Forum debates future of city
After residents made an emotional appeal for a rent cap, the Douglas County Commissioners unaminously agreed Thursday to meet with the new property owners of the Tahoe Shores Mobile Home Park to urge concessions to rising rates.
Commissioner Don Miner proposed to see about either rolling back the rates or implementing an emergency action for rent control for the Tahoe township of the county. It’s due to come back on the October agenda.
With tearful testimony, residents packed the commissioners’ meeting to contend that since South Shores Tahoe LLC, with Robert Mecay of Incline Village listed as the managing partner, took over the park a year ago, their lives have been turned upside down.
At a time when the South Shore struggles with finding affordable housing for its citizens, these mobile homeowners and renters have been presented with an average rent increase of 24 percent by the time a new month-to-month lease agreement goes into effect Dec. 1.
The residents — many disabled and elderly — may also be required to absorb new water and sewer fees.
One-by-one, residents pleaded with the commissioners to do something because they feel they’re being pushed out of their homes and investments.
“The handwriting is on the wall that they can every month raise our rent,” said Jan Christensen, who’s lived at the Kahle Drive park for 20 years.
Christensen was crying when she asked the commissioners which one would take her in when she becomes homeless and shows up at their doorsteps.
She was followed by a former Santa Maria city manager, Wayne Schwammel, who fought back the tears when he thought of his hospital-bound friend who felt forced to sell out and consequently take less than half of the fair market value for his mobile home space.
Steve Ray, a Stateline Homeowner’s Association director, described a plot to push the residents out as a one-two punch. He called the landlord’s move “unconscionable” and “sinister.”
“If ever there was a time for a need to intercede on behalf of someone who truly needed it, that time is now,” he said.
An earlier request was rejected by the panel last December.
This time, the commissioners agreed to intervene, but they warned the residents their action may facilitate a risky counter action that may hurt them in the long run if the landlord decides to exert the full force of its property rights.
Commissioner Bernie Curtis pledged to help the residents if he could and called the tactics the owner used as “morally wrong.”
The residents perceived the proposal as a way to buy them some time before the inevitable.
“It’s not likely to be a mobile home park in the future considering the tactics they’ve used, but I think it’s important to consider the lives (affected),” Miner said. He urged the residents to use the time to try to make other arrangements.
Noticeably missing at the podium were representatives of the investment firm, who have been unavailable for comment.
No plans have been submitted to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency or county Building Department since the partnership bought the 17 acres from Tahoe Shores Ltd. for $12.6 million.
The property owner’s San Diego-based manager Michael Gelfand had earlier stated the owner is considering several options for the prime lakeshore property, which sits on a streambed zone.
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