Thursday, May 29, 2008

Contempo Marin - the story!

Please read this document provided by Contempo Marin and ask Stacey or Dick Heine should you have questions. Nativity wants to support our members living at Contempo, and all who are under threat of losing their homes.

Contempo Marin is a 397-unit mobile home park on Yosemite road near Smith Ranch Road in the northern part of the City of San Rafael. Of the nearly 1,000 people who live in the park many are retired senior citizens. There are also working couples with young children. It has been designated by the City of San Rafael as an affordable housing community. Many city, county and government employees like postal workers, firefighters, retired police officers, school teachers and others rely on the affordable housing at Contempo Marin for a place to live.

The park was opened in 1972 and many of its residents date from that era. Most homes are doublewide units with about 1,400 square foot interiors and are well-maintained by the homeowners. The park’s amenities include a large lagoon with a 1/2-mile walking path around it, and a clubhouse with activity rooms, a swimming pool, and a hot tub.

Residents hold title to their homes but don’t own the land on which their homes sit, which they rent. Some homes are fully paid for, and others have mortgages. Rents currently range from $665 to $800 per month. Other fees for water, garbage, utilities, and common-area property improvements are paid by residents in addition to their base rent. The owner of the land, the clubhouse, and other common-area amenities is Equity LifeStyle Properties, Inc, a two billion
dollar nationwide real estate investment firm headquartered in Chicago. The Chairman of the Board is billionaire Sam Zell. Zell is currently number 52 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans. Zell has been acquiring undervalued RV and mobile home parks in 28 states since the early 90’s. Currently his company controls 311 parks totaling 112,779 residential sites with rental revenues of 200 million per year.

The City of San Rafael enacted a rent control ordinance in 1989, which limits rent increases for home sites at Contempo Marin to an amount pegged to the annual cost of living increase. When Zell acquired the rent controlled park in 1994, he filed suit against the City in Federal Court challenging the ordinance as unconstitutional. The previous owner had attempted a similar challenge against the city in the state court but was defeated. In January 2008, eight years after the case was filed, Judge Vaughn Walker issued his Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law ruling in favor of the landowner and ordering the city to cease any further enforcement of the ordinance, essentially ending rent control for the park. A final hearing is pending before execution of the order takes effect.

The City of San Rafael is contesting the decision by appealing the case to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The city has a strong practical motivation to maintain the park’s large stock of affordable housing, which the state sanctions local governments to provide and preserve. The Contempo Marin Homeowners Association’s interests are represented pro-bono by the firm of Cooley, Godward, Kronish, LLP in San Francisco. The Association and its counsel believe that the decision will be reversed on appeal.

In the meantime based on the Federal Court’s decision Equity LifeStyle Properties notified residents their monthly rent will be $1,925, nearly triple the current rent being charged, as soon as the order is executed. While this court decision could be reversed on appeal, the residents have no assurance that an interim remedy can be found to mitigate the catastrophic rent increase during the appeal process. Many of Contempo Marin’s residents are on fixed incomes.
Faced with a rent increase of this magnitude many will be forced to abandon their homes and mortgages, including any equity they may have. Furthermore, deregulation of rents instantly wipes out the resale value of all the homes, dramatically reducing the net worth of every homeowner in the park.

Another looming threat to Contempo Marin residents comes in the form of Proposition 98 on the state ballot this coming June. It is billed as a corrective to alleged abuses of local governments that use eminent domain to condemn and buy private properties for redevelopment purposes. But the Proposition also includes fine print that would lead to the end of rent control statewide and eliminate affordable housing protected by existing rent control ordinances in over 100 California cities. The campaign for Proposition 98 is being supported heavily by mobile home park owners and wealthy land owners. If it passes in June, it would eliminate any hope of a future restoration of rent control for Contempo Marin residents.

The Contempo Marin Homeowners Association asks fellow Marin County residents for their help by casting NO votes on Proposition 98 in June. They ask voters to vote YES on Proposition 99, which truly reforms eminent domain but does not eliminate rent control. It also thanks the San Rafael City Council for its ongoing commitment to protect affordable housing, a benefit to both Contempo Marin and Marin County as a whole.

April 19, 2008
Contempo Marin Homeowners Association

1 comment:

Greg said...

I grew up in Contempo Marin. We were one of the first 25 families or so to move in. My initials are carved onthe wood rails on the entrance bridge.