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Wanted: Mobile-Home Gripes

Sen. Joe Dunn plans a hearing today in Anaheim to address the concerns of residents of the parks. Despite new regulations, he says complaints are on the rise.


Toss out the Jerry Springer-fed trailer-park stereotypes. Steve Gullage is thankful for his mobile-home existence.

The 77-year-old Huntington Beach resident can't complain about his spacious dining room, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a 26-foot porch amid boysenberry bushes, orange trees and genial neighbors.

"I'm very fortunate. We have very good landlords, the rent is fair, the place looks nice," Gullage said. But he knows his experience is not the whole story.

As president of the Golden State Manufactured Home Owner's League, a residents' group based in Garden Grove, Gullage hears from hundreds of people living in less-than-ideal conditions: The electricity is on the fritz, the water tastes bad, sewage lines are backed up, cockroaches scuttle across the laundry room floor, and the landlords are surly and won't do anything to help.

Gullage expects to meet some of those people today at an Anaheim hearing sponsored by state Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) to air the concerns of mobile-home owners.

"People have to hire an attorney to go to court to get things fixed, and that gets very expensive," Gullage said. "Park landlords know this, so they basically tell the homeowners, go ahead and sue."

Once mostly the domain of retired people, mobile home parks now are increasingly diverse. In Orange County, with its soaring real estate prices, mobile homes provide much-needed affordable housing, said Sheila Dey, president of the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Assn. in Sacramento, the largest group representing mobile-home landlords.

California has more than 4,500 mobile-home parks with about 550,000 residents, Dey said. Rents can vary from $300 to much more, depending on location.

Divided Responsibilities

Residents are responsible for the maintenance of their homes, but landlords are legally responsible for keeping up the surrounding infrastructure, such as sewer lines, lights, streets and utilities.

Despite 1999 regulations requiring inspection of mobile-home parks, the current year has seen an increasing number of complaints to a committee chaired by Dunn.

Dunn said the problem is serious enough that he may ask the state attorney general to take over responsibility for related health and safety issues.

"It's the old rule: 20% of the parks, usually owned by the same owners, generate 80% of the complaints," Dunn said.

The problems are worse in communities with significant immigrant or elderly populations, the senator and Gullage said.

Hermelinda Moreno, 86, said she was glad when repairs were made at her Santa Ana mobile home park, but the subsequent rent increase alarmed her. Moreno, a native of the Mexican state of Jalisco, said her daughter, who does cleaning at a hotel to support herself, her mother and two sons, cannot afford to pay much more for rent.

Today's hearing will be from 9 a.m. to noon at the Anaheim Downtown Community Center, 250 E. Center Drive. Information: (714) 705-1580.

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