Members of the public raise their hands in support of a Cabrillo Mobile Home Estates Park resident who speaks in favor of a new mobile home park rent stabilization ordinance passed by the Capitola City Council Thursday night. (PK Hattis – Santa Cruz Sentinel)
CAPITOLA – The Capitol City Council voted unanimously Thursday to add mobile home rent stabilization measures to its municipal code, just days before a large rental price increase for residents of Cabrillo Mobile Park is set to go ahead. Home Estates.
The decision came after weeks of protests by Cabrillo Mobile Home Estates Park residents who said the park’s private owner informed them their rents would increase 56% from $641 to $1,000 starting June 1 after a lease expired existing 12-year.
The ordinance, which requires a four-fifths majority, went into effect immediately after being passed Thursday night.
Among other things, it sets a maximum allowable annual rent increase slightly higher than the consumer price index or the park’s base rent, whichever is much lower. It also includes exemptions for other mobile home parks already under long-term leases or operating under more protective agreements.
“Increasing my rent would significantly affect the quality of my health care, requiring adjustments to my prescriptions,” Cabrillo Estates resident and homeowner association president John Hakin said before the vote. “I urge you to vote for the rent stabilization ordinance so that we can continue to live here and that I can afford my health care. And it would take a lot of stress out of a lot of people.”
The council chambers were standing room only, packed with more than 70 people in attendance, the vast majority of whom supported the ordinance and were either residents of the 68-space park themselves, or neighbors and friends.
Many speakers from the public expressed concern for residents, many of whom are elderly, live on low or fixed incomes, or come from underserved communities.
“The prospect of losing all of this because we can’t pay the rent is terrifying. I like the social interaction, I like to see and talk to the kids, I like to laugh and say hello to people as they pass by while I’m working in the garden,” said Dianne Delisle who is 83 years old. “The idea that even if I could stay for a while, many of my neighbors would be gone, especially the children. And that makes me extremely sad.”
Overview of the ordinance
According to the staff report, the ordinance sets a maximum allowable annual rent increase of 5% plus the consumer price index or up to 10% of the base rent, whichever is lower. The base lease is the lease dated May 25.
It also includes a process for tenant disputes and allows landlords to increase the base rent of spaces that become vacant by 15%.
Exceptions to the ordinance include spaces subject to a lease longer than 12 months; new built spaces; spaces where the tenant does not claim the space as a primary residence; spaces subject to an agreement that provides more protection than the ordinance; parks that are owned by residents.
Most of the city’s eight mobile home parks are exempt from those conditions, with the exception of Cabrillo Estates and possibly some residents at Surf and Sand Mobile Home Park, according to the staff report.
Cabrillo Estates owner Linda Vieira of Vieira Enterprises did not respond to the Sentinel’s multiple requests for comment Friday, but called the meeting Thursday to express opposition.
“There are some harsh elements of this restrictive legislation that we oppose, but unfortunately not receiving the proper notice, we cannot fully articulate our opposition details,” Vieira noted, saying she did not receive notice of the point. of the agenda from the city. “Therefore, we urge the council not to adopt this unenforceable ordinance at this time.”
City Clerk Julia Moss confirmed the agenda was posted more than 72 hours before the meeting in accordance with state Brown Act requirements.
Mark Alpert, who said he represented Surf and Sand about 15 years ago during lengthy litigation from a previous rent control ordinance that resulted in a settlement and various long-term leases, was also called to voice opposition.
“I don’t think you’ve had enough time to think about the potential litigation costs that are very, very likely to result from making decisions to adopt rent control,” Alpert said, adding that he thought he could to have a lawsuit from Surf and Sand. was “highly likely”.
In the end, four council members voted to approve the ordinance, with one exception from Mayor Margaux Keizer, who lives 500 feet from a park subject to the new code.
Deputy Mayor Kristen Brown took exception to comments suggesting the council hadn’t fully thought through the action or been moved by its “emotional appeal”, calling the remarks “a bit offensive”.
“I’m a tenant and in the whole time I’ve been on the council I’ve had to move twice and both times I didn’t know if I was going to be able to find somewhere I could afford to live.” Brown said. “If I was now faced with a 56% rent increase, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
A Spanish-speaking resident of Cabrillo Estates told the council, with Capitol Police Officer Jaime Ponciano translating, that she was very concerned about the impact of the potential rent increase, but there weren’t enough resources available to help her. to understand what action was being taken. are considered.
City Manager Jamie Goldstein, in response to a question from Council Member Joe Clarke, confirmed that the city does not currently translate its ordinances.
“I hope this is something we can achieve,” said Clarke, who also advocated for expanded Spanish-language outreach for “something like this that affects so many of our citizens.”
Council member Yvette Brooks echoed Clarke’s request for information to be shared in multiple languages, adding that she was “proud” to support the ordinance’s passage.
“This affects real people’s lives — the lives of seniors, the lives of children and the lives of workers in our community,” Brooks said, “and it’s our responsibility — my responsibility — as your representative to make sure everyone has an opportunity to flourished here.”
The council also approved the first reading of another ordinance that is essentially the same as the emergency ordinance, but is intended as a longer-term replacement that will provide an additional layer of protection against potential challenges.
This ordinance is on track to replace the immediate ordinance and take effect by July 8.