FREMONT — Tenants of a mobile home park for those 55 and older are preparing to fight a major rent increase proposal scheduled to go before a judge next month.
The administrative hearing, scheduled for June 15-17, could determine the fate of the Besaro Mobile Home Park, a 30-acre, 236-space community that is home to many seniors living on fixed incomes.
The park owners — who include David Beretta, a major Fremont landlord, and Jack Rogers, the city's former parks and maintenance director — have threatened in legal papers to close the community on Deep Creek Road in north Fremont if the rent increase is not granted.
They are requesting that all monthly rents, which now average $669.55, be set at $895.
Park residents, who are trying to raise $60,000 for legal help to fight the increase, could wind up as losers no matter the ruling.
If the rent increase is approved, tenants could be priced out of the park or forced to cut back on other expenses to make rent.
If the park is closed or perceived to be at risk of closing, residents could lose the value of their homes, which is tied to having affordable rent at a stable mobile home park.
Mobile homes cost as much as $40,000 to move, and there are few, if any, vacant sites in the Bay Area.
Moreover, the park's owners have put in writing that they would challenge a city ordinance requiring them to pay their tenants' relocation costs.
However, a representative for the owners said the owners should not have to subsidize tenants.
"We're not hurting any poor people," said Anthony Rodriguez, an attorney representing the owners. "We're just taking away a windfall that a bunch of people have been getting for 20 years."
The owners also have agreed not to raise rents on anyone with less than $75,000 in assets, whose monthly income is less than $2,685, Rodriguez said.
The city so far has stayed out of the fray, rejecting a request by park residents to split the cost of fighting the rent increase.
However, the City Council does have options to help the tenants.
It could refuse to rezone the land, which does not permit a potentially lucrative housing subdivision, or it could strengthen its rent-control law — an option that Councilman Bob Wieckowski would consider if the rent increase is granted.
"They're trying to find the holes in law to scare people out of their houses," he said. "I shake my head and think, 'Why are they doing this?'""
Besaro, which was developed by four men in the 1970s, now is run by its heirs, who include Beretta and Rogers.
In seeking the rent increase, the owners say that Fremont's rent-control law has kept them from making a fair profit on the land, which they estimate is worth $68 million.
Besaro turned a $1.09 million profit in 2006 and a $1.18 million profit in 2007, according to records on file with the city.
The average monthly rent at Besaro is $669.55, compared to $715.81 at Niles Canyon Mobile Home Park and $782.47 at South Lake Mobile Home Park, near Auto Mall Parkway, according to the filing.