By Joshua Nelson | Source |
The issue of mobile home rent stabilization will be discussed during a future Santa Maria City Council meeting after Councilman Carlos Escobedo became the second member to publicly support a scheduled dialogue after years of public outcries.
During a City Council meeting Tuesday, Escobedo, whose 2020 election campaign focused largely on affordable housing, called for a discussion to be scheduled after meeting with several constituents at the Rancho Buena Vista Mobile Home Estates earlier this month.
More than 20 mobile home owners attended Tuesday’s meeting to show support for rent stabilization. For them, the issue revolves around the fact that they purchase units on top of land which they then must rent from park owners. Unlike cities such as Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, where rent stabilizations are in place, Santa Maria mobile home owners’ rent is dictated by the terms of lease agreement.
“April 11, I was extended an invitation from the Rancho Buena Vista Homeowners Association. As my duty as a council member, I accepted their invitation and [heard] their thoughts and what they want. During that meeting, I did agree to bring their requests to [the] City Council to be discussed,” Escobedo said.
Escobedo joined Councilwoman Gloria Soto in voicing support for the discussion, as council members can’t schedule such a dialogue themselves.
“One thing that I would like to request at this time is to agendize the discussion for rent stabilization for mobile homes,” Soto said Tuesday. “Now that I know there’s more than just one person interested in having that be an item on the agenda, I’d really like us to move forward with that.”
Santa Maria municipal code states only the mayor and city manager may add items to the agenda for the council meetings.
After the meeting Tuesday, Mayor Alice Patino and City Manager Jason Stilwell conferred on the topic and decided to add it to an agenda for a near-future meeting, city spokesman Mark van de Kamp said Wednesday.
Gary Hall, a mobile home owner in Santa Maria and member of the Northern Santa Barbara County Manufactured Homeowners Team [NSBMHT, a GSMOL-allied coalition – ED.], has attended more than 25 consecutive council meetings, calling for rent stabilization. He and other mobile home residents have been campaigning for the City Council to adopt the ordinance since 2019, including submitting a 450-person petition in 2021.
“I’m pleased, I’m surprised and I look forward to seeing it on the schedule,” Hall said of the upcoming discussion.
The last time the council discussed mobile home affordability was in November 2019, when a model lease was adopted as a guideline for parks to help keep rent from increasing too quickly.
“I believe this model lease provides needed rental price predictability for mobile home park residents, while also acknowledging the needs of the park owners,” said Patino, after passing the model lease. “That policy is the result of nearly a year and a half of numerous meetings among our city staff with mobile home park residents through various representatