I want to thank the group that sent the John Oliver (HBO comedian) video on ‘Mobile Home Parks’ far and wide recently, providing the opportunity to set the record straight on how radically different the situation in Vineyard Valley here in St. Helena is from that portrayed in the clip. Mr. Oliver focuses exclusively on large corporate developers and speculators that build and buy mobile home parks, and how they prey on vulnerable homeowners through egregious increases in fees and rents, cynically laughing all the way to the bank.
This can force the homeowner into the precarious financial situation of being unable to pay rent for the land where their mobile home is located. Also, there is no personal relationship between the homeowner and the landlord in such cases as the landlord may be clear across the country or not local at any rate. It is easy to be predatory at a distance. Nor is there any sense of cooperation or mutuality between the corporate owner and park residents. Mr. Oliver highlights this dreadful, fearsome situation in his own inimitable way through a mixture of outrage, hyperbole, humor, and caricature, and rightfully so.
Now contrast this with what we have here in Vineyard Valley Mobile Home Park, which has been privately owned by the same family and their investors, for 45 years. The annual rise in rent has remained at 3 percent for the same amount of time. The owners have repeatedly assured us they have no intention of selling nor is there any evidence of their doing so. Not only are they financially invested, they are emotionally invested as well, taking great pride along with residents in what has been created here, not once but three times.
The two floods in 1986 and 1995 essentially destroyed the Park each time. It would have been easy to walk away or sell out. But the owners didn’t leave nor did some homeowners who stayed, as well as many who returned, committed to rebuilding the Park and the community. The owners stayed and invested heavily in infrastructure, which took years on each occasion. They offered financial assistance to homeowners who chose to stay and rebuild. And because owners and residents stayed we now have the privilege of waking up in this magic garden of a Park every morning.
Further, owners evaluate folks that are financially challenged and assist where they can. If the RSO (Rent Stabilization Ordinance) that only pertains to Vineyard Valley is defeated, the owners will restart a means tested program to determine if such help is required.
Both owners and residents are to be praised for their commitment, persistence, and strong partnership over the years, building, rebuilding, and maintaining our very unique community. Homeowners that fought fiercely and tirelessly for the Flood Wall is one example of this community spirit. The commitment and dedication to Vineyard Valley by so many is to be commended! The partnership between owners and residents is one of the most attractive features in the Park, although it is severely tested currently by the RSO issue which has strong proponents on each side. It is my hope that we will return to that tradition of partnership, working with and cooperating with each other and the ownership once the issue is resolved by the election.
I, along with many if not most of the residents of Vineyard Valley, will be voting no on Measure F, the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which only covers Vineyard Valley and no other senior housing in St. Helena. We don’t need it here as we have had rent stabilization/rent control and affordable housing for nearly five decades! I see no reason for fear, anxiety, and paranoia to prevail. Instead let us return once again to cooperation and collaboration, learning to face crises and issues together and not antagonistically, as research demonstrates that cooperative communities have a much longer existence than those which are competitive.
So again my thanks to that group for reminding us how good we have it here! And how grateful I am!