By Nancy Needham (email@example.com)
Surrounded by affluence, fragile seniors are out in front of Thousand Oaks City Hall today as they brave hot weather to bring attention to their plight. Some of the new cars passing them by honked supportively. Friendly people waved at them. People ages 65 to 95, almost all with distressing medical conditions, stood with signs touting “Elder Abuse,” “Honk for Granny” or descriptions explaining how proposed rent increases to mobile home parks are going to result in homelessness for many of them.
With the $64 million Civic Arts Plaza as a backdrop, the seniors pushed walkers, sat in lawn chairs or rode up and down the street in disability scooters. Some ventured across Thousand Oaks Boulevard to rally in front of the $6 million park Gardens of the World. Next door to the garden people ordered from a menu at Mastro’s Steakhouse that includes an $85 lobster tail and a $10 side order of mashed potatoes. Nearby is the parcel of land the city purchased this year for $3.25 million, without a stated purpose for owning. Also within a few yards are the 10 parking spaces the city recently added at The Lakes for $400,000.
But, there is no relief for these seniors who seem to be entirely on their own. No churches bring them cold bottles of water. Very little shade. It’s as if the community has forgotten them. Among those holding signs are those who fought in WWII, longtime residents and people who thought they’d be safe retiring in a place zoned as rent-controlled for low-income seniors.They started there at 9 a.m. and plan to stay until 5 p.m. The group Save Our Seniors (S.O.S.) is hoping to bring to the community’s attention that the park owner for Thunderbird Oaks Mobile Home Park and Ranch Mobile Home Park has proposed rent increases that most of the residents will not be able to afford to pay. At Thunderbird the increase proposed is a $260 per month. At Ranch it is a $587 per month increase.
Chairperson for Save Our Seniors (S.O.S.) Marilyn Aurand, 65, and Bob Prehmus, 73, rally for seniors outside of Thousand Oaks City Hall in hopes of making the community aware of their plight as Thunderbird Oaks Mobile Home Park residents who fear a proposed rent increase of $260 per month if the park owner gets his way. Bob said he moved to the mobile home park from Bakersfield earlier this year because he thought the park was rent controlled. “I wouldn’t have moved in if I’d known this was going to happen. I can’t afford it,” he said. “They are trying to destroy us. They will make some of us homeless with 50 to 60 percent of us not able to pay the increase. Where will those who can’t afford to pay it go?” Marilyn said.
This is not the first protest Helen Troy, 78, has been a part of in Thousand Oaks. Actually, this city might not even be Thousand Oaks if it wasn’t for Helen. Back 50 years ago some property owner named Janss wanted to name the newly forming town Conejo City. Helen got signatures on a petition. Naming the city was put on the ballot. Then she worked to make sure the town got the more dignified name of Thousand Oaks. Now she’s on the street holding the sign “Honk for Granny” hoping somebody cares about what will happen to local seniors such as herself will see it. Ranch Mobile Home Park, where she lives, has proposed a 500 percent rent increase. If it happens, fragile seniors could be put out on the street.
She is not going to take it even if it means she has to push her walker up and down the street in front of City Hall all daylong. With the sun beating down on her, Audrey Fayloga, 68, who has multiple sclerosis and arthritis, joins other seniors who are trying to prevent proposed rent increases at Thunderbird Oaks Mobile Home Park and Ranch Mobile Home Park. Seniors living at the mobile home parks cannot afford to pay the increases. She and the other seniors are frightened. One of the mobile home park residents has already had a stroke and many of the seniors said they think it was due to the stress of the proposed rent increases and the fear of being homeless.
Standing in the hot sun. Riding up and down Thousand Oaks Boulevard on an electric mobility scooter. This is not the first time World War II veteran Charles Sallia, 86, has battled against all odds. His friends call him Sal. When he was 17 he was in the Naval Air Force fighting for freedom in the central pacific. In the 1970s he worked with city leaders to help create rent control in Thousand Oaks. The same rent control he thought would protect him so he could live out his life without worrying about the very tragedy that is currently unfolding in Thousand Oaks, he said. “I was one of five men who got rent control started in Thousand Oaks. I thought it was the best rent control in the state,” Sal said. Now, as a Thunderbird Oaks Mobile Home Park resident, he’s worried about what will happen to his neighbors. He’s not 17 anymore. He only has one leg. But, he still stands for what is right and will fight for those in need.
Joy Freck, 75, moved into Thunderbird Mobile Home Park to take care of her dying mother who has since passed away. “I miss my mother, but I’m glad my mom is in heaven now and doesn’t have to worry about this happening to her,” Joy said.
Bob Russell, 68, has cut back on phone service and prescription drugs. He has no place else to cut. No luxuries. He put a new mobile home into Thunderbird Mobile Home Park three years ago when he was told there was rent control there. The mobile home cost him $275,000, he said. Now it’s worth about $150,000. If the rent goes up on the ground underneath his mobile home as proposed his home’s value will decrease to $110,000, he said. “I already owe more than it’s worth,” he said. He doesn’t know what he will do.
She’s lived in Thousand Oaks for 36 years. Almost 20 of those years has been at Ranch Mobile Home Park. Mary Jane Carlson, 78, lives on $865 a month. Total. The woman who has problems with both of her hips stood bravely in front of City Hall hoping to get the attention of people who care enough to help protect her and others who are fearful of what could happen to them in the near future. “If the rent goes up I won’t be able to eat or survive,” she said. Her senior friends behind her sit at the bus stop, not expecting a ride, but hoping for a miracle to come their way.
More information about the proposed 260% to 500% rent increases on the Ranch Mobile Home Park and Thunderbird Oaks Mobile Park in Thousand Oaks is at http://toaks.org/government/committees/rent_adjustment_commission.asp
The City of Thousand Oaks Rent Adjustment Commission has scheduled hearings for both of these proposed rent increases at City Hall. December 6th at 6pm for the Ranch MHP and January 10th at 6pm for Thunderbird MHP (previously October 5th and October 18th but rescheduled because the owner of the park revised its application and the City requires additional time to review the revisions.