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Local News in Brief : Landlords Plan Drive to Overturn Rent Law

The owners of a Westlake Village mobile-home park whose rents are frozen under a disputed city law said Thursday they plan to launch a campaign to abolish the ordinance.

Ray Chaikin, part owner of the 162-unit Oak Forest Mobile Home Park, said the owners and more than a dozen sympathetic citizens will begin gathering signatures Friday in hopes of placing an initiative on the November ballot.

The city has about 4,000 registered voters, and 400 signatures would be necessary to qualify the measure for the ballot, said City Manager James E. Emmons.

The 5-year-old ordinance, extended by the Westlake Village City Council earlier this month for five years, is the target of a $1-million lawsuit filed by Chaikin and two partners.

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“There are a lot of people who are extremely unhappy with the ordinance because of the risk. It’s going to affect every person in that city. Everybody’s going to have to pay the cost,” Chaikin said.

The city so far has spent about $108,000 defending the lawsuit. Any other costs will be paid by the city’s insurance company, Emmons said.

Oak Forest Mobile Home Estates Ltd., the park’s owner, sued in federal court in 1985 to abolish the ordinance. The lawsuit, scheduled for trial in September, contends that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it takes away property rights by freezing rents to an artificially low base rate set in May, 1978.

Chaikin said the initiative drive is being launched at the mobile-home park because, “I want the press to be able to look at all the Porsches and all the Mercedes and the Cadillacs that those tenants are driving that claim to be so poor.”

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