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January 25, 2015

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Moving doesn’t sit well with mobile home park residents


Paul Takahashi

Jim Smith, 67, sits in his double-wide mobile home with his dog, Coco. Smith and his wife, Sharon, live in the Tropicana Village Mobile Home Park, the location of a proposed shopping center and hotel.

Tropicana Village Mobile Home Park

Wyatt Earp, 67, lives in a 1950s-era trailer home in the Tropicana Village Mobile Home Park in Spring Valley. Earp says he would not be able to move his trailer to another mobile home park due to community standards at area parks, which restrict the age of incoming homes. Launch slideshow »

Tropicana Village Mobile Home Park

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Sun coverage

Jim and Sharon Smith moved into the Tropicana Village Mobile Home Park five years ago, expecting to spend the rest of their lives in one of the oldest mobile home communities in the valley.

They spent $10,000 to landscape their rented property, planting pink rose bushes and green shrubbery, erecting a chain-link fence and pouring 15 tons of pebbles and handmade steppingstones to xeriscape and beautify the dirt yard on Lot 341. The couple, originally from Sacramento, also made improvements to their $50,000 double-wide mobile home, adding new roofing, a water heater and a surround sound system.

“After that was all done, I thought, now I can sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor,” said Jim Smith, a 67-year-old retired hospital housekeeper. “This was going to be our last move.”

But now the Smiths and their neighbors are living with a guillotine blade hanging over their heads, wondering when owners of the 67-acre, 38-year-old mobile home park will uproot them all.

New Tropicana Estates persuaded Clark County commissioners last week to rezone the property for commercial use, which could pave the way for a shopping mall and other uses. The change conforms to the Spring Valley land use master plan.

The California-based company also submitted preliminary plans to Clark County commissioners for a 234-room hotel and several office and retail buildings, all part of a shopping center. In the face of harsh neighborhood opposition, the company withdrew those plans. Unsaid was how much the bad economy also played in that decision.

But the fact that the zoning change was approved opens the door for the property owners to return with a development plan. And if it is approved, residents would have to move their mobile homes to another park, if they can find one that will take them. Or, they might have to sell their units and move, but values for their dwellings have plunged in the current housing market.

To calm nerves and show residents they are serious about continuing to “operate the park for years and years to come,” New Tropicana Estates announced plans to offer two-year leases beginning Jan. 1, said Chris Kaempfer, an attorney for the company.

Still, the initial proposal and the zoning change have residents worried and uncertain.

“Why change the zoning if you don’t plan to develop?” Commissioner Tom Collins said. “It just doesn’t seem logical to me.”

After an hour of discussion, New Tropicana’s rezoning application, which received staff approval and the blessing of the Spring Valley Town Advisory Board last month, received the final go-ahead from commissioners with a 4-2 vote, with Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani absent.

“Young people have their trials and tribulations, but for seniors, we can’t bounce back,” Smith said. “A lot of money and time went into this place and it’ll be gone. That’s why people are hurt.”

There are 418 occupied mobile homes in Tropicana Village, 5900 W. Tropicana Ave. Residents own their mobile homes, but none own the property on which their dwellings sit. Homeowners pay $570 to $590 in lot rent each month, depending on whether they are seniors and whether their mobile home is a single- or double-wide.

Attorney Tony Celeste, who represents New Tropicana Estates, said his client has no immediate plans to close and develop the property, adding that even if the economy improves, it could take three or four years for construction to begin.

“I want to be real clear: This application is just for the zone change. Even if this gets zoned, we still need to come back for final approval (of the shopping center plans),” Celeste said. “Best case scenario, it’ll be 2 1/2 years for construction. And that’s being extremely optimistic.”

Even so, residents are upset at the possibility of having to uproot their lives and leave the neighborhood they have called home for years.

“Our whole lives are going to be disrupted,” said Joyce Franklin, a 69-year-old cage supervisor at Binion’s Gambling Hall. “We’ve lived here 20 years. This is home. Where are we going to go?”

State law offers some safeguards: Residents have the right for all relocation costs to be paid by the developer if they move within 100 miles of the park, or the first 100 miles paid if they move farther away.

If the mobile home can’t be moved or if the owner decides not to relocate, the developer is obligated to purchase it at fair market value.

Companies are required to give six months notice before closing a park; Celeste said New Tropicana has voluntarily promised to let residents know 18 months ahead of time.

Click to enlarge photo

Jim and Sharon Smith's double-wide mobile home sits on lot 341 in the Tropicana Mobile Home Park in Spring Valley. The 1,440-square-foot home has a home office, a spa room, a bedroom, two bathrooms, a kitchen and living room.

In 1991, Franklin moved into the mobile home on Lot 27 with her husband, Philip, a retired casino worker and a Vietnam War veteran.

