniels, San Rafael