CASA DEL REY MOBILEHOME PARK
—Marie Pounders, Co-Manager, Region 8 and SLOMAP President
Bob Murphy and Bud Lang
Have you ever imagined what it must be like to live near a famous castle? Residents of Casa del Rey (House of the King = Castle) Mobilehome Park know exactly what that is like because their homes surround the “Coffee T. Rice” House, a small castle, in Oceano, California. Coffee T. Rice was a wealthy financier who migrated from Ohio to San Francisco. He envisioned southern San Luis Obispo County becoming an industrial center because the railroad was surveyed to go through the area. His house, completed in 1886, had three floors, a total of twenty rooms and used teak, mahogany, marble and tile as materials. Rice fell on hard times and when the first train rolled through, he was no longer the “castle’s” owner. In 1905, the house and land were purchased by the Temple of the People (The Halcyonites); the third floor was completed and the building used as a sanitorium until 1925. Various other people lived there until its sale in the 1940’s.
Some renovations were done in the intervening years and in 1959, the Fowlers purchased the house, did some restoration and alterations remodeling the kitchen, and added a Recreational Vehicle Park. In 1965, the property changed hands again and Robert Conway converted part of the ground floor into a recreation room and the second floor into apartments. The RV Park remained in place. Mr. Conway also opened the pool by the house for the tenants’ use.
In the early 70’s, Mr. and Mrs. Rolland purchased the park and continued to maintain the property as an RV Park. Ron Rolland, their son, inherited the property after Mr. Rolland’s death. Over the next decade, mobilehomes were moved into the park on the upper level, with RVs on the first level and the park was renamed “Casa del Rey” Mobilehome Park. Ron Rolland was considered a good, fair park owner and tenants were satisfied. Landscaping and park maintenance were exceptionally good during Ron’s ownership.
Unfortunately, after Ron’s death in early 2000, problems developed with management as they became more restrictive and aggressive with the residents, many of whom were seniors. People became fearful and intimidated. Park maintenance deteriorated. Around this time, the park was put up for sale. In 2007, Bob Murphy, a longtime resident, organized the folks who lived in the park (both part timers and permanent residents), to form an HOA. He invited Dana Lilley, from the County Planning Department, to come and discuss their options and their rights. The residents briefly considered making an offer to buy the park themselves, but were not able to gain enough interest. The County has supported the idea that the “castle” itself may be considered separate from the mobilehome park and could be sold independently.
In early 2008, the Sea Oaks Mobilehome Park facilitators, who were working on the SLO County Conversion Ordinance with Ted Bench, approached Bob Murphy and his Board of Directors about helping to form a county wide mobilehome residents group to help all park residents learn about their rights. Bob and his V.P., Bud Lang, agreed to participate. In addition, park residents formed a GSMOL (Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League) chapter which provided them with the protection of belonging to a strong statewide advocacy group.
Having an HOA/GSMOL group established in the park helped the residents feel more secure and Bob and Bud successfully provided a buffer between management and the seniors. In the next year or two, the family management team moved out of the park and hired an actual experienced management couple, Tom and Joy Waddell, who moved into the castle. With Tom’s background in construction, the park’s maintenance has improved dramatically since his arrival. He and Joy are friendly with tenants and there is no longer a fear factor at play. Management encourages residents to bring in new mobilehomes to replace the old ones, which has enhanced the overall appearance of the park. Casa del Rey is under the SLO County Mobilehome Rent Stabilization Ordinance and the Rollands have always been conscientious about implementing it. The pool and park grounds are well kept and the castle is still brightly the centerpiece of the property.
In driving through the park, a question is raised about an apparent empty grassy mid-section where it looks as if six or more mobilehomes could be added. Unfortunately, Casa del Rey was constructed as an RV park with matching infrastructure. Ron Rolland and Tom Waddell both have had engineering firms evaluate both the sewer and water lines, which are approximately 50 years old! The County also has sent water surveyors and engineers to investigate and all the experts come up with the same conclusion: Current infrastructure is not adequate to support any additions to the current capacity level of mobilehomes in the park. Sometimes, when all the part timers come into town over a holiday weekend, combined with the permanent residents, water pressure is reduced to a minimum. There also have been burst pipes and sewer leaks. Aging Infrastructures will continue to create problems, not just in Casa del Rey, but in most older parks throughout the county.
View of Casa de Rey from the street