FREMONT — Residents of an over-55 mobile home park once again are being threatened with the park's closure unless the owners are granted a major rent increase.
The owners of Besaro Mobile Home Park in north Fremont have appealed in state and federal court a hearing officer's ruling last year denying them the right to increase rents by as much as 40 percent on some tenants.
If the appeals fail, the owners will close the park, said their attorney, Anthony Rodriguez.
The 30-acre, 236-space park at 4141 Deep Creek Road has been at the center of a long-standing battle between the owners and the city, which has strict guidelines limiting rent increases at mobile home parks.
In court papers filed earlier this month, Rodriguez argued that Fremont's rent control law has prevented Besaro from "catching up with rents at (Fremont's) Southlake and Niles Canyon" mobile home parks.
In 2008, average rents at Besaro were $669 compared with $715 at Niles Canyon and $782 at Southlake.
But park residents say the owners' proposal to bring rents from the current average of $669 to $895 would force several of them from their homes.
"Many of the residents are elderly, living on fixed incomes and fighting to survive in these tough economic conditions," wrote Besaro Homeowner Association President Larry Alsterlind.
The owners had offered to rescind rent increases for hardship cases, but residents don't trust the owners to safeguard their financial information, Alsterlind said.
In 2001, a hearing officer granted park owners a major rent increase, but last year, Judge Ruth Astle rejected the owners' request, citing that their profit margins and expenses had held steady in recent years.
The park turned a $1.18 million profit in 2007, according to the most recent city records.
Besaro was developed in the 1970s by four men and is now run by their heirs, who include David Beretta, a prominent Fremont property owner, and Jack Rogers, a former city of Fremont department head, who managed Suzanne Chan's successful 2008 City Council campaign.
The owners recently lost a legal battle with Fremont over a city law that limits how much they can increase rents when a mobile home park space becomes vacant.
Mobile homes can cost more than $30,000 to move, and there are few vacancies at nearby parks. Consequently, the value of mobile homes is tied to the stability of the park where they're located.
In the case of Besaro, the owners' repeated threats to close the park have made it difficult for residents to sell their homes and recoup their investments. If the owners succeed with their appeal, they'll keep the park open longer but still plan to close it eventually, Rodriguez said. "The underlying land is worth so much."
Rodriguez anticipated it would take two to three years for the appeals process to play out. If the owners decide to close the park, they likely would sue the city over its ordinance requiring mobile park owners to pay for their tenants' moving expenses if they go out of business.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002. For more Fremont news, read his blog: www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.