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Rental Housing Committee again rejects extending rent control to mobile homes

Santiago Villa Mobile Home Park residents have been fighting to extend rent control to mobile homes, but the Rental Housing Committee rejected the proposal Monday. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

Mountain View's Rental Housing Committee voted Monday not to extend the city's rent control protections to mobile home residents, reaffirming its prior decision and citing legal concerns raised in closed session.

The decision marks the latest in a series of setbacks for residents of the roughly 1,100 mobile homes across six parks in Mountain View, who have long argued that the city's 2016 rent control law can and should apply to mobile home owners and renters.

Proponents say Mountain View could very well be the only city in California to have rent control that excludes mobile homes, and the city risks losing vulnerable residents who can't keep up with price-gouging rent increases.

"Think about all the at-risk mobile home residents and the fear and uncertainty we face, especially during this pandemic," said Anna Marie Morales, a resident of Sahara Mobile Village. "We are treated as renters in every other way, why are we not given the same protections?"

The city's rent control law, the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), makes no mention of mobile homes, largely leaving it up to the committee to decide whether they are covered under rent control. The committee voted in 2018 to exclude mobile homes, citing conflicts between CSFRA and the state's Mobilehome Residency Law -- despite advice from its own legal counsel that rent control should apply to mobile homes.

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The decision was also made under the threat of litigation, with mobile home park owners warning that they would sue to stop rent control from applying to mobile homes.

In revisiting the topic at its June 1 meeting, committee members were hesitant to retract the decision or even talk about it in public. After a lengthy two-hour closed session, committee member Matt Grunewald suggested that the committee uphold its prior ruling on mobile homes and limit discussion due to pending litigation. He said the committee should instead work with the city to craft an ordinance providing some protections to mobile home residents, which would be a better approach than the "ill-fitting constraints" of CSFRA.

"Since there is pending litigation regarding the issue, I would argue even holding this discussion today puts that plan at risk," Grunewald said.

Grunewald's comments were likely in reference to an ongoing court case brought forth by Santiago Villa mobile home park residents in 2018, which seeks to force Mountain View to cover mobile homes under CSFRA. A judge ruled that the Rental Housing Committee has broad discretion in deciding whether mobile homes are included.

Santiago Villa resident Tim Larson, who joined his wife as plaintiffs in the case, said it appears his lawsuit is being used as an excuse by the committee not to "correct" its action and include mobile homes, and that he fully intends to work with the committee to ensure that isn't the case.

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"Neither my wife nor I want the lawsuit to be an impediment to the RHC doing the right thing," he said. "We will work with the RHC to ensure we are not standing in the way of the RHC voting to cover mobile homes to the fullest extent that CSFRA requires."

Other residents challenged the committee for basing its policy decisions entirely on the threat of litigation. Resident Meghan Fraley said the Rental Housing Committee, as a governing agency, shouldn't favor protecting itself from litigation over passing ethical policies to protect the people.

"This is not how government should create policy, period," she said. "This is a matter of social justice, economic justice and racial justice."

Committee member Nicole Haines-Livesay suggested that the committee let stand the decision to exclude mobile homes from rent control, but commit to a study session in September to reconsider the decision and review its options. Her motion passed 4-1, with Susyn Almond opposed.

Almond said she believes that would be too long of a wait, and that mobile home residents are facing too much uncertainty. The eviction moratorium put in place during the coronavirus pandemic will have expired by September, and renter protections will be sorely needed in order to prevent people from losing their homes.

"We are sort of dumping these people off the moratorium but there is no safety net and no recourse, and we're not giving any explanation for why we're tabling it," Almond said. "The community is really looking for courage from the RHC."

Committee chair Emily Ramos made an emotional appeal to mobile home residents shortly before the vote, tearing up while insisting that the Rental Housing Committee is doing its best to protect tenants in a way that is legally sound. She had put the item on the agenda, but nevertheless voted with the majority in tabling the discussion.

