Signature Shortage Keeps Mobile Home Rent Issue Off Ballot

Times Staff Writer

More than 40% of the signatures on petitions seeking to eliminate much of Carson's mobile home rent control are invalid, elections officials said Wednesday in announcing that the initiative failed to make the ballot.

The proposal's backers, a group of mobile home park owners known as Concerned Citizens of Carson, promptly demanded that election officials recheck the 6,424 signatures they had turned in.

County elections officials said 3,832 of the signatures had been verified as registered voters of Carson--60 fewer than the minimum 3,892, or 10%, required to put the measure on the ballot.

"We are going to go over there and find 60 signatures," said Ann Stewart Brown, a Sacramento-based political consultant for the park owners group. "I just think they missed some qualified registered voters on their first pass-through, and we are going to track them down. It has been done before."

City Clerk Helen Kawagoe said she and Brown will meet at the county registrar-recorder's office today to examine signatures that were declared invalid.

Attaining 10% would have put the measure on the ballot in April, 1990, during the next regular municipal elections, unless the City Council voted to put it on November's ballot. The owners group had hoped for 15%--or 5,838--of the city's registered voters, which would have put the measure on the ballot in November.

Charles Weissburd , county registrar-recorder, said many of the 2,592 signatures that were ruled invalid could not be found on the list of registered voters.

In addition, Weissburd noted that 3,085--almost 50% of the signatures turned in--had been gathered by circulators who failed to meet the legal requirement of being a registered voter in the jurisdiction affected by the ballot measure--in this case, Carson.

Weissburd, however, cited a court ruling that signatures collected by circulators who failed to meet requirements were nevertheless valid.

"We are under instructions from the secretary of state that the circulator is not important as far as a petition is concerned," he said.

But Councilwoman Sylvia Muise, who has championed the cause of mobile home owners, said that the finding by Weissburd confirmed her earlier impressions and that she did not intend to let the matter drop.

"That is some heavy-duty stuff," Muise said. "What have I been saying all along? I felt quite certain that people circulating (petitions) did not live in Carson."

Muise said she would check with the city attorney to see if legal action is warranted.

Members of Homeowners Against Rent Decontrol, a group that vigorously opposed the measure by trying to dissuade people from signing the petitions, were jubilant.

"It paid off," said LaVerne Boyle. "All those days standing out there with our signs."

Connie Hathaway, chairwoman of the group, said mobile home owners throughout the city are "elated. We are very, very happy."

Mobile home owners, who generally own their homes but rent the lots that their homes stand on, said many of them would be unable to pay higher rents if the measure were adopted.

Park owners, pointing to the fact that three of the city's 28 parks have announced intentions to close, said they need higher rents or others will shut down.

Under Carson's current rent control ordinance, rent hikes are pegged to increases in the expenses of operating a park and to any capital expenditures made by a park owner.

Under the initiative, people qualifying for federal poverty guidelines would remain under rent control. For a 4-person family, the limit on annual income would be $19,150; for an individual, it would be $13,400.

Rents for people not meeting the poverty guidelines would not be controlled except for the first two years after the measure takes effect. During the first two years, annual increases would be no more than 9%.

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