The couple were initially attracted to the park because they felt it was a safe neighborhood and close to amenities.

“We loved the home, we loved the neighborhood,” Joyce Franklin said. “We were very happy here. We really don’t want to move.”

Philip Franklin, who suffers from lung disease, said he likes being able to walk short distances to nearby businesses. It’s this convenience the Franklins will miss if they have to move, he said.

“We’re human, not numbers on a spreadsheet,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to make this park our home.”

Of the 418 occupied mobile homes in the park, 57 are inhabited by senior citizens who moved there because it was an affordable retirement alternative.

“This is going to be displacing senior citizens, possibly some limited-income people,” said Duane Laible, a Spring Valley Town Advisory Board member.

Mobile homes are classified as personal property, not real property, said Bob Varallo, an adviser and consultant at the Nevada Association of Manufactured Homeowners, a group that represents mobile home community residents.

“These homes don’t appreciate, they depreciate,” Varallo said, comparing mobile homes to cars and boats. “Negotiating a price for the home, that becomes a hassle between the resident and the landlord.”

Further, because of the current housing market, mobile homes have taken a hit: Some residents of Tropicana Village would be lucky to get a few thousand dollars for their homes, Varallo said.

That concerns the Franklins, who want to buy a home in Spring Valley if they have to move. They contend selling their mobile home in the depressed economy would be difficult.

In 1991, the Franklins paid $35,000 for their 1985 double-wide. They weren’t worried about depreciation because they had no plans to move. They expect their home would now fetch no more than $15,000.

The thought of having to sell and take on mortgage payments doesn’t sit well with the Franklins, who live on a limited income.

“Here, we can live within our means. It didn’t require a lot of upkeep and it basically paid for itself,” Joyce said. “I hope we can adapt. We really don’t have a choice, do we?”

Although there are enough vacancies in the valley’s dozens of mobile home parks, many communities have standards and restrictions on models and years of incoming homes.

Click to enlarge photo

Wyatt Earp, 67, lives in a 1950s-era trailer home in the Tropicana Village Mobile Home Park in Spring Valley. Earp says he would not be able to move his trailer to another mobile home park due to community standards at area parks, which restrict the age of incoming homes.

“Many mobile homes are built and manufactured in the 1970s and early 1980s,” Varallo said. “New communities don’t look at the shape of the home or how well it’s been kept up. They’ve arbitrarily set a cutoff date.”

Steve Martinez, manager of the West Valley mobile home park, 6300 W. Tropicana Ave., just down the street from Tropicana Village, agreed with Varallo. Although West Valley has 103 vacancies and can accept about a quarter of the Tropicana Village residents, community standards would make it difficult for many of the Tropicana residents with older homes.

“We’re trying to take 1995 or newer for our community,” Martinez said. “We have made one exception in the past for an older home in good condition, but whether we’re going to waive standards is up to our corporate offices.”

Those restrictions would make it nearly impossible for Wyatt M. Earp, a 67-year-old retiree, to move his 1950s-era trailer home. The gun show enthusiast and audio book author said he plans to sell his mobile home and move into a subsidized apartment for seniors.

“This can’t be moved because it’s too old,” he said of his trailer. “I’ll probably get $1,000 for it, if I can even sell it.”

Anyone entering Tropicana Village in the weeks before the zoning meeting last week could see a large white sign announcing the zone change.

It’s a sort of writing on the wall, Earp said.

“Why should people buy homes here if they’re just going to sell it?”

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  1. dipstick-Did you understand the story? It will be years before anything will be built.

    Additionally I have little sympathy for the residents. They're renters. Only a fool would pour $10,000 in landscaping on land he doesn't own,

  2. Just what Las Vegas needs - Another Strip Center to further devalue the existing ones. It still looks like local Government has no idea of planning and zoning except to build more of these tacky roadside stands.

  3. It's sad to see pieces of old Vegas fade into the past. It's very unfortunate for those who lease space for their mobile homes, or those who lease mobile homes themselves. But a lease is just that, a contract meant to protect the interests of both parties until the lease expires. Once the contract has expired, the protections end.

    As for those who think that the government should be deeply involved in determining the development of private commercial property, I can only imagine you have never owned any.

  4. In 1991, the Franklin's paid $35,000 for their 1985 double-wide. They weren't worried about depreciation because they had no plans to move. They expect their home would now fetch no more than $15,000.

    The Franklin's have done well, planning ahead if you look at the numbers they have on average lived for $1,000 dollars a year for housing, granted this does not include lot rental that still comes out to $83.00 a month for twenty years not bad at all.

    This how America rebuilt her wealth after the world war people lived within there means to the point they would actually thrive.

