People from the eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area are flocking to California’s Central Valley for cheaper homes and some are making the journey cheaper with pieces of concrete to park their “house on wheels,” according to the Tri-Valley Herald of Pleasanton, Calif.
Demand is high in the Central Valley for RV and boat storage lots for several reasons, according to those in the industry.
Few new lots are being built in the Bay Area, and those that exist generally charge twice the price of lots over the Altamont Pass.
But the growth of this miniindustry is not only the result of Bay Area residents seeking cheaper parking spaces for their Airstream trailers and Bounder motorhomes.
As housing prices rise in southern San Joaquin County, lot sizes are shrinking, making it harder for people to park their behemoths outside their homes. And some cities, such as Manteca and Lathrop, are cracking down on people who illegally park their rigs on the street.
Lou Ceci has seen these trends firsthand. Ceci owned Bay Storage in Fremont for 12 years before opening his second storage lot by the same name in Tracy. The Fremont lot has more than 500 spaces, and Ceci expects to have nearly as many spaces in Tracy when he paves the last 3 acres of his eight-acre lot. He opened his Tracy lot in February.
The Fremont lot is nearly full, and storage can cost as much as $120 a month for larger rigs. The largest spaces at his Tracy lot cost half as much.
“We saw a lot of people coming out this way, and we thought we’d follow them,” Ceci said of his expansion to San Joaquin County.
Even with the lower cost in the Central Valley, many Bay Area residents would prefer to park their rigs closer to home. But Bay Area lots often have long waiting lists. John Migliore has a waiting list of more than 100 people for his Ideal Boat and Camper Storage on Tesla Road in Livermore.
He is seeking to double the size of his 30-acre, 900-space lot, but is facing roadblocks because his land is surrounded mostly by vineyards.
Alameda County supervisors will discuss his request July 1.
John Russell, a business owner in Livermore, is on Migliore’s waiting list. While he waits for a spot, he uses a storage lot in Manteca.
“We need a place like this (Ideal) that is available to the people,” Russell said at a recent town hall forum in Livermore. “I want to be able to park in my own community.”
As more and more Bay Area people have taken their rigs out to San Joaquin County, either to find spaces or to save money, older lots have filled.
J.T. Storage in Tracy, with 335 spaces, has been full since the 1970s, said Peggy Thomas, the owner’s daughter.
“We’ve always had a significant amount of our business from the Bay Area, since we are a lot cheaper. Although over the years a lot of those same people have moved out to this area,” she said.
About 25% of customers at The Storage Space in Manteca are from the Bay Area, estimated Jennifer Henry, manger of the 250-space lot, where about 90% of the spaces are occupied.
To meet the demand, new lots are popping up. A megalot is being built in Modesto, and North Main Storage, which recently opened in Manteca, has space for 147 vehicles, manager Alex Braun said.
So far, most of the interest in the lot has come from residents in Manteca and surrounding cities, Braun said.
“When people first started moving out here, they were told this was a place where you could store your RV at your home. As the cities become more urban, that is not the case anymore, and some people are upset,” he said.
Some neighbors of the lots also are unhappy. A sea of trailers isn’t viewed by everyone as picturesque. Ceci appears to have avoided controversy by locating his lot in an area south of Tracy that is part industrial and part rural.
He has surrounded the lot with gates that are 8-feet high and plans to install security cameras. He also has built an area for people to wash their vehicles, because many people are restricted from washing them at their homes or living complexes. The lot is paved, and a dump station is provided.
Ceci had a diversified career before he entered the RV world. He worked at IBM for 11 years before running an appliance store for six years. He then became an RV lot owner and is satisfied with the change.
“This is a happy product,” he said, looking at his gated empire. “When your washing machine breaks, people are not happy. When they come here, they are getting ready to go on vacation, so they have smiles on their faces.”
The many full lots in the Bay Area and southern San Joaquin County are another indication that the RV industry is on the rise.
U.S. ownership of RVs has reached record levels, according to a 2001 University of Michigan study commissioned by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Nearly one in 12 U.S. households with a vehicle owns an RV. That”s nearly 7 million households, the Tri-Valley Herald reported.