The Santa Ana City Council, at its April 16th meeting, pushed a proposed moratorium on mobile home lot rent increases to the May 7th council meeting where City Attorney Carvalho will present gathered facts. At that time, if park owners and residents have failed to come up with an adequate solution, the moratorium could be agendized for the May 21st meeting and a protective measure considered – if necessary to stop the June 1st rent hike at Bali Hi.
Once again, as seen in other cities where predatory investors are buying up mobile home parks, the vast majority of public commentors at the Santa Ana meeting were the affected senior citizen homeowners in favor of an ordinance. Councilmember Sarmiento brought up the issue of a moratorium on lot rent increases after the several hour procession of mostly elderly speakers, each with three minutes to speak, was over.
See some of the many comments made later in this article.
MHET’s representative Vicki Talley, who has been visiting every city council where citizens are coming forward to ask the city for rent stabilization, said “this is a sad meeting – the rent increase notice has gone out but no one will go homeless. Give us the opportunity to talk to these people. We would like the opportunity to solve this privately.”
Talley is in charge of the “rental assistance program” for MHET, the manufactured home park owners lobbying group. (Her husband Bill was Anaheim city manager for 11 years, serving until he resigned under council pressure in 1987).
Talley’s own company boasts it has “worked with the mobile home park industry since 1981 and has extensive experience in closing mobile home parks.” According to its own website, “Talley and Associates, Inc. has participated on numerous mobile home park closures/conversions in California.” Services include everything from planning, tenant mitigation, disposal of mobile homes, to governmental relations with community.
Councilmember Vicente Sarmiento brought the issue to council. Speaking to the audience of elderly homeowners he said “it was difficult to hear your stories.” He also thanked Vicki Talley for speaking with him the day before the meeting. “We believe mobile home park owners have the right to raise the rents but not oppressively so,” said Sarmiento.
“I am asking for options – to include a cooling off period – if what we have heard, about 30-40% increases are correct. This isn’t just happening in Santa Ana,” Sarmiento said pointing out that it is also happening in Anaheim, Fullerton, Garden Grove and Westminster. “It seems to be an industry-wide problem. There are 27 mobile home parks in the city. You are elderly, veterans, people on fixed incomes, and we should be caring for you” he said.
Councilmember Sarmiento’s motion for “a Moratorium on rent increases until we have time to get the data and take a look at the facts” died due to lack of a 2nd.
Councilmember Cecilia Iglesias of Ward 6, where half of the speakers came from, suggested that the city attorney be authorized to speak with the park owner to see what could be done and made a motion to that effect.
Councilmember Juan Villegas said he needed to hear what the mobile home park owner says. “Have to get both sides. Can we have more research?”
Councilmember Jose Solorio repeated talking points from the manufactured park owner lobbying group’s report which left out the 110 cities and counties where mobile home rent control has been successful – including the very successful longtime ordinance of San Juan Capistrano, which has kept mobile home lot rent increases attached to the Consumer Price Index for decades. That ordinance has survived the lobby group’s lawsuit and would be a good model for other cities to follow. The language can be found in the San Juan Capistrano municipal code Article 9. Mobile Home Rent Control.
“Rent Control didn’t work in SF and Santa Monica – according to the study brought to us (by MHET), said Solorio. The city is limited in what we can do. I don’t know if we can enforce a moratorium,” he said directing the comment to the city attorney.
Santa Ana’s City Attorney Sonia Caravalho answered – “Yes you have the authority and we can place a moratorium. Our office is evaluating moratoriums that several cities have put in place. There are some issues that could be avoided depending on how the city structures the ordinance.” She said her office also noticed the MHET rent assistance program uses uncertain language such as “may” instead of “will” in the assistance application. She said she would be happy to talk with park owners and groups and bring back facts at the May 7 meeting.”
MHET representative Vickie Talley warned the council, “If rent control is put in place the [rent assistance] program won’t go forward.” She implied (incorrectly) that it was too late for residents of the Bali Hi and Kona Kai parks because they had already received the 90-day rent increase notices.
Some of the many public comments are below:
•”Vietnamese and Latino communities are coming together to ask our representatives to help us,” said the first speaker. “The new land buyers are raising the rents in our park and kicking us out of our home. Please pass the rent control. It is not fair what is happening to us.”
•A homeowner in the Bali Hi park said “154 residents age 60 to 102 with most over age 70, signed a petition to the new owner asking for relief from the extreme rent increases. There are no rich people here, most are on fixed incomes. Please stop predatory practices. This year’s rent increase went up to over 40% – on five parks in Santa Ana. Please don’t push us to become homeless.”
•An 81 year old – war veteran living in Bali Hi was among several who said, “The rent increase is making me depressed. Please consider decreasing rent to what we can afford.
•A 90-year-old homeowner said, “In my park rents are increasing by $140 per month – if it goes through many of my neighbors will be out on the streets.”
•A 79-year-old homeowner in tears said “please help us. The rent increased but I didn’t get an increase in Social Security. Some may have families to go to but some of us don’t – please try to help us.”
•A 60-year-old man said, “I work 16 hours a day now to afford the rent – don’t know what I will do with the increase.”
•A woman with cancer with her husband who is dying said “I won’t be able to afford rent after my husband dies.”
•An 88-year-old veteran said, “I can afford this increase but what about next year? I would like to make you care for us. We are your people. Don’t make us homeless.
•67-year-old homeowner told the council, “I would like you to stabilize the rent. I am still working but this $150 rent increase will bring my lot rent to half my salary and I still have mortgage to pay.”
•A-77-year old homeowner said, “When I retired I looked for an affordable home and found mine. The lot rent was 515 back when I moved in and the annual increase was only $15 – until the new management company took over and raised rents drastically – now rent is $1,100 for anyone coming in.
•A young woman said she was here for her parents who are 80 and 90 years-old. Their lot rent will go up 30% on June 1st. She asked the council “Where are you going to put 5,000 senior, disabled people? We are asking for something fair – a 3% increase. We are not asking for rent control that would upset your contributors.”
•”Please put moratorium on and have staff research options said a 77-year-old woman. “Help protect us from evictions. I am low income and my rent was just raised 7% and they tell us the next increase in June will be 40%. This means my whole Social Security will be spent on lot rent. We don’t want to be burden to the state. Please vote for me to have a place and not lose my home.”
•”My pension is $800 per month – they raised the rent by 30% and now I can’t pay it,” said another elderly person.
•A 70-year-old asked the council to “please vote for rent stabilization – we are expecting to go from being homeowners to becoming homeless. We need to stop this elder abuse.”
Resource for more information on Mobile Home issues:
• Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League
14802 Beach Blvd, La Mirada CA 90638
www.gsmol.org or call 800-888-1727