In a strange twist less than two weeks from election day, a prominent Mountain View mobile home park owner is pouring money into a campaign to defeat a ballot measure that would exempt mobile homes from rent control.
Last Friday, a new campaign committee called "Citizens Opposed To The Amendment To The Community Stabilization And Fair Rent Act" was created in opposition to Measure D, a city-sponsored measure appearing on the March 3 ballot. The measure was put forth by City Council members and would change several aspects of the city's existing rent control law, including establishing a fixed 4% cap on annual rent increases.
On Thursday, the newly formed committee was suddenly flush with cash: Two businesses, VG Investments and VO Limited Partners, poured a combined $94,400 into the campaign. John Vidovich, the owner of the Santiago Villa and Sahara mobile home parks in Mountain View, is listed as a partner in both businesses. Vidovich did not immediately respond to the Voice's request for comment, and the campaign's treasurer, Tom Montgomery, declined to comment.
What's unusual in that Measure D is largely opposed by mobile home residents in Mountain View, who have long argued that the city's current rent control law should be extended to the 1,100 homes across the city's six mobile home parks. The Community Stabilization And Fair Rent Act (CSFRA) does not explicitly include or exclude mobile homes, instead leaving it up to the interpretation of the city's Rental Housing Committee. In 2018, the committee opted to exclude mobile homes.
Under Measure D, the council is seeking to resolve the ambiguity by exempting mobile homes and spaces for mobile homes from the renter protections. The rationale, according to council members, is that it opens the door for the city to craft its own rent stabilization ordinance tailored specifically for mobile homes and separate from CSFRA.
The explanation did little to win over mobile home residents rankled by the idea that they should be treated any different from apartment tenants in the city. But it was also unpopular among park owners as well. At a meeting last month, Frank Kalcic of the Sunset Estates Mobile Home Park and Craig Oku of the Moffett Mobilehome Park both urged the council not to pass a rent control ordinance for their tenants, suggesting that decisions on rent increases are best left between park management and tenants.
Vidovich's lawyers previously threatened to sue the city in 2018 if the Rental Housing Committee attempted to extend CSFRA to mobile home properties.
The newly formed committee is entirely separate from an effort by the Mountain View Housing Justice Coalition to defeat Measure D, which has been raising funds and distributing flyers since January. Former Mountain View City Council member Lenny Siegel, a member of the coalition, told the Voice that he is skeptical that Vidovich -- a staunch opponent of rent control -- is rallying to defeat Measure D, and that he believes the new committee may shift gears and be used as a tool to pass the measure.
"It appears that the owner of Mountain View's largest two mobile home parks has hired an out-of-town consultant who doesn't even know which side of the issue he is on," Siegel said. "John Vidovich is against rent control on mobile homes and mobile home spaces, and we expect his money to be used to promote Measure D."
So far, that doesn't seem to be the case. The committee has created a website opposing the measure, called D for Deception, and has posted sponsored content on Facebook calling Measure D a "fraud."
Montgomery, the treasurer for the new committee, said in an email that he has appropriately filed campaign documents against Measure D on behalf of his client, and questioned why the Voice would seek comments on Vidovich's campaign contributions. He declined to relay an interview request to Vidovich, citing anti-media sentiment.
"I just don't like the media, one way or the other. You've already made up your minds on everything and you're only out to further your own agenda. Doubt me? Just look at the national media starting with CNN, MSNBC, CBS, etc.," he said.
CAA raises $193K to pass Measure D
Campaign spending in support of Measure D has primarily been spearheaded by the California Apartment Association and financed by large residential property owners in the city, with the latest campaign filings showing the group has raised $193,000 since the start of the year.
The latest donations have come from Prometheus Real Estate Group, which contributed $82,600 earlier this month, followed by Americana I, LLC, which donated $27,200. Another group called Real Housing Solutions for Santa Rosa, which poured funds into previous a previous CAA-sponsored measure in Mountain View, contributed $7,000 to the "Yes on D" campaign.
Previous large donations to the campaign came from Tod Spieker ($49,500) and ACCO Management Company ($26,950). Campaign documents disclosing how the funds were spent through Feb. 15 had yet to be filed as of Thursday morning.
The CAA has a long history of opposing rent control in Mountain View, fighting CSFRA when it came to voters in 2016 as Measure V and, once it passed, gathered signatures for a ballot initiative for the November 2020 election that would eliminate rent control in the city through a poison pill provision tied to occupancy rates.
Though Measure D leaves many aspects of CSFRA intact, the association has since come out in support of the measure and has taken active role in trying to pass it.
Opposition raises $7,500
The latest round of campaign finance filings shows that the Mountain View Housing Justice Campaign has raised a total of $7,458 since the start of the year in its opposition efforts to Measure D, with numerous small donations primarily from Mountain View residents.
Contributions between Jan. 19 to Feb. 15 total just under $3,000 from 19 contributors, with the largest donations coming from Irene Yoshida ($300), Alice Martineau ($250) and Andrew McCreight ($200).
The campaign has spent $6,575 of those funds on a mix of flyers, signs, post cards and door hangers.
More information on Measure D can be found in the Voice's Voter Guide story.