Fragile, Very Low Income Seniors Still in Limbo After 5 Hour Rent Hearing

Rent Adjustment Commission from left: Commissioner Beatrice Ferruzza, Commissioner Maxwell Sheldon, City Community Development Director John Prescott, Chairperson Lloyd Werthhamer, City Assistant Attorney Patrick Hehir, Commissioner Brenda Mohr Feldman, Commissioner Michael Silacci

A public hearing to determine if rent is going up on very low income seniors beyond what they can afford to pay has been continued to Jan. 24. The continuance came after a 5 hour hearing last night at City Hall. The hearing ran out of time before dozens of public speakers had a chance to be heard.

About 100 seniors sat politely as experts, lawyers and commissioners worked to decide their fates using algebra, ordinance wording and experts' opinions. Much of the time, those who would be greatly affected by the Rent Adjustment Commission decision could not hear or see what was going on. Tiny words on small charts displayed on TV screens were indiscernible. Voices were muffled as they came over the sound system.

Still, some of the seniors who make less than $1,000 per month sat there quietly as the property owner's request of raising their rent almost 500% to about $720 per month was considered. Some couldn't make it to the public hearing at all due to disabilities. The after dark hours--6 p.m. to 11 p.m.--prohibited their attendance. Some were not at the hearing because they were celebrating Hanukah.

The average age of those attending was 80. All had white or gray hair. Many had hearing aids and thick glasses. Some had walkers, disability scooters or canes. Their clothes were simple, no designer fashions. Their bodies lacked jewelry except for a few gold wedding bands. Shoes were well worn. Oxygen tanks that only last 4 hours each were in use.

Among those who could not attend was a 73-year-old mobile home park resident who had a stroke on Nov. 18. Her daughter Kerri Conaway wrote a letter included in public comments saying, "Since receiving notice in early October of the potential rent increase, my mom has been a complete nervous wreck, to say the least...and I AM SURE that this is what caused her stroke!"

Chandra Spencer, attorney for Rancho Mobile Home Park tenantsAccording to Ranch Mobile Home Park resident Valerie Hopkins, another stroke victim has died, a person was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer and another resident was treated for nervous exhaustion since the residents were told their rent could go up.

Now they wait some more. Meanwhile, residents of Conejo Mobile Home Park are dealing with their park's closing, Vallecito Mobile Home Park residents await news on how much they must pay for the land their coaches are on as the park is converted to a co-op and Thunderbird Oaks Mobile Home Park faces a Rent Adjustment Commission Hearing on January 10, 2011.