Mountain View City Council members agreed Tuesday night to prioritize extending rent control to mobile homes, unanimously agreeing to fast-track an ordinance that's set to come before the council as soon as August.
The decision comes more than a year after council members signaled support for extending renter protections to Mountain View's six mobile home parks. The ordinance is expected to closely mirror the city's existing rent control law, which covers apartments and other rental units.
Mobile home groups have long held that rent control, under the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), should have applied to mobile homes from the get-go. But the city's Rental Housing Committee, tasked with administering rent control, has repeatedly disagreed.
Mobile home residents sued to reverse the committee's decision, but ultimately lost the battle in court in January. City officials cited the pending litigation as reason to pump the brakes on a mobile home rent control ordinance, which made the defeat in court a green light to move forward.
The rough framework of the ordinance would limit annual rent increases similar to the CSFRA, while removing provisions from the city's rent control law that would have conflicted with the state's Mobilehome Residency Law. The Rental Housing Committee would be responsible for overseeing and administering rent control for mobile homes, which includes petitions to increase or decrease rent.
Council members all endorsed expediting the ordinance at the March 16 meeting, making it a high priority during a lengthy, late-night debate on what big-ticket items the city should tackle over the next few years. City officials cautioned the council to take a lean approach -- noting that staff time is already strained -- and plenty of projects were deferred or removed outright.
Casualties include a local ordinance that would have prohibited the sale of e-vaping and flavored tobacco products in Mountain View, and an ordinance that would've regulated e-scooters.
Though mobile home rent control is moving forward, some of the nuts and bolts of the ordinance are up for debate. At the Tuesday meeting, Councilwoman Lisa Matichak advocated for an exception in the ordinance that would allow landlords and tenants to negotiate a long-term lease that wouldn't necessarily have the same terms as the CSFRA. She said this would be a strong option for "responsible" park owners who have a strong relationship with their tenants and who don't really need rent control.
Mobile home park owners and regional groups including the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association have long advocated for these accords, or model leases, in lieu of rent control.
Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said the exception for long-term leases should, at the very least, come back as an option for consideration in August or September, when the ordinance is expected to come before the council for approval.
"I would like to see all of that come back to us, so we can really decide what is best for mobile home parks," Abe-Koga said.
Other council members felt these model leases only opened the door for exceptions to a uniformly applied set of renter protections for Mountain View's mobile homes. Councilwoman Sally Lieber said she wanted a "clean" ordinance, which mobile home residents overwhelmingly support and expect from the council.
"It's not my wish to change the goalposts now," Lieber said. "I think we need to keep faith with what we've offered to the public."
Councilwoman Alison Hicks agreed, and said she has yet to hear from mobile home residents who want an accord beyond what's contained in the CSFRA.
City Attorney Krishan Chopra said the ordinance being crafted behind the scenes right now does provide for an exception for park owners to offer some type of alternate arrangement or long-term lease, so long as it is at least as protective as the underlying rent control ordinance.
On the campaign trail last year, Matichak explicitly advocated for model leases alongside rent control, consistent with her calls for an exception Tuesday night. Lieber's calls for a clean bill echo her decadeslong fight for mobile home rent control in the city.