By Spencer Custodio | Source |

The Anaheim City Council has permanently shelved any discussion of a mobile home rent control ordinance, effectively singing a swan song for the seniors living at Rancho La Paz Mobile Home Park, who face rent hikes that kick in today.

Rancho La Paz
Rancho La Paz

On Tuesday, Councilmembers spiked a proposed rent control ordinance for the second time, despite months of seniors petitioning Anaheim officials for help and being left out of a statewide rent control.

Instead of debating and voting on the proposal from Councilman Jose Moreno on Tuesday night, the City Council tabled the item after Mayor Harry Sidhu proposed the move.

Sidhu also tabled a no-cause eviction ordinance and two Angel Stadium-related items. Councilman Trevor O’Neil supported Sidhu’s one motion to table all four items indefinitely, which cuts off Council discussion of the items.

“The thing that was really aggravating last night was that he lumped all four of those things together,” said Rancho La Paz resident Lupe Ramirez. .”For some reason, Sidhu seems to think that he’s king, not just the mayor.”

Ramirez, who’s spearheaded organizing efforts at the mobile home park, said seniors all over Anaheim will remember Tuesday’s vote and the residents will help candidates for Councilwoman’s Lucille Kring’s seat and candidates against Councilman Stephen Faessel next year. Kring terms out next year and Faessel is up for reelection.

“We’re already talking to the candidates running against Faessel and the person who’s going to be running for Lucille’s seat … we’re going to do whatever we can to make sure his (Sidhu’s) voting bloc is broken up,” Ramirez said.

The mobile home residents kicked off discussions of potential rent control ordinances in Fullerton and Anaheim, since the park straddles both cities. The residents have been facing looming rent increases since March and have pleaded both Councils for help for at least seven months.

Fullerton council members authorized a rent subsidy program back in August to help the seniors.

Anaheim’s rent subsidy program, which the Council approved on Oct. 22, isn’t expected to kick in until at least January.

Although Moreno was able to schedule the proposed rent control ordinance for mobile home parks on Tuesday night, the majority of members refused to discuss the item when the Council voted 4-3 to table the rent control proposal indefinitely.

Liz Barrera at Anaheim City Council
Liz Barrera speaks before Anaheim City Council

Councilmembers Denise Barnes and Jordan Brandman dissented along with Moreno. Under Anaheim’s procedural rules, once an item is moved to be tabled indefinitely, no more discussion can happen on the item. Councilmembers are allowed to voice their reasoning on how they vote on tabling the item, but it took an argument and clarification from City Attorney Rob Fabela before Barnes and Moreno could voice their opposition to table the ordinance.

“You have been bringing this item up multiple times and it has been defeated multiple times. I don’t think we need to spend more energy and more time on this. And there had been people who spoke about these issues tonight that said if you issue rent control, it’s going to hurt you and I have documentation…” said Kring, before being cut off by Moreno and Sidhu for wading into policy discussion.

Dozens of Rancho La Paz seniors and their supporters spoke in favor of the mobile home park rent control ordinance, which would’ve limited the rent increases to five percent, plus the change in the Consumer Price Index.

The Council hasn’t taken an action vote on the proposed rent control ordinance, other than a “receive and file” vote in August, so the city could see how the statewide rent control ordinance would play out. Mobile home parks are excluded from that law. “Mr. Mayor, I’d like to make a comment on my vote. You often are able to exercise the latitude to say why your voting or not voting for something. I’m not asking for a debate,” Moreno told Sidhu.

“Point of order, Mr. Mayor,” O’Neil said, adding the rules don’t allow for discussion. Sidhu tried to cut off discussion and call a vote. “It is a point of order, I’m not going to be debating on any of these.”

But Fabela interjected, “Our rules allow for a council member to discuss why voted one way or another.”

Moreno said the Council didn’t take action when it reviewed the proposed ordinance in August, before the statewide rent control bill was signed into law. But the law doesn’t cover mobile homes, like Rancho La Paz.

