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Guest opinion: Why doesn’t Mountain View protect its mobile home residents?

Santiago Villa Mobile Home Park photographed in Mountain View on Feb. 27, 2020. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

Mountain View's six mobile home parks are populated mostly by seniors and disabled people. They were originally created in the 1960s for seniors, who purchased their homes and rented the spaces they were in. They are a large vulnerable population that has been asking for protection for decades. Unfortunately, the majority of the members of this City Council do not share their concern.

Over the years, the mobile home population gradually evolved to include renters of the homes as well as the spaces. Many of these renters work in the service sectors that keep our local economy running. They sign the same California Apartment Association leases that apartment renters sign, but they are not protected because they live in mobile homes. Why?

In November 2016, the voters of Mountain View passed an initiative that created the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act, and the Rental Housing Committee that administers it. Like other Mountain View tenants, mobile home residents immediately applied for coverage by the Fair Rent Act, but their petition was denied, and they filed suit on behalf of all Mountain View mobile home residents.

One year later, the Rental Housing Committee’s legal counsel informed them that the city must extend rent control to mobile homes, and added that the original ballot arguments showed that the initiative specifically included protections for mobile home residents.

But the RHC members disregarded that legal determination, and the residents of 1,130 homes learned that the committee would arbitrarily choose to not protect them under the Fair Rent Act because they lived in mobile homes. Why?

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Because the City Council, which was allowed by CSFRA law to appoint at most two RHC members who own or manage rental property, additionally appointed a member ideologically opposed to rent control. They deliberately stacked the committee with members who did not believe in the basis of the law itself or in their mission to administer it.

Since 2018, the California Apartment Association has been trying to place a deliberately deceptive initiative on the ballot that would trick voters into repealing the CSFRA. It failed to make the 2018 ballot, so in 2020, the City Council tried to help CAA weaken the CSFRA with a measure (D) that also deliberately excluded mobile homes from CSFRA protections. Mountain View voters soundly rejected it. Undeterred, the City Council voted to put the “sneaky repeal” on the November ballot.

It's clear that the City Council and the CAA are determined to destroy rent stabilization in Mountain View. Despite platitudes to the contrary, they have done absolutely nothing to protect mobile home residents.

Recently, the City Council included mobile homes under their COVID-19 protections for renters - but only because the crisis forced them to recognize that there are no differences between renters of apartments or mobile homes.

In a democratic society, the will of the people is expressed by the voters, and implemented by its elected representatives. It's time to elect a City Council that will appoint a Rental Housing Committee that respects the will of the people.

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Guest opinion: Why doesn’t Mountain View protect its mobile home residents?

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Sun, Jul 12, 2020, 8:42 am

Mountain View's six mobile home parks are populated mostly by seniors and disabled people. They were originally created in the 1960s for seniors, who purchased their homes and rented the spaces they were in. They are a large vulnerable population that has been asking for protection for decades. Unfortunately, the majority of the members of this City Council do not share their concern.

Over the years, the mobile home population gradually evolved to include renters of the homes as well as the spaces. Many of these renters work in the service sectors that keep our local economy running. They sign the same California Apartment Association leases that apartment renters sign, but they are not protected because they live in mobile homes. Why?

In November 2016, the voters of Mountain View passed an initiative that created the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act, and the Rental Housing Committee that administers it. Like other Mountain View tenants, mobile home residents immediately applied for coverage by the Fair Rent Act, but their petition was denied, and they filed suit on behalf of all Mountain View mobile home residents.

One year later, the Rental Housing Committee’s legal counsel informed them that the city must extend rent control to mobile homes, and added that the original ballot arguments showed that the initiative specifically included protections for mobile home residents.

But the RHC members disregarded that legal determination, and the residents of 1,130 homes learned that the committee would arbitrarily choose to not protect them under the Fair Rent Act because they lived in mobile homes. Why?

Because the City Council, which was allowed by CSFRA law to appoint at most two RHC members who own or manage rental property, additionally appointed a member ideologically opposed to rent control. They deliberately stacked the committee with members who did not believe in the basis of the law itself or in their mission to administer it.

