Mobile Home Living: Benicia’s Best Kept Secret
Photos by Michael Van Auken
Within a couple of blocks of First Street, behind a long stone wall, there exists a charming neighborhood called Rancho Benicia, a mobile home park where residents must be 55 or older. As baby boomers downsize in droves, mobile home living has become a popular option. And if any lingering stigma still exists around such parks, Rancho Benicia defies the stereotype. An upscale park with over 200 residences, the advantages have as much to do with camaraderie and friendship, a feeling of safety, manageable upkeep and a quiet environment as they do with the park’s amenities. The amenities include the park’s clubhouse, a pool, spa, gym and small library and there’s a social club that oversees activities and events. It’s a sweet spot within walking distance to downtown’s shops and eateries, and it’s more wallet-friendly than most typical homes. Mobile homes inside a park (not on a permanent foundation) pay DMV fees instead of property taxes, and DMV fees are considerably less than the property tax collected on traditional homes. Additionally, space rents in mobile home parks are generally much lower.
Rancho Benicia is a diverse neighborhood of folks who share a common goal: to live lighter and smaller in a place they enjoy. They live in single-wides and double-wides, with or without porches, in older dwellings and newer models. “The park is unique, being so close to the town’s center. At this stage of life people want to give back to their community,” says resident Ellen Blaufarb. “Many residents volunteer or are part of BERT (Benicia Emergency Response Team). We are able to walk to volunteer jobs at the library, schools and churches.”
Blaufarb moved to Rancho Benicia three years ago with her dog Marshmallow. An avid traveler, her recent forays around the globe have been on small-boat river cruises she takes with friends. She says that growing up in New York, they lived vertically, in close proximity to neighbors, but were alert to the needs of those nearby. “Here, we live horizontally,” she says. “However, the familiarity of living separately but observing each other’s needs unobtrusively makes this the perfect place for me at this time in life. My favorite place outside my home is the pool area. With its swaying palm trees, I could be at a resort anywhere in the world—I am transported.”
Blaufarb’s space is roomy—1400 square feet with three bedrooms, a guest bathroom, a large, contemporary master bath, and an open living room/dining room/kitchen with lots of light. One bedroom is outfitted as an art studio where Blaufarb paints, but with a Murphy bed at the ready, doubles as a guest room. A second bedroom, filled with books and memorabilia, functions as Blaufarb’s office and library. The master bedroom at the rear of the home has peek-a-boo views of Mt. Diablo and Benicia’s waterfront.
There’s evidence of Blaufarb’s travels in every room of the home—collectables and mementos—alongside works from local artists. Although outdoor space is minimal, the large front porch extends the living area, and there’s another small garden in the rear. The “backyard” garden is just large enough for a chaise lounge, some privacy-screen shrubs and a raised-bed planter—a perfect spot to lounge in the sun with a book.
All in all, for older adults who want simplicity in their lives; to shed the burden of too many possessions; to save money or just to meet like-minded neighbors, Rancho Benicia is our town’s best-kept secret.