“The council believed that would solve our rent issues locally. It exempted mobile home parks and so therefore the context for this item has changed and that’s why I do not support tabling this item,” Moreno said. “We took an oath to protect our residents and not the interests that funded our campaigns.”

Before Barnes could weigh in the issue, O’Neil interjected.

“Mr. Mayor, I have a point of order. Our rules of procedure indicates … the motion temporarily suspends any further discussion of the pending question. And I’d like clarification from the city attorney if what we’re engaging in, at this moment, is further discussion,” O’Neil said.

Fabela said Councilmember can normally speak on items and the procedure is somewhat “subjective” and left the decision to Sidhu, who allowed discussion on the motion to table.

“I will be joining my other colleagues at the other end. When we started this meeting, there was a very exact sentence up there that said do nothing and the community will continue to struggle. We shook hands with young people saying this is what we believe in…” Barnes started to say.

She was cut off by Sidhu.

“I’m sorry Councilmember Barnes. You just state your position … I cannot debate on this,” Sidhu said.

Barnes was cut off again when she tried to speak and there was some more back and forth between Sidhu and Barnes.

“Just let me talk!” Barnes cried.

“As a chair I cannot allow it,” said Sidhu, repeatedly banging the gavel, while Moreno was calling for a point of order to allow Barnes to speak.

Some people in the audience began yelling “coward! “

“We can’t wait!” yelled seniors from the audience.

After more arguing by council members, Sidhu told Barnes to “please proceed.”

“Again, do nothing and a community will continue to struggle. If children can understand it, I don’t understand why the rest of us aren’t hearing that. Do the right thing to me and your community,” Barnes told her colleagues.

Ramirez lamented Sidhu’s Tuesday night actions.

“He’s a one term mayor,” she said, adding the mobile home park residents are politically organizing.

Rancho La Paz resident Todd Harrison said he wasn’t surprised by Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“The outcome — after the previous meeting about helping the seniors with the subsidy — I knew what was going to happen,” said Harrison, who was reading over his lease Wednesday afternoon.

“The overall mood is, shall we say, grim,” he said.

In August, Fullerton implemented a rent subsidy to supplement Saunders’ subsidy program offered to residents, after Councilmembers teased a possible rent control ordinance for nearly two months. The city is using federal money for building low-income housing and addressing homelessness.

The move sparked Brandman to propose a duplicate program in Anaheim so all the Rancho La Paz seniors will be covered under the same subsidy. But that proposal was ultimately killed Oct. 22 when O’Neil introduced a proposed safety net program for all seniors, which includes a rent subsidy. But that’s not expected to roll out until Jan. 1. Harrison said Anaheim’s meeting was the seniors’ last chance for rent control because they have to sign the leases by Thursday, which state a lessee won’t be covered under any local rent control ordinance.

“The cities have flatout said no, the County won’t even consider it. So the level we have to turn to is the state, which signing the lease does not exclude us from if the state passes [rent control for mobile home parks],” Harrison said.

The Rancho La Paz seniors were able to delay the new leases until Nov. 1, through negotiations between residents and the owner of the park, John Saunders. Rents will ultimately go up 80 percent in five years.

Saunders bought the property in February and the property tax increased from $100,000 to $800,000 a year.

Although the park owner, Saunders, is funding rent subsidies, Harrison and Ramirez said it’s not enough to help many of the seniors on fixed incomes.

“So now we look for the next battle. Now the battle has to be a step up above our City Council — we have to go to the state. We can’t just leave it be. Because even though he’s saying he did the subsidy … within three years everybody at this park is in trouble,” Ramirez said.

According to a letter from Saunders in the Fullerton City Council July 16 agenda report, rents will go up 19 percent Oct. 1 and will increase another 19 percent Oct. 1, 2020. In 2021, the rent will increase 15 percent and after that rents will increase 9 percent annually until 2024.

“We understand that he’s gotta make a profit and all that stuff,” Ramirez said. “But there’s got to be other ways to do this.”

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