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Q & A with Assemblyman DeVore about El Morro

[Article from the OC Blog 2-12-2005 (author not identified)]

More Mobile Mansion Madness

Assemblyman DeVore is a prolific reader, we all know this from his now world famous book review postings. He's also an avid reader of our little blog, or at least his diligent staff are. He deserves a genuine ³thanks² for his prompt response and detailed arguments in response to my earlier piece.

I'm grateful he chose to respond promptly and personally and I hope he won't mind the attention of having some further questions asked about his proposals, the reaction and his responses. If you're confused up to this point, read below in the earlier blogs.

Assemblyman DeVore's responses are below in red, from his original post. Check it out below under ³comments.²

Also, I'll paste in his responses below in red italics and address each in turn:

Regarding property rights -- remember, gentlemen, this is state land, not private property, and, as such, "property rights" become more of a policy issue, don't they?

Now Assemblyman, we are not all gentlemen - in behavior or gender. My concern was that the state already made a decision with "its own property." This decision was a contract with the tenants: the lease was to terminate. To go in after and propose amending this contract raises some questions and potentially sets a bad precedent: sweet deals for renters living at heavily discounted rent (see earlier $900 estimate for rent). I realize the state can do what it wants with its property, but the Governor's budget and state park policy makes this park a "top priority." Further, if the real issue as you mention is proximity to a school then address that issue. Again, these undermine the supposed logic of pursuing the deal only for financial means and not -- as this blog questions -- as a move to appease some vocal constituents with the best deal (and view) in town.

The $3.2 million is net profit to the state per year. There's an added $1.0 million or so that the residents pay to maintain the land.

It's still below market rate - absurdly so. If your logic was to pursue a deal to maximize revenue to the state, then why not go for market-rate rent? $900 per month is a steal! Assuming they pay maintenance that's fine, but I still assert the state bears some insurance / liability costs, plans already to make a park and is not well served continuing this awkward relationship.

My point is that implementing a 23-year-old plan to raze the homes for $10+ million, then spend many millions more to build a lifeguard station, then put 60 camp sites right next to an elementary school, AND reduce the cash profit to the state while incurring more maintenance obligations, MAKES NO SENSE. But then, the brilliant financial wizards we have up here in Sacramento did bring us a multi-billion dollar annual hole in the ground.

You raise some good points, but then the issue becomes: why not alter the park plan rather than reverting to or continuing the lease arrangement? That land could easily be picnic grounds or native landscape with none of the impacts because of proximity to a school or maintenance costs. Further, these are MOBILE homes, they can be moved. This could be done at the tenants' expense. I still question the deal.

If the state wasn't broke, I'd say go ahead with the plan. We are, so I suggest we delay it and make some money on the deal.

The state is broke and we shouldn't start continuing sweet deals with tenants on public land as a means for generating revenue. Don't build a park, fine by me - make it an empty hill for all I care, but don't justify the move as one of budget crisis remedy when that's a secondary justification. Further, see the note about the RFP in the next line if the real goal is generating revenue.

And yes, the review on Amazon is my review. Nothing's changed in my view of property rights. By the way, as a member of the Legislature, don't you suppose I am exercising a degree of oversight/ownership responsibilities when I make a determination that I do not have the money to build out my property and that it would make more sense to generate more cash from the asset for a time? Just a thought.

I enjoyed the review, I hadn't spotted the book and will look for it - and other reviews from you.

The argument about ownership / oversight responsibility is good but in this case your full-time property manager and experts (park service and governor) claim their plan is a top priority. If generating revenue then was the goal why not go for gold and open it to a bid - put out an RFP for developers to use on a ground lease basis for the short-term? I see your point but question the precedent about cutting deals like this based on "desperate" budget situations. If the concern really is funds why not just auction off that piece of land and take what would surely be a sum exponentially larger than the $3 mil per year rent and pay down the deficit with that?

In closing, Assemblyman you are a good sport. I and our readers appreciate your taking the time to respond personally and to be involved. Rest assured we realize your time is limited and we don't intend to pester you every step of the way. But, we do hope to have readers ask tough questions, seek answers and hopefully in the process laugh a little and learn a lot.

It's Pandering

For some reason, conservative legislators go weak in the knees when it comes to mobile home parks. Sen. Bill Morrow is a good example. Morrow is a principled conservative. And as a staunch supporter of property rights, he opposes rent control -- except when it comes to mobile home parks, of which there are a number in his district. For some reason, mobile home park residents are magically exempt.

Everyone knows Morrow is making a concession to political reality (or at least he thinks he is), lets it slide because he's otherwise a solid conservative trooper.

I imagine something like this dynamic is at work with DeVore. Otherwise, why would a guy who advertises himself as a movement conservative be trying to broker a sweetheart deal for a bunch of mobile home residents who want to enjoy a taxpayer-subsidized lifestyle on the beach. Maybe Chuck can introduce legislation exempting me from property taxes.

OK - It's Not Pandering

I'd like to thank Chuck DeVore for bringing the additional information to our attention. He's absolutely right -- after reading the Daily Pilot article as well as his posts on the matter, my initial impression of his bills was wrong.

[By the way, I believe Assemblyman DeVore is the first elected official to take the time to respond to a criticism in this humbe blog -- and ably, at that. Kudos to you, Chuck.]

I do have a question, though -- is it wise for the state to lock itself into a 30-year lease with the El Morro tenants? The state fiscal crisis isn't going to last that long, but renewing the lease on the terms of DeVore's bills would prohibit us from re-visiting the building of a new state park for another three decades.

Granted, the state really can't afford to build and maintain a new state park at El Morro now, but that may not be the case in 5 or 10 years. Why not extend their lease for 5 years, with the option of renewing the extensions if the fiscal conditions still aren't suitable to developing the state park.


[Clips from original newspaper articles appear here for educational purposes and purposes of comment, rather than commercial purposes. They are reprinted under the fair use doctrine of international copyright law. Copyright OC Blog]



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