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Publication Date: Friday, November 15, 2002

Council debates mobile home laws Council debates mobile home laws (November 15, 2002)

By Candice Shih

With just one city council meeting left before she is sworn in as a state Assembly representative, Mayor Sally Lieber is hoping to finish one of her most prized projects: city protection of mobile home park residents.

On Tuesday, the council's mobile home parks ad hoc committee, which is made up of Lieber, Vice Mayor Mike Kasperzak and Council member Ralph Faravelli presented several recommendations to the full council on how to improve the relations between the residents and management. Two were met with support and two with disagreement.

Council members appeared to be in consensus over the committee's recommendations to coordinate an information and resources fair for residents and to host an annual neighborhood meeting with them.

However, a recommendation to perform an audit/analysis of the rent and management practices of Santiago Villa and Sahara Village Mobile Home Parks -- both owned by John Vidovich, and the source of the resident complaints that spurred the council action on mobile homes -- was not universally accepted.

Council member Mary Lou Zoglin disagreed that those two parks should be singled out. "We're not a body that can go out and correct evils. We make laws that apply to everybody," she said.

There are seven other smaller mobile home parks in Mountain View in addition to the two owned by Vidovich.

Lieber said she hoped the recommendation to perform the audit could become a "gatekeeper" for rent control. She said she believes that rent control could solve the ills that residents face.

Some residents, for example, complain that they have problems selling their mobile homes because their rents are too high. Since they own their homes but pay rent for the land the homes sit on, higher rents can affect the resale value of mobile homes.

Leo Picollo, a Sahara Village resident, said he's happy living there but "the rent's not fair. It would be okay if everyone was at the same level." He added that he has been trying unsuccessfully to sell his home for nine months.

"I don't think it's time to go to that step," disagreed Council member Mike Kasperzak, hoping that Vidovich "will see the light" and initiate changes himself. Council members Matt Pear and Ralph Faravelli said they didn't think rent control would solve the problems either.

"Mr. Vidovich has had over a year. Nothing has changed. There's money in not changing the way things are," countered Lieber.

Vidovich, who defended himself quietly before the council, responded to the other controversial recommendation which would contract a public interest law firm and/or mediation service to settle mobile home park disputes.

"We want to pay for the mediation," he said. "We need to pay for it to rehabilitate our credibility. I don't want to be a villain."

Decisions made through legal intervention, as opposed to mediation, however, would be legally binding.

Vidovich also offered to freeze current monthly rents of $795 or above for the next five years. Nonetheless, residents sounded dissatisfied.

Of additional concern to the council is the cost of facilitating relations between mobile home park residents and managers. With budget cuts in the near future, Council member Rosemary Stasek said she doesn't want the city to end up paying for these commitments.

The recommendations may face a formal vote by council as early as next Tuesday, Lieber's last council meeting.

"It's been dragging on for over a year and a half," she said. "I want to at least see council decide to make a decision on it."

E-mail Candice Shih at cshih@mv-voice.com


 

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