Attorney and manufactured home community investor Rob Coldren, Mike Cirillo, and Pacific Current Partners are back in the news. To grasp the issues at play that apparently contribute to the charge that caused Coldren to be named as one of the “scariest people” in Orange County per OC Weekly, first a broader look at the issues of affordable housing in California and nationally are useful.
The percentage of home ownership in California has generally been in decline for some years. Many have decried the rising taxes, lower quality of life, increased homelessness, and other factors that have poised the “Golden State” for a loss of Congressional and Electoral College representation due to an exodus from the state. Meanwhile, “sanctuary cities” and related policies have drawn numbers of undocumented immigrants into the “left-coast” state. “Limousine liberals” mouthing pieties toward the poor and working class are often living behind walled compounds, gated communities, and have worked to insulate themselves from their purportedly predatory and problematic behavior. Says who? Data and self-described liberals such as Professor Joel Kotkin from Chapman University, as well as epic rants by former Governor Jerry Brown (CA-D).
But it isn’t just liberals who decry what’s occurring in California.
Conservatives and people engaged in their faith do too. Dennis Prager, of Prager U fame, wrote today that “Here I am, sitting in a state where corruption reigns and where, for nine months, normal life has been shut down, schools have been closed, and small businesses have been destroyed in unprecedented numbers.” Prager’s headline for that in the Daily Signal? “The Sovietization of California.”
Kotkin was previously cited by Manufactured Home Living News (MHLivingNews) for his observations about the growing trend toward feudalism in California. Kotkin spent years with the progressive Washington Post.
There is tons of research on the troubling trends that are impacting California. Suffice it for now to say that voices on both sides of the left-right divide have said that the high cost of housing, caused in part by NIMBYism, local, and state regulations, have made it increasingly difficult for lower-income households to make ends meet in the state that once epitomized the American Dream.
Against that backdrop are the following pull quotes from Tyler Haden’s 12.16.2020 report in the Santa Barbara Independent, about Coldren, Cirillo, and Pacific Current Partners (PCP) with offices at 548 Market St., Suite 50631, in San Francisco CA 94104. Got a beef? Their phone number at this time is reported as (415) 335-8555.
The terminology errors are in the original, but in fairness to Hayden and that publication – given that PCP has opted for the name Flamingo Mobile Home Park – it is one more example of how professionals in the manufactured home industry are arguably contributing to the misinformation and often dark conception held by much of the public regarding our artificially depressed industry.
“Flamingo Mobile Home Park Fends Off Predatory Owner,” wrote Hayden, with the subtitle “City Council Helps Senior Residents Fight Age Policy Change and Rent Hikes”
“Back in 2008, attorney Robert Coldren and his investment partners purchased a senior mobile home park in Huntington Beach. They were on the cutting edge of what’s become a national trend of private equity firms making cash cows out of senior parks, one of the last bastions of affordable housing for older people living on fixed incomes. Coldren immediately converted the property to all-ages and raised lot rents,” wrote Hayden. “His profits soared as 130 desperate and vulnerable people scrambled to find new places to live.”
“A similar story played out in 2013, also in Huntington Beach. Coldren bought a senior park, rents shot up, and another exodus of the elderly took place. Some reportedly became homeless. Two years later, OC Weekly named Coldren one of “Orange County’s Scariest People of 2015” for his treatment of the residents of his newly acquired San Juan Capistrano park. “Mobile-home dwellers,” the paper warned, “lock your doors and stow your money: Lawyer/developer extraordinaire Robert Coldren is coming for ya!” Then just last year, the Fullerton Observer began documenting the impacts of yet another investment by Coldren and his associates at Pacific Current Partners (PCP) on 380 seniors living in Anaheim,” per the Independent.
For additional color, the informative Mobile Home Park Home Owners Allegiance (MHPOA) website provided these pull quotes dated 2019-4.18.
“The situation at Rancho La Paz Mobile home park, which includes parts of Fullerton and Anaheim, in which residents were slapped with 44-60% rent increases when a new owner took over, is part of a much larger national trend, according to a recent report. This trend was the subject of a recent episode of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” We will examine this growing trend, but first here’s some information about the new owner of Rancho La Paz.
About John Saunders’ Other Mobile Home Parks: A Trend of Predatory Behavior
Rancho La Paz is not the first mobile home park that John Saunders and his investment partners have purchased and drastically increased the rents, causing problems and outrage.
Four other parks have been tracked directly to Saunders; Shorecliff, and Pacific Mobile Home Park (Surf City Beach Cottages) both in Huntington Beach; Rancho San Luis Rey in Oceanside; and Palm Beach Mobile Home Park in San Clemente. Because Saunders buys the properties under various Limited Liability names it is difficult to track just how many he owns.
He also appears to be a partner of Pacific Current Partners (PCP) which includes principals Robert Coldren, and Mike Cirillo (also owner of Star Management). A January, 29, 2016 press release from the PCP company website states: “Pacific Current Partners, a manufactured housing investor group led by industry veteran Mike Cirillo and Saunders Property Company recently partnered to acquire Palm Beach Mobile Home Park in San Clemente for an undisclosed amount. This transaction represents the eighth manufactured housing acquisition for this team in the last two years. PCP now owns 19 mobile home parks while Star Management lists 27 across the country.”
– Jesse La Tour, Fullerton Observer ##
The same MHPOA source connects these dots between several of the professionals and companies in the mix.
Pacific Current Partners – Executives
- Michael A. Cirillo, Partner, Property Management
- Robert S. Coldren, Partner, Senior Strategist
- Spencer Engler-Coldren, Acquisitions
- Bradley Hill, Partner, Acquisitions
- Guy Kornblum, Special Projects, Asset Manager
- Thomas Niederkofler, Partner, Business Operations
- Related: John R. Saunders, Saunders Property Company
John R. Saunders Companies
- Core Realty Holdings Management Inc, Chairman
- Core Realty Holdings LLC, Chairman
- Core Pacific Advisors LLC, Managing Director
- Saunders Property Company, President ##
Returning to Hayden’s narrative are these pull quotes. Bold and brown are added by MHProNews for emphasis of quotes from a person, but the text is as in the original.
- Coldren himself is getting up in years, so his son and business partner, Spencer Engler-Coldren, fronts the San Francisco firm more often these days. Their website states: “Our focus is on adding value through efficient acquisitions and solving operational and local challenges through our in-house asset management team.” They now own 20 properties in seven states.
- On Tuesday, Engler-Coldren spoke to the Santa Barbara City Council about growing local fears of déjà vu at the 69-unit Flamingo Mobile Home Park on Cacique Street, which PCP purchased in 2018. “We’re just trying to be good actors here and follow the law,” he said.
- Last month, PCP and its property management arm, Star Management, announced plans to convert the park from senior-only to all-ages. The move sparked immediate fear among Flamingo’s residents, who also worried that PCP would raise rents as well as gobble up the owner-occupied units as they come on the market. Christel Barros, Sharyn Nielson, Dan Villano, and others rallied by Zoom and demanded swift protective action from the council, which it delivered in the form of an emergency ordinance preventing any senior mobile home park in Santa Barbara from going all-ages and enacting a vacancy rent control cap of 10 percent. The order lasts for 45 days, during which time the city will further investigate the issue and attorneys on both sides will confer.
- But before the 7-0 vote on the hard stop was taken, tense words were exchanged. PCP lawyer James Ballantine made the not-so-veiled threat of a lawsuit if the city didn’t retreat from what he described as its encroachment on his clients’ property rights. “We really don’t want to be in a position where we are speaking to the city through litigation,” he said. “I would urge caution on this. I would urge a dialogue with the park owner rather than just simply ramming legislation down its throat.”
Those lasts few lines by PCP attorney Ballantine is apparently a not so thinly veiled threat to sue if PCP does not substantially get its way. Repeating for emphasis: “We really don’t want to be in a position where we are speaking to the city through litigation,” Ballantine said. “I would urge caution on this. I would urge a dialogue with the park owner rather than just simply ramming legislation down its throat.”
Returning to extended quotes from Hayden’s narrative, with the quotes emphasized by MHProNews, is the following.
- Mike Cirillo, president of Star Management, pushed back against the idea that PCP wants to buy Flamingo’s units and advertise them as rentals or even vacation rentals, as had been suggested by some of the nervous residents. But when the residents pointed out to the council that PCP has already purchased two units and made offers on others, Cirillo hedged his statements. “Granted, we will seize an opportunity every once in a while when one arises, but we have no intention of owning everything,” he said.
- PCP partner Brad Hill said when his firm bought Flamingo two years ago, it had the “reasonable, investment-backed expectation” it would be able to raise the homes’ below-market rents up to market rates “when they turned over.” He complained all the protective legislation passed by the city since 2018 to preserve its extremely limited affordable housing stock, including measures to prevent mobile home parks from closing or being converted to other uses, essentially stripped PCP of all its property rights.
- The argument made most often by Hill and the others, however, was that Flamingo’s current seniors-only policy was discriminatory against all other demographics, including families with children. “There is a need for affordable housing for all ages, and we’re responding to that demand,” Cirillo said. Betty Jeppesen, head of the Santa Barbara Rental Property Association, echoed PCP’s stance that catering only to seniors was unfair.
The Independent’s narrative continued. Again, quotes are turned bold and brown by MHProNews for emphasis.
- Councilmember Eric Friedman, normally fairly reserved in his comments, took serious umbrage with that position. “The argument that somehow protecting vulnerable seniors is discriminatory is one of the most infuriating arguments I have come across,” he said. “It’s a non sequitur. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s infuriating.” Councilmember Michael Jordan took his frustration a step further, calling the accusation “insulting.”
- Resident Christel Barros, a retired social worker, had difficulty containing her emotions following the litany of objections and threats put forth by the PCP representatives. “It is really hard for me to talk right now,” she said to the council. “I’m shaking. The intimidating tone of these powerful people is just overwhelming.” Barros resisted PCP’s claims that many of Flamingo’s residents actually welcomed the intended changes. “I defy you to find one single person in this park who supports the changes,” she said. Barros also skewered PCP’s defense that the residents hadn’t voiced any concerns about the conversion during an October meeting. “Well, we didn’t get notified until November!” she exclaimed.
- Lastly, Barros blasted the company for trying to use her own words against her, when she said during the meeting she enjoyed the sound of children playing. “I love children,” she said. “I would love to hear their little voices. I grew up at this park myself. But that doesn’t mean I support these changes. Au contraire.”
Hayden’s report goes on to explain what may lie ahead in this drama.
- Councilmember Meagan Harmon noted how other jurisdictions have enacted seniors-only policies for select mobile home parks. Assemblymember Steve Bennett did so while he served on Ventura County’s Board of Supervisors. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” she said. Mayor Cathy Murillo said opening Flamingo to all ages wouldn’t necessarily mean families moved in. “It might be wealthy international students. It might be someone looking for a second home,” she said. “The park is within walking distance to the beach. That’s what happens.”
- The council will take up the matter again on January 26, 2021. In the meantime, Friedman said, the interim order will provide Flamingo’s residents some stability through the holidays of what’s been a terrible year. They’re clearly distressed, he said. “You can hear it in their voices.” ##
Put differently, this story is not likely to go away. Will MHI invoke their so-called Code of Ethical Conduct on MHI member PCP (see page 2)? Can you spell, highly doubtful? Will MHI encourage their members to do what their former president and CEO, Chris Stinebert encouraged?
Additional Information, MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
As MHProNews and MHLivingNews have reported in recent years, the pattern of so-called predatory or vulture capitalist activities in manufactured housing has apparently accelerated. Several of these firms are members of state and/or community trade association(s), as well as of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), and their National Communities Council (NCC).
The MHI website claims that the average annual increase in site fees – a.k.a. “lot rent” – nationally is “3 percent.” But as years of reports by MHProNews, which quotes sources such as Equity LifeStyle Properties (NYSE:ELS), Sun Communities (NYSE:SUI), Marcus & Millichap (MMI), along with other research and media reports makes it clear that at best that MHI claim is misleading. Publicly traded firms during investor relations calls boast of their steady increase in site fees that eclipse that 3 percent annual claim. Furthermore, reports like the one from the Independent, or other media outlets from coast-to-coast reflect the notion that some companies are far more aggressive in their site fee hikes.