    I believe the Franklin's and the others should start right now looking out for their investments just like the owners of the park are doing don't wait for the last minute start now and when the park owners start seeing there $240,000 a month income dwindle then they will make adjustments also it could mean incentives for you to stay or it could mean that they raise your lot rental to were it has become cost prohibitive.
    But I would agree that the owners have plans and they don't include the current tenants.

  5. "JeffFromVegas":

    When you sign a lease, you are agreeing to limiting your use of the property, period. That includes what you can and cannot do to the property, what you can use it for, and for how long you get to use it. Don't invest anything more into a leased property than you will get back during the term of the lease - it's basic business knowledge.

    The landowner has no obligation to the leasee once the lease has expired. It's that simple. There is no obligation to "make anyone whole" - those decisions should have been made by both parties when the lease was signed. When the lease on businesses expire, and the property developer has other plans for the space, do you think the developers pay to relocate the business? Nope. If the lease on a car expires, and you go to the dealer and want to buy the car, does the dealer have an obligation to sell it to you? Nope. You have an obligation to return it in good condition, and that's as far as it goes. The dealer may choose to sell it to you, but is not obligated to, no matter how much you want or need it.

  6. Keep in mind a mobile home is a glorified RV, registered with the DMV. They need tags also. These are not permanent houses.

    While it's unfortunate for the folks living in this particular mobile home park, it's part of the risk when living on someone else's land.

    I know of a mobile home park in the mid 70's that sat behind the Hacienda Casino which is now Mandalay Bay. It's not that unusual for the land owners to eventually sell the land.

  7. Here's something I found case# 332-400187 If you paid full asking price with $2,000 down on a fifteen year note at 6% the payment would be approx. $275.00 add into that $200.00 a month for taxes and insurance and $140.00 HOA you come up with $615.00 dollars, That's $45.00 more that the lot rental of $570.00 seems like a good deal to me plus you own it and you can negotiate the price you pay for it could be less and it could be about the same as the lot rental fee

  8. casinokid.....if you are talking about a foreclosed house, banks won't finance the small cheap loans. Cash only for those houses.

  9. Got to agree with the greedy landlord backers on this one. If the lessee's wanted to preclude what appears to be going to happen to them, having their leases expire and the difficulties of locating new accomodation they should have negotiated long term leases. Hawaii comes to mind where in many cases you don't buy the land you just lease it for 99 years, etc. These nice folks don't own it, lease comes to an end, they gotta get out unless the landlord wants to renegotiate and extend, simple as that. Unless you can take it with you without damaging the leased property, you should never make a leasehold improvement unless you are willing to abandon it at the conclusion of the lease. These people should have seen this or its possibility coming. There's got to be some mobile home park they can go to, it may not be in as good a location, but that's the way it is.

  10. $570 per month seems pricey for a vacant lot, when you can rent an acceptable place with a house on it for twice that or less, unless the LV rental market is stronger than I remember. On the other hand, a cash flow of $240k a month (418 x 570) sounds like a great business to be in these days. A shopping center might bring in more, but the up front expense would be prohibitive. Good luck to the folks involved.

  11. Mr. Franklin

    You are my kind of people, I wished we were neighbors in fact I enjoy talking to folks like your self that don't require prestige of keeping up with the joneses per SE you and I and people like us are the back bone of America we had rather pay debts off as opposed to acquiring possessions that carry debt we are the ones that have staved off the recession with little effect, That puts us in a good position.

    I hope you and your neighbors don't become displaced in the near future.

  12. Not only that, Erwin, but according to the story, the tenants will have a chance to sign a new two-year lease. Two year notice of non-renewal? That is incredibly generous.

  13. Jim, you are absolutely right. Two years is ample time to make arrangements to live somewhere else in an orderly manner. It's not like they have to be out by Friday at noon. The thing for them to do is renew for two and get busy figuring out what their options are, not be in denial and wait until the two years is up and then be under the gun. No one likes to move, especially if you're 60ish and have lived for a quite a while at your current location. No evidence of anything the landlord did wrong here, they are bound by the lease. Don't want to insult these nice people, the tenants, but in some cases I think they may have been somewhat naeve, especially with regards to investing in a whole lot of improvements. Any losses they may take are unfortunate but that's the way it goes, a lot of people have taken major hits during this recession. Also, as the article correctly points out, you're dealing here with depreciable personal property like a car, boat or plane-----which as many assets of late have been revised downward in value with the deleveraging that's taking place in the economy. Last time I checked realty wasn't doing much better. Furthermore, the age of these units doesn't help things as far as getting into other mobile home parks and retention of value. Much of this should have been taken into account beforehand.

  14. $570 is way to much for what you get. Spend the next lease period finding another place to live. If you would all do that, things will change..