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Upwardly Mobile Rent : Trailer Park Tenants Hitched With Unwanted Hike

Times Staff Writer

Sid Posner, one of hundreds of Westminster mobile home owners faced with court orders to pay past rent increases, walked into his landlord’s office Friday and plunked 2,460 $1 bills and 513 pennies on the counter.

Posner’s $2,465.13 payment is part of an estimated $1.6 million due the park’s owners from 665 tenants. That amount comes on top of an estimated $1.4 million released from a trust account and granted by recent court decisions to the owners of the park on Garden Grove Boulevard.

Posner, a 69-year-old retired insurance salesman, said the payment in singles and pennies was a gesture “to highlight the fact that my wife and I earned the money, dollar by dollar, over many years of hard work.”

Posner said his $384.50 monthly rent is more than double the $175 he said was charged when he bought the mobile home five years ago.

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Earlier this week, an Orange County Superior Court judge withdrew a restraining order granted in April against retroactive portions of an ordinance repealing the city’s controls on mobile home park rents.

Had No Choice, Judge Says

In lifting the restraining order, Judge Judith Ryan said she had no choice in light of a recent appellate court decision that found the original 1981 rent control ordinance unconstitutional.

In March, before the appellate court ruling, the City Council voted to repeal the original ordinance, retroactively. A tenants’ organization, the Los Alisos Mobile Homeowners’ Protective Assn., filed suit in Superior Court to block the repeal, and the restraining order was granted.

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Following Wednesday’s ruling by Judge Ryan, an attorney for the mobile home owners, Richard Farnell, vowed to appeal the earlier appellate court ruling to the state Supreme Court. On Thursday, however, Farnell instructed the mobile home owners to pay the back rents requested by the park’s owners.

The 1981 ordinance placing controls on rent increases has been a subject of litigation since it became law. As a result of the ongoing lawsuits, tenants either paid increases demanded by the park owners into the trust account, or withheld them.

Residents Described as ‘Hostages’

Posner said Los Alisos’ residents are “hostages,” forced to pay whatever rents the park owners demand. He said he once considered moving his coach to a lot in Riverside County, but gave up the idea when told it would cost more than $11,000 just for the move.

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“We own our homes, but have to rent the dirt they sit on,” Posner said. With almost no overhead, the park owners receive more than $3 million annually in rents, he said.

Los Alisos’ manager, Walt Tyler, refused to answer a reporter’s questions about rents and payments. Posner, however, said his $2,465.13 payment is about average for the park’s 665 coaches.

Most of the $1 bills were in bank bundles of $100, which facilitated counting. And most of the pennies were rolled.


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