Since 2018, the California Apartment Association has been trying to place a deliberately deceptive initiative on the ballot that would trick voters into repealing the CSFRA. It failed to make the 2018 ballot, so in 2020, the City Council tried to help CAA weaken the CSFRA with a measure (D) that also deliberately excluded mobile homes from CSFRA protections. Mountain View voters soundly rejected it. Undeterred, the City Council voted to put the “sneaky repeal” on the November ballot.

It's clear that the City Council and the CAA are determined to destroy rent stabilization in Mountain View. Despite platitudes to the contrary, they have done absolutely nothing to protect mobile home residents.

Recently, the City Council included mobile homes under their COVID-19 protections for renters - but only because the crisis forced them to recognize that there are no differences between renters of apartments or mobile homes.

In a democratic society, the will of the people is expressed by the voters, and implemented by its elected representatives. It's time to elect a City Council that will appoint a Rental Housing Committee that respects the will of the people.

The Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance

Comments

Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 10:02 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 10:02 am
12 people like this

It is certainly true that the landlords - including the "Housing Council" - along with the MV Chamber of Commence - have recruited and help elect city councilmembers against any and all rent control. The 2016 initiative gave to the City Council the authority to appoint Rental Housing Committee (RHC) members to administer the rent control proposed. No surprise that the city council majority has selected some persons against any rent control to serve on the RHC. The 2016 initiative was and remains unclear about whether it extends to mobile home parks. A judge ruled the RHC was not clearly wrong in determining it did NOT extend to mobile home parks. There is an appeal. But don't count on any reversal. So what next for mobile home park residents? Reject the SNEAKY REPEAL of the 2016 initiative and elect city council candidates who actually care about mobile home park residents in November. The City Council could enact rent restrictions at mobile home parks because the limitation in the 2016 initiative on council-enacted restrictions on rent and evictions only applies (as I read it) to rental units otherwise controlled by the initiative. At the same time, the next city council could put mobile home park rent control on a future ballot and advocate statewide rent control for parks. What might be useful here is to post what mobile home park residents are paying for their structures and in rent and other charges. And if a park owner is forcing residents to sell to him or his company, let's hear about that.


SC Parent
Cuesta Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 11:27 am
SC Parent, Cuesta Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 11:27 am
7 people like this

The last sentence reads: "It's time to elect a City Council that will appoint a Rental Housing Committee that respects the will of the [MY PET CAUSE]."

Your argument holds no water since you want to have the non-elected, unaccountable RHC to administratively expand the CSFRA to include mobile homes. How is that reflective of a democratic society?

If the voters wanted to include mobile homes, that should have been included in the CSFRA. Rather than righteously claiming to speak for the voters, just put anther measure before the voters and see if they actually agree with you rather than this a backdoor, undemocratic expansion of the law you've been trying to do for years.


a MV community member
North Bayshore
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:24 pm
a MV community member, North Bayshore
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:24 pm
10 people like this

At a city council meeting it was brought up how unusual it was if a city had rent control for apartments, to not have similar protections for mobile homes since mobile homes residents are distinctly more vulnerable to exploitation given the residents’ equity is trapped in a space where the landlord controls space rent. The mobile home landlord can increase rent unencumbered by any laws (not even state rent control protects mobile homes) if residents can’t pay, the only buyer left is the landlord (all other buyers scared away by the high space rent). Sad to see the most vulnerable get the least protection. Laws are supposed to protect the most vulnerable first.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:39 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:39 pm
8 people like this

There are far more local mobile home park rent control ordinances than ordinances restricting apartment rents. There is also now a statute statute controlling many residential rent increases statewide - but expressly excluding mobile home parks. Whether the 2016 initiative extends to both apartments and mobile home parks is in dispute. Section 1717(a) of the 2016 initiative (now part of the city charter) reads: "This article supersedes any ordinance passed by the city council covering the area of rents or evictions." While this sub-section likely applies to bar later-enacted ordinances "covering rents or evictions," it concerns rents and evictions from covered units. If mobile home parks have no covered units, the city council is free to pass an ordinance concerning rents or evictions at mobile home parks.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:56 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:56 pm
4 people like this

Apartment and mobile home park rent ordinances are usually separate. A quick check on Wikipedia reveals 15 cities in CA with local apartment rent control but 83 cities and 9 counties with rent control at mobile home parks.


Curious
Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 3:40 pm
Curious, Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 3:40 pm
Like this comment

I'm curious and don't know the answer to this question, so perhaps someone can tell me. Mobile home residents are generally people who own the mobile homes, but rent the space. Correct? If there's rent control on the space they're renting, would that increase the value of their mobile home when they sell? If there's no rent control, the resell value of their mobile home is less. Is that correct?


Bob
Castro City
on Jul 12, 2020 at 7:51 pm
Bob, Castro City
on Jul 12, 2020 at 7:51 pm
Like this comment

All these articles about rent control are so frustrating.
The problem is not the need of rent control, the problem is the need for more housing.

Building more housing will benefit everyone.

People fighting against more housing, typically with terrible reasons, are generally people who already own something and are afraid of seeing the value go down.


@bob
North Bayshore
on Jul 12, 2020 at 8:21 pm
@bob, North Bayshore
on Jul 12, 2020 at 8:21 pm
6 people like this

The city does not allow mobile homes to be placed anywhere outside a mobile home park, the free market has very little impact on mobile homes, thus the need for regulations.

The landlords literally control every factor influencing the mobile home market.
If a resident walks away, they lose the equity of their home.

Mobile home residents cannot even rent out a room in their homes that they bought to help pay the rent. Though the mobile homes the landlord buys (at discounted prices caused by their own rent increases on previous owners), allow roommates.

See this story on the trend for private equity firms and investors buying mobile home parks directly because they know the residents are trapped to pay whatever they ask for. Web Link



Alex
Jackson Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 9:00 pm
Alex, Jackson Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 9:00 pm
Like this comment

Because all of the virtue signalling liberals who live here want to give the APPEARANCE of being kind and caring people while, in truth, they are more interested in artificially driving up the cost of housing to further enrich themselves.
For every 7 new arrivals to the area, only 1 new housing unit is provided.
It is PURE GREED.


Lenny Siegel
Old Mountain View
on Jul 12, 2020 at 11:34 pm
Lenny Siegel, Old Mountain View
on Jul 12, 2020 at 11:34 pm
8 people like this

The advocates of rent control, including mobile-home rent control, have been leading the fight to build more housing in Mountain View, even though it means profits for the landlords/developers who charge whatever rents the market will bear. But there is a need for rent control, to prevent displacement and limit gentrification, while we are waiting for that housing to be built.

Some may say that the Pandemic and Remote Work have solve the housing crisis, but that's like saying we don't have to address climate change because greenhouse gas emissions went down when major employers told their people to work from home. COVID-19 won't disappear magically, but it won't shut down out tech offices forever. Housing demand will rise again, and sharply.

Meanwhile, the assertion that Measure V (the CSFRA) was designed to require mobile home rent control should not come as a surprise. I was the only Council member who supported Measure V, and I said from the dais - when we put the measure on the ballot - that mobile homes were covered by the definitions in the charter amendment.


MyOpinion
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2020 at 2:41 pm
MyOpinion, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2020 at 2:41 pm
2 people like this

'Building more housing' always turns out to be 'building more high end luxury rentals exempt from rental control (due to Costa Hawkins)." These high end coimplexes do not serve anyone exept tech professionals who will stay in the city a few years, then move on to buy homes in a nice residential community. Too late for Mountain View, it has become a city of transients (and I do not mean homeless people). The City has given Prometheus and other developers a green light to build high density very expensive rentals, this does not address the problem, just makes money for developers and reduces home ownership oppoortunities for people who want to make a life here.


Run for office
Sylvan Park
on Jul 13, 2020 at 9:27 pm
Run for office, Sylvan Park
on Jul 13, 2020 at 9:27 pm
6 people like this

"Gary" Wesley ,attorney at law.
You seem to be knowledge about what happens in Mountain View.
Why don't you run for council and apply all the logic you have written about?


Run for office
Sylvan Park
on Jul 13, 2020 at 9:30 pm
Run for office, Sylvan Park
on Jul 13, 2020 at 9:30 pm
4 people like this

"Gary" Wesley You sound like an,attorney
You seem to be knowledge about what happens in Mountain View.
Why don't you run for council and apply all the logic you have written about?


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