It should be noted that MHProNews provided opportunities for Coldren to comment or react to the Independent’s report. As a disclosure, this author personally knows Coldren from interaction at professional events. Cirillo and GSMOL were also given opportunities for input, which GSMOL responded to. As of 10:30 AM ET, no reply from PCP connected sources have been received.
Anne Anderson, with GSMOL sent a link to the following. Their report begins by explaining that “Many Flamingo residents are members of GSMOL Chapter 1102. The Flamingo residents have been active in fighting for the rights of vulnerable senior mobilehome owners for many years. GSMOL Corporate Counsel Bruce Stanton and GSMOL Zone Vice President Anne Anderson are assisting with the effort to enact a permanent Senior MHP Overlay.”
The following is the body of their report. The bold and brown are added by MHProNews for emphasis of quotes, but the text is as in the original, linked above.
Christel Barros’ voice quivered as she took the microphone.
“It is really hard for me to talk right now. I am shaking,” Barros said. “The intimidating tone of these powerful people, it’s just overwhelming me.”
Barros, a retired social worker, said she has lived at the Flamingo Mobile Home Park at 1210 Cacique St. in Santa Barbara on and off since 1965. Her parents bought a mobile home there when she was 15 years old.
So, when she spoke at Tuesday’s Santa Barbara City Council meeting, she was coming from a place of deep emotion that dated back generations.
Barros was just one of several residents who spoke out Tuesday requesting that the City Council pass an emergency ordinance that would stop the park’s owners from allowing non-seniors to live at the park, and allow people to rent mobile home units.
“I love children,” Barros said. “I would love to hear their little voices. I grew up as a child here at this park myself. But that doesn’t mean I support these changes. Au contraire.”
The City Council listened and then voted 7-0 to pass the emergency moratorium on any changes to the park. The ordinance goes into effect immediately.
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said other communities have passed similar seniors-only policies for mobile homes, citing the work of Assemblyman Steve Bennett, D-Ventura, who passed legislation while a member of the county Board of Supervisors.
“Other communities have moved to protect their vulnerable residents, and I am very grateful that our city is now doing that as well,” Harmon said.
The owners and attorneys for the park, however, were not as appreciative of the council’s action.
“We were never actually given the courtesy of notice about this even though my client’s park is directly targeted by this legislation,” said James Ballantine, an attorney for the past 30 years in Santa Barbara.
Ballantine said the city gathered a lot of information to write a staff report and ordinance, but that staff members failed to reach out to the park representatives. He said the owners have the right to allow nonseniors to live at the park.
“My clients did something it was planning to do since it purchased the park, which was change the rules to end the discrimination, to instead of being a senior park to be a park for all ages,” Ballantine said. “Being a park for all ages is something that is, well, families need housing.”
Ballantine fired off a 13-page response to the city’s ordinance through email before Tuesday’s council meeting.
“We really don’t want to be in a position where we are speaking to the city through litigation,” Ballantine said. “We would rather be included in the process, but obviously that hasn’t happened. I would urge caution on this. I would urge a dialogue with the park owner rather than just simply ramming legislation down its throat that really has some legal problems to it.”
The attorney’s point of view did not resonate with Councilman Eric Friedman.
“The argument that somehow protecting vulnerable seniors is somehow discriminatory is one of the most infuriating arguments I have come across,” Friedman said. “It’s a non sequitur. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s infuriating, and I have seen a lot of arguments over the years.”
Michael Cirillo, principal for Pacific Current Partners, which oversees Star Management, the management firm of the park, said, “There’s a need for affordable housing for all ages, and we are responding to that demand.”
“There is no intention to discriminate against seniors and force them to move from the park,” Cirillo said.
He said that management held a meeting on Nov. 30 and sent a notice to the park owners.
“The park will now commence renting to people of ages,” Cirillo said.
Resident Sharyn Nielson said allowing people of all ages at the park will “do away with a long-standing source of affordable housing for seniors in the city of Santa Barbara.” She said she bought into the idea that the park would be for those age 55 or older only.
Nielson is known on Santa Barbara’s Eastside for driving a golf cart to the beach and Montecito. She moved back to Santa Barbara a few years ago.
“It is not a house, but you buy in and you expect it will have some appreciation value, but them doing this just takes it all away,” Nielson said.
Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said the moratorium will allow everyone to sit down and talk about how to proceed with protecting seniors at the park. She said the idea of preserving senior housing is important to her.
“This didn’t just spring up overnight,” Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said. “We have been working on this and working toward this and, frankly, I thought this was already in place. The residents of the mobile home park saw this coming and told us about this years ago, so it’s not out of nowhere that we suddenly got this idea to take this seriously.”
She said park management’s framing of the issue as seniors vs. families is “hurtful.”
“We are a web,” Sneddon said. “It takes all of us. We need our seniors. We need families. We need people to live here without families. We need a workforce. It’s a whole web of community that we need to be supporting.”
Again, the terminology errors above are in the original. For a variety of reasons, useful for manufactured home owners as well as white hat professionals, proper terminology matters. A partial guide is shown below.
While the behavior described by Hayden and GSMOL are troubling and potentially crosses – per attorneys and sources to MHProNews – potential legal lines – they are part of a larger regional and national issues.
Aggressive and “predatory” rent hikes have been reported by MHProNews and our sister site, in reports like those above and below.
That noted, for those who are cause-and-solution-oriented, what may appear at first to be a seemingly unrelated comment from the East Coast by Sam Landy, President and CEO of UMH Properties sheds light on this issue.
Our publications have also drawn attention to the problem that Frank Rolfe, his colleagues, and investors with Impact Communities have made that is connected to this trend. Rolfe has gone beyond Landy’s observation of how difficult it is to get a new community approved and developed. Rolfe says that no new communities should be built. Period.
That outrageous view may well be part of a ‘wink and a nod’ agreement among many – like Rolfe, Coldren, and others at MHI – to not build or limit the numbers of new communities, because it gives them a ‘local monopoly.’ Here is how Rolfe said it in his own words.
That is the flip side of manufactured home owner and resident-advocate Tim Sheahan, who made this observation.
GSMOL member Bob Van Cleef has argued that there should be a push to return to the free market, but that ‘temporary’ rent control is needed until that occurs, to protect homeowners until new development occurs.
While the MHI rival trade group, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) is specifically focused on production related issues, they have made it clear that they support a robust use of the enhanced preemption provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000 (sometimes called the 2000 reform law). The proper use of the MHIA could overcome those local zoning hurdles that make it difficult for investors to establish new owner-occupied developments or land-lease manufactured home communities.
The argument has been made that MHI has diverted attention away from the “enhanced preemption” provision of the MHIA, even though the MHI were part of the coalition that helped enact the bill in the first place.
The reason for that seemingly odd behavior is arguably precisely what gives Coldren, Cirillo, Rolfe, former MHI Chairman and Flagship Communities co-founder Nathan Smith, and others the ability to create local ‘monopolies.’ By not encouraging new developments, those who have the capital and own the real estate can rapidly hold residents hostage to portfolio operators who are open to and willing to engage in aggressive site fee hikes.
A legal researcher contacted MHProNews recently about the possibility of doing a study on the possible antitrust implications of this trend. No specific timeline for that study is known at this time.
That noted, a different study is pending publication that is also focused on monopolistic – i.e. arguable antitrust violations and other legal issues – involving manufactured homes.
The law of supply and demand and the presence of more operators who are white hats vs. black hats are the longer-term solution these problems of vulnerable residents.
The development of new communities is less costly than developing apartments, says research by a bipartisan commission by lawmakers quoted below.
Until longer term views of the relationship between community owners, residents, and other interest parties are considered, it will sadly be no surprise if “the scariest people” will continue to include so-called predatory manufactured home operators.
There is evidence that modern feudalism is sadly growing. By reducing the affordable housing options, a few benefit at significant cost to the many.
See the related reports linked above and below to learn more.
Manufactured housing is a good product that arguably has, for whatever reasons, attracted several black-hat players. As reports linked below reflect, the system in this industry is arguably rigged against white-hat operators, and too often operates in a predatory fashion with respect to consumers.
There is always more to know. Stay tuned with the runaway largest and documented number one most-read source for authentic manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.
Communities, Assoc Exposé – Whistleblower “Leaks” – Lesli Gooch Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) CEO and Sheila S. Dey, Executive Director Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA)