Many residents in the Rancho Huntington mobile home park weren't pleased with the news that their senior citizens' park opened to all ages July 26.
Sierra Corporate Management President Abe Arrigotti, whose company is part owner in the community near Brookhurst Street and Yorktown Avenue, told about 100 residents gathered in the clubhouse Friday that the decision to end the age restrictions was to protect property owners' "rights and interests."
Despite not having prior interest in altering the park's age restrictions, Arrigotti said the Huntington Beach City Council's July 15 decision to draft an ordinance that would require property owners to go through the city to make such changes spurred the decision.
"One of our property rights, as it exists today as the operator, is to change the rules and regulations with notice, like the way we're doing now," he said. "The city's decision to do what they did impeded that right by attempting to initiate an overlay zone and prevent us and putting them in between our ability to do so."
As soon as the meeting concluded, residents were handed final notices of the status change and asked to sign them. Those who did would see their plots convert from senior status to all-ages. Those who didn't would see the change occur six months from the meeting.
Many in attendance told the park owner they wouldn't be signing any time soon.
Arrigotti said on multiple occasions that he wants to see Rancho Huntington remain a senior park, but told residents that it would only be possible if they signed long-term leases. However, he didn't specify the duration of the terms.
Residents were told that if they took a long-term deal, but choose to sell later on, the terms of their leases would leave with them; new tenants would be subject to the new rules.
Pam Canaday, 70, signed a lease as soon as she was notified July 16. She liked the stability a 25-year contract afforded her and her husband.
"We felt that there was more security, and more of the unknowns taken away, by signing it and having a better idea of what the rent increases would be yearly," she said. "It was more of a protective measure."
Residents Don and Carol Neely are worried about potential rent increases. Both of them are on a fixed income and financially stable in the current situation.
"I get ticked off every time I think about it because we're in a position where we should be able, with our incomes combined, to do just fine no matter what," Don Neely, 77, said. "But if one of us passes, the other one is going to be hard pressed to make rent in here. That's not want we intended on when we came in here."
The couple has no intention of leaving the park and joked at taking drastic measures.
"I'd destroy the house before I left," Don Neely quipped. "If I walked out of here, there wouldn't be much left of the inside of that house. I'd sell what I could and take a sledgehammer to the rest of it."