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LAGUNA BEACH : City Faces Decision on Rent-Control Law

The City Council must either rescind or put to a vote a rent-control ordinance for mobile home parks now that enough signatures from a recent petition drive have been verified by county officials, City Clerk Verna Rollinger said Tuesday.

Rollinger said the council will reconsider the issue at its Aug. 20 meeting. If the council refuses to rescind the ordinance, a special election, which would cost about $1,500, will probably be held Dec. 10, she said.

“I think it’s great, it’s what we wanted,” said Darren Esslinger, whose family owns Laguna Terrace, one of three mobile home parks in the city. “I think now the important issue is what the city is going to decide at the next City Council meeting.”

The ordinance, which would have gone into effect Aug. 15, would roll back rents to 1989 levels and limit annual rent hikes to either a 7% raise over the current rent or 75% of the annual consumer price index increase, whichever is less.

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When word of the signature approvals reached the city’s largest mobile home park Tuesday, the mood was of “disappointment and a certain amount of anger,” said K.P. Rice, president of the Treasure Island Residents Owners Assn. But park tenants, who turned out en masse to support the ordinance during a string of public hearings, still have “a lot of fight,” Rice said.

The ordinance was approved 3 to 2 by the council on July 16. Days later, moves to block the law got under way with petitioners gathering signatures at grocery stores and a post office while park tenants mounted a counter drive to persuade people to withdraw their names from the petitions.

Opponents say that the ordinance subsidizes residents in oceanfront communities and that a vacancy control provision that locks in rent control even when a new tenant moves in makes it one of the most restrictive such laws in the state. Proponents say the ordinance keeps low-income seniors from being “economically evicted.”

Rice said park tenants will now consult with their attorney and will work to generate community support.

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