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Huntington Beach board recommends enabling rent ‘carveout’ for mobile home owners

Skandia mobile home residents at the Huntington Beach Mobile Home Advisory Board meeting at City Hall.
Skandia mobile home residents wear solidarity red shirts and hold signs as they listen to public comments during the Huntington Beach Mobile Home Advisory Board meeting on Monday night at City Hall.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Will voters in Huntington Beach decide on a rental stabilization ordinance for the city’s mobile home parks?

Vocal mobile home residents saw the Huntington Beach Mobile Home Advisory Board take the first step toward making that a possibility during a tense meeting Monday night at City Hall.

The Mobile Home Advisory Board voted 5-4 to send a proposed “carveout” of Section 803 of the City Charter to the City Council for review. If the City Council agrees to move it forward, an item would be placed on the November ballot.

The city passed Measure EE in 2002, which prohibits rent stability ordinances, but the carveout would allow an exception to be made in the case of mobile homes.

Advisory board member Allison Plum, a Del Mar Mobile Estates resident, brought the motion forward Monday night, and it was seconded by mobile home resident Carey Jo Chase. Resident member Mary Jo Baretich and at-large members Tim Geddes and Scott Miller also voted to send the proposal along.

Three members of the MHAB — Valerie Avilla, Vickie Talley and Chris Houser — all of whom are mobile park owners, voted no on recommending the Council move the ballot item forward. So did chair-elect Eric Silkenson, an at-large member.

Skandia Mobile Home Owners Assn. president Carol Rohr, left, looks on at board member Vickie Talley.
Skandia Mobile Home Owners Assn. president Carol Rohr, left, looks on at board member Vickie Talley during the Huntington Beach Mobile Home Advisory Board meeting on Monday night at City Hall.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Chase was perhaps the most passionate in support of the carveout during the meeting.

“There is a simple injustice that needs to be rectified,” she said. “The 2002 amendment to the charter roped mobile homes in with apartments and homeowner rentals, which are completely different. It’s like apples and oranges. A renter of an apartment can move ... but when you buy a mobile home, it’s a long-term commitment in most cases. They should have a level of confidence in their investment, and should not be priced out of their home once they’ve purchased it.”

None of the board’s members live in the Skandia Mobile Country Club, whose residents have largely brought the carveout idea forward. Skandia residents have seen rents rise since Investment Property Group bought the park for $58 million last August from the Coulter Family Trust. Several Skandia residents attended Monday night’s meeting, as did residents of other mobile home parks within the city.

IPG raised space rents in the park $75 a month for the next three years. Additionally, the space rents for new residents jumped 50% to $2,195 per month, which Skandia Mobile Home Owners Assn. President Carol Rohr said has caused property values to drastically drop.

Mobile home residents hold signs behind board member Valerie Avilla during Monday's meeting.
Skandia mobile home residents hold signs behind board member Valerie Avilla during Monday’s Mobile Home Advisory Board meeting.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Julie Rodriguez, president of property management for IPG, told the City Council during a February meeting that a rent increase was necessitated after property taxes also went up.

Avilla, who works for IPG, said a majority of the residents at Skandia pay rent month to month. However, they have been offered long-term leases that are five to 25 years in length.

“We would never offer that lease [at] a market rate,” she said. “That would be bad business because that would be us increasing someone $300 to $600 [a month]. That’s crazy ... but as a property owner you can base it off any terms that you like.”

Talley, the executive director of the Manufactured Housing Educational Trust, has encouraged local mobile home residents to sign up for its subsidy program if they’re having a hard time making rent. Talley has accused Rohr of advising Skandia residents not to apply for the subsidy, a charge that Rohr refuted Monday night.

“The problem is that it costs a bloody fortune to administer these rent control ordinances,” Talley said. “Rather than go through all of that, why doesn’t the city just set aside some funds to subsidize these people who can’t afford the rent? ... Rent control is government telling a property owner what they can charge to rent their property.”

Mobile home resident Pat Taylor speaks during Monday's Huntington Beach Mobile Home Advisory Board meeting.
Mobile home resident Pat Taylor speaks during the Huntington Beach Mobile Home Advisory Board meeting on Monday night at City Hall.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Earlier in the meeting, Miller and Geddes said they believed the MHAB should schedule another special meeting to bring in experts from both sides for a continued discussion of the issue. Miller said he believed that would give the board’s recommendation more weight with the City Council.

But Silkenson balked at that idea, equating it with kicking the can down the road.

“The people — whether I agree with them or not — the people want to see some action from us,” he said.

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