"Based on what we were told in closed session we are doing our best to remain cautious but I'm still trying to keep the options open for the mobile home park residents," she said. "We know you are suffering, and we are doing what we can to try to ease that."

Since the committee's 2018 decision, residents from across Mountain View's six mobile home parks have become increasingly politically active, launching individual neighborhood associations and uniting under the banner of the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance.

The local activism is in response to what residents are calling predatory practices by some mobile home park owners, who have raised the rent significantly in recent years and threatened to displace low and middle-income tenants. The vast majority of mobile home residents in the city are reportedly either seniors, disabled or veterans.

Mobile home residents contend that the City Council and the Rental Housing Committee have repeatedly kicked the can down the road on whether to grant rent control to those who rent mobile homes and those who own mobile home but rent space at a mobile home park. Trey Bornmann, president of the mobile home alliance, said the committee was stacked with pro-landlord members and erred in excluding mobile homes in 2018, and that CSFRA was approved by voters under the belief that it would include mobile homes.

"It's fair to assume the voters intended for mobile homes to be included as well because that's the way it works everywhere else, and not doing that would be doing something drastically different," Bornmann said.

Moorpark mobile home resident Jesse Cardenas said he was shocked by the decision rejecting rent control for mobile homes, and that there was a feeling among mobile home residents that they were betrayed by members of the Rental Housing Committee. If there are concerns about lawsuits, he said, the least the committee can do is face litigation on the right side of morality.

Cardenas said he believes the long-term solution is to vote for Mountain View City Council members in November who will appoint members to the Rental Housing Committee who won't stand in the way of rent control.

"The only true way to ensure renters in Mountain View have any sort of power or say in anything is to have a city council that can appoint effective and fair members to the RHC," he said.

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Rental Housing Committee again rejects extending rent control to mobile homes

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Jun 2, 2020, 1:31 pm

Mountain View's Rental Housing Committee voted Monday not to extend the city's rent control protections to mobile home residents, reaffirming its prior decision and citing legal concerns raised in closed session.

The decision marks the latest in a series of setbacks for residents of the roughly 1,100 mobile homes across six parks in Mountain View, who have long argued that the city's 2016 rent control law can and should apply to mobile home owners and renters.

Proponents say Mountain View could very well be the only city in California to have rent control that excludes mobile homes, and the city risks losing vulnerable residents who can't keep up with price-gouging rent increases.

"Think about all the at-risk mobile home residents and the fear and uncertainty we face, especially during this pandemic," said Anna Marie Morales, a resident of Sahara Mobile Village. "We are treated as renters in every other way, why are we not given the same protections?"

The city's rent control law, the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), makes no mention of mobile homes, largely leaving it up to the committee to decide whether they are covered under rent control. The committee voted in 2018 to exclude mobile homes, citing conflicts between CSFRA and the state's Mobilehome Residency Law -- despite advice from its own legal counsel that rent control should apply to mobile homes.

The decision was also made under the threat of litigation, with mobile home park owners warning that they would sue to stop rent control from applying to mobile homes.

In revisiting the topic at its June 1 meeting, committee members were hesitant to retract the decision or even talk about it in public. After a lengthy two-hour closed session, committee member Matt Grunewald suggested that the committee uphold its prior ruling on mobile homes and limit discussion due to pending litigation. He said the committee should instead work with the city to craft an ordinance providing some protections to mobile home residents, which would be a better approach than the "ill-fitting constraints" of CSFRA.

"Since there is pending litigation regarding the issue, I would argue even holding this discussion today puts that plan at risk," Grunewald said.

Grunewald's comments were likely in reference to an ongoing court case brought forth by Santiago Villa mobile home park residents in 2018, which seeks to force Mountain View to cover mobile homes under CSFRA. A judge ruled that the Rental Housing Committee has broad discretion in deciding whether mobile homes are included.

Santiago Villa resident Tim Larson, who joined his wife as plaintiffs in the case, said it appears his lawsuit is being used as an excuse by the committee not to "correct" its action and include mobile homes, and that he fully intends to work with the committee to ensure that isn't the case.

"Neither my wife nor I want the lawsuit to be an impediment to the RHC doing the right thing," he said. "We will work with the RHC to ensure we are not standing in the way of the RHC voting to cover mobile homes to the fullest extent that CSFRA requires."

Other residents challenged the committee for basing its policy decisions entirely on the threat of litigation. Resident Meghan Fraley said the Rental Housing Committee, as a governing agency, shouldn't favor protecting itself from litigation over passing ethical policies to protect the people.

"This is not how government should create policy, period," she said. "This is a matter of social justice, economic justice and racial justice."

Committee member Nicole Haines-Livesay suggested that the committee let stand the decision to exclude mobile homes from rent control, but commit to a study session in September to reconsider the decision and review its options. Her motion passed 4-1, with Susyn Almond opposed.

Almond said she believes that would be too long of a wait, and that mobile home residents are facing too much uncertainty. The eviction moratorium put in place during the coronavirus pandemic will have expired by September, and renter protections will be sorely needed in order to prevent people from losing their homes.

"We are sort of dumping these people off the moratorium but there is no safety net and no recourse, and we're not giving any explanation for why we're tabling it," Almond said. "The community is really looking for courage from the RHC."

Committee chair Emily Ramos made an emotional appeal to mobile home residents shortly before the vote, tearing up while insisting that the Rental Housing Committee is doing its best to protect tenants in a way that is legally sound. She had put the item on the agenda, but nevertheless voted with the majority in tabling the discussion.

"Based on what we were told in closed session we are doing our best to remain cautious but I'm still trying to keep the options open for the mobile home park residents," she said. "We know you are suffering, and we are doing what we can to try to ease that."

Since the committee's 2018 decision, residents from across Mountain View's six mobile home parks have become increasingly politically active, launching individual neighborhood associations and uniting under the banner of the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance.

The local activism is in response to what residents are calling predatory practices by some mobile home park owners, who have raised the rent significantly in recent years and threatened to displace low and middle-income tenants. The vast majority of mobile home residents in the city are reportedly either seniors, disabled or veterans.

Mobile home residents contend that the City Council and the Rental Housing Committee have repeatedly kicked the can down the road on whether to grant rent control to those who rent mobile homes and those who own mobile home but rent space at a mobile home park. Trey Bornmann, president of the mobile home alliance, said the committee was stacked with pro-landlord members and erred in excluding mobile homes in 2018, and that CSFRA was approved by voters under the belief that it would include mobile homes.

"It's fair to assume the voters intended for mobile homes to be included as well because that's the way it works everywhere else, and not doing that would be doing something drastically different," Bornmann said.

Moorpark mobile home resident Jesse Cardenas said he was shocked by the decision rejecting rent control for mobile homes, and that there was a feeling among mobile home residents that they were betrayed by members of the Rental Housing Committee. If there are concerns about lawsuits, he said, the least the committee can do is face litigation on the right side of morality.

Cardenas said he believes the long-term solution is to vote for Mountain View City Council members in November who will appoint members to the Rental Housing Committee who won't stand in the way of rent control.

"The only true way to ensure renters in Mountain View have any sort of power or say in anything is to have a city council that can appoint effective and fair members to the RHC," he said.

Comments

SRB
St. Francis Acres
on Jun 2, 2020 at 1:59 pm
SRB, St. Francis Acres
on Jun 2, 2020 at 1:59 pm
13 people like this

So now the RHC is afraid of being sued for revisiting a policy decision ?

In 2018, there was talk of lawsuits from both sides for the same policy decision ..... RHC clearly chose one side.

Same today, it's certainly within RHC's purview but let's not hide behind Liticaphobia.


a MV resident
North Bayshore
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:32 pm
a MV resident, North Bayshore
on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:32 pm
15 people like this

Mountain View apartment market rate is down 15.9% because of the economic downturn Web Link, and people in apartment are mobile so rent must attract residents, yet despite the title "mobile home," given that mobile home residents have equity tied to homes that actually do not move, mobile home rent will not go down with the market. Mobile home rent is by design a predatory environment if not regulated. Sad to see the government neglect those (many of MV's most vulnerable) who need it most. Shame on MV.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Jun 2, 2020 at 3:56 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Jun 2, 2020 at 3:56 pm
6 people like this

Committee woman Almond has some gonads! And apparently, progressive Ramos does not. I say this because discussion of pending litigation DOES NOT HAVE to take place behind closed door sessions. That IS AN OPTION of the BROWN ACT. If you really want to let the public know, what 'lawyers' have to advise, you can do that in OPEN SESSION. ALL IT TAKES Committee woman Ramos - is a MAJORITY VOTE!


The Business Man
Castro City
on Jun 2, 2020 at 5:12 pm
The Business Man, Castro City
on Jun 2, 2020 at 5:12 pm
Like this comment

I wonder what timeline there is in the appeal?

Especially given the current crisis.

The RHC is benefiting from COVID because the courts are in shut down mode.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 2, 2020 at 7:56 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jun 2, 2020 at 7:56 pm
9 people like this

This is a diificult issue. I remember when the City Council met concerning the initiative rent control-just cause eviction measure (V). One councilmember, Christopher Clark, asked one of the attorney-authors of the measure whether it applied to mobilehome parks. She stated that she did not know. It would have been easy to write Measure V to explicitly extend to mobilehome parks. It wasn't. The best bet now for mobilehome park residents not ready to present and circulate their own initiative is to elect persons to the City Council who will work to protect them from exploitation. In addition, with mobilehome park rent control already in some 100 cities in California, the "progressives" in the state legislature might pass a state law controlling rents or rent increases at mobilehome parks. They already voted for some control of rent increases in much of the rental housing in California statewide.


Tom Halstrom
Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 3, 2020 at 10:09 am
Tom Halstrom, Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 3, 2020 at 10:09 am
2 people like this

The City or County should purchase these mobile home parks like what happened in Palo Alto with the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

If this does not occur, mobile home park owners can take advantage of the Ellis Act and go out of business and the land could be re-developed for much more profitable uses. Rent control will not solve the problem, it will only exacerbate it.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 3, 2020 at 11:06 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jun 3, 2020 at 11:06 am
3 people like this

Correct me if I'm wrong. But I believe the mobilehome parks in MV are zoned just for mobilehome parks. The city council could change the zoning. That would be a reason to evaluate whoever runs for city council. Does the candidate favor rebuilding the city - or parts thereof.


correction
Gemello
on Jun 3, 2020 at 3:19 pm
correction, Gemello
on Jun 3, 2020 at 3:19 pm
1 person likes this

The RHC lawyer argues that MH's could be included rather than should be included. The legal opinion ignores the definition of a rental unit in the measure which states that rental units are structures located on land. At best RHC could apply the measure to those who rent mobile units rather than those who own them and rent the land.


@correction
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2020 at 3:49 pm
@correction, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2020 at 3:49 pm
1 person likes this

Web Link
(s) Rental Unit. Any building, structure, or part thereof, or land appurtenant thereto, or any other rental property rented or offered for rent for residential purposes, together with all Housing Services connected with use or occupancy of such property, such as common areas and recreational facilities held out for use by the Tenant.


Tom Halstrom
Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 3, 2020 at 4:44 pm
Tom Halstrom, Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 3, 2020 at 4:44 pm
1 person likes this

Gary, the problem is that a developer or property owner can write a new law and with enough campaign contributions can find a legislator to introduce it and push it through.

A bill that required a city to re-zone former mobile home parks for high-density housing would be easy to have an anti-affordable housing State Senator or State Assemblyperson push through; these legislators have certainly done the bidding of developers multiple times in the past.

Displacement and gentrification are of no concern to the bad actors in Sacramento. They nearly got SB-50 through and only a large coalition, including affordable housing advocates were able to stop it, but they are not giving up.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 3, 2020 at 5:35 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jun 3, 2020 at 5:35 pm
3 people like this

True that legislators often advance special monied interests and can vote for statewide rent control this year and repeal it next year. But the Governor plays a role. He (or maybe someday she) can veto or sign a bill. So what I am saying to mobilehome park residents is to pursue all of your options. There would likely be statewide rent control for mobilehome parks if 100 cities did not already have local restrictions. The candidates for city council should be pinned down on what each would do locally. Of course, to live in a mobilehome park, one must stay alive. And so other races are critical as well - including the race for the Presidency. Can you make a difference in that race? The year 2000 race for President was decided by 500 votes in Florida. I can get 500 votes in Florida with one letter to a large newspaper there. So can you.


@@correction
Gemello
on Jun 3, 2020 at 9:48 pm
@@correction , Gemello
on Jun 3, 2020 at 9:48 pm
Like this comment

definitions. (m) Property. All Rental Units on a parcel or lot or contiguous parcels or contiguous lots under common ownership.


The Business Man
Castro City
on Jun 3, 2020 at 10:24 pm
The Business Man, Castro City
on Jun 3, 2020 at 10:24 pm
Like this comment

In response to correction you said:

“The RHC lawyer argues that MH's could be included rather than should be included.”

The simple insanity that you think a lawyer paid by a client would advocate a legal position against the interests of the client is incredible. The REALITY is that any attorney cannot prove an unbiased opinion to a client because it is against the professions general rules which state that client’s interest is higher than the public interest. In REALITY, the only people you can use to determine the real issues are those which have NO INTEREST in the outcome. A lawyer will be FIRED if they tell the CLIENT what they DO NOT WANT TO HEAR.

That is in fact what happened in the City of Mountain View if I remember correctly, the ones that wrote an opinion to the City RHC saying that CSFRA applied to Mobile Homes contract was threatened to lose their contract if they didn’t revise their opinion.

That is why I equally criticized the claim that when Measure D was giving an “unbiased” opinion from the City Attorney during the campaign. The REALITY was that the City Attorney could NEVER provide an unbiased analysis, in fact no government attorney can not even the California Attorney General.

The people should never take paid lawyers work as an unbiased opinion. The only ones to listen to are those with no interests in any way regarding the topic. This process is designed to manipulate voters without letting them know they are being fooled into thinking these people are unbiased.


Nora S.
Rex Manor
on Jun 3, 2020 at 10:39 pm
Nora S., Rex Manor
on Jun 3, 2020 at 10:39 pm
7 people like this

The *committee* decided? The committee is appointed, not elected. They should not be making policy. Making recommendations, sure. But all decisions of this weight and magnitude should be owned by our elected representatives. Let the city council members stand up before the electorate and say if they support mobile home owners getting priced out of our city. I for one would be interested in knowing where they stand. So I can vote them out as soon as possible.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 4, 2020 at 2:34 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jun 4, 2020 at 2:34 am
7 people like this

Well. The Rental Housing Committee (RHC) is given the authority to make some "policy" determinations under Measure V which was and remains part of the city's constitution (city charter) adopted by voters. Measure V authorized and still authorizes the City Council to appoint members of the RHC. Indirectly, the City Council has some control. But Measure V was proposed by initiative petition (and adopted by voters) because the City Council had failed and refused to enact any real limitations on rent increases on existing tenants. So let's jump to WHO IS RUNNING later this year. Four of 7 City Council seats are up in November. Two of 4 incumbents can run again (under the city charter's 2-successive term limit: Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichat. Termed out (ineligible to run this year) are Chris Clark and John McAlister. Two people who served on the City Council from 2014-2018 but fell a little short of re-election in November 2018 have said they plan to run again: Lenny Siegel and Pat Showalter. If only those 4 run, they will win the 4 seats automatically. Voters would have no choice. One other fellow to announce so far is Jose Gutierrez who is in his fifth year on the board of the Mountain View-Whisman School District. There are issues concerning Mr. Guterriez stemming, in part, from the school district's employment of his wife. Mr. Guterriez and Margaret Abe-Koga have previously endorsed each other and both appeared on campaign mailers from landlords in support of Measure D on the March 3 ballot. Measure D was a City Council proposal to amend the charter provisions concerning rent control (Measure V) approved by city voters in November 2016. Measure D was defeated 2-1 but the largest mobilehome park owner joined the opposition thinking he would be better off without one of the proposed changes. That change would have made clear that Measure V does not apply to mobilehome parks. The owner was concerned that such a clarification (or change) might lead to City Council-approved rent control in mobilehome parks. Also on the November ballot will be the referendum on a motorhome parking ordinance adopted by the City Council and - unless withdrawn - the "sneaky repeal" of Measure V that qualified for the city ballot by initiative petition sponsored by landlords. More candidates for city council will be needed. Incumbents are no longer assured re-election.


Tom Halstrom
Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 5, 2020 at 8:00 am
Tom Halstrom, Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 5, 2020 at 8:00 am
4 people like this

Both Lenny Siegel and Pat Showalter lost their re-election bids, due to retribution for the growing homeless crisis. Rent control is contributing to that crisis as more naturally affordable apartment buildings are torn down and high-cost for-sale housing are built in their place. The RV situation was not acted upon until after both of them left the City Council.

If you listen to Lenny Siegel's statements on Measure V they are both amusing and saddening:

'Measure V doesn't inhibit new construction in MV.' Sadly, he's correct. There will be a lot of new construction as property owners raze what was once naturally affordable housing and build higher-cost for-sale housing. But that's not the kind of construction he was thinking of.

"Developers are lining up to be able build apartments in Mountain View." That may have been true three years ago, when there was no end in sight to how high rents could go, and considering that new apartments would not be subject to rent control at all. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic we had a glut of unaffordable high-rent housing and developers were not building projects that had already been approved. Now the situation is far worse with plunging rents. If there's a silver lining is that suddenly for-sale housing is in vogue again.

And what Lenny didn't say is that the new apartments, had they been built, would not be subject to rent control at all. They would all be market rate. Combined with the loss of rent-controlled units (due to rent control and the Ellis act), average rents would go up, not down.

Well-meaning people are often unable to look at the cause and effect of their actions over the long term.

However Lenny is smart. He is basing his re-election strategy on the ballot measure overturning the RV parking ban. There are no runoffs for City Council. He just needs to get enough votes to at least come in fourth and he can probably cobble this together from naive renters and from other well-meaning voters who are not affected by RV parking in their neighborhoods.


cc-r
Registered user
North Bayshore
on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:26 am
cc-r, North Bayshore
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:26 am
2 people like this

Not only are mobile homes NOT covered by the CSFRA due to the decisions of the RHC, but on the day, 1 June 2020, that they decided to continue with that decision, I and other residents at Santiago Villa received rent increases. So, in my opinion, due to the greed of the owner of our park who still wants to make more $$$ during the pandemic, we desperately need the protection of the RHC and CSFRA (and as he makes more money during this time, we as renters do not have many of the "amenities" we are paying for, it is just not right). Oh, and my rent increase was more than the percentage approved by the RHC for apartment renters....and this really hurts a senior living on Social Security during this trying time.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2020 at 12:02 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 12:02 pm
Like this comment

The lawyers advice is designed by them to not "trap" their employers regarding legal advice. They make sure there is some kind of plausible deniability regarding their advice to their clients to preserve defense

In fact the Attorneys are acting like the CDC and the NIH, softening language so as to allow more freedom rather than less because they would be FIRED if the advice was not in agreement with some on the RHC. Also that their contract I believe is yearly renewed.

Remember, the attorneys are not judges.

From what I understand the appeal is still open, thus the COVID is simply delaying a final decision. I cannot predict the outcome, but the question is simply not yet completely answered yet. If the Appeals court remands or overturns the lower court, this issue will either still be in play or the city will be ordered to extend CSFRA to mobile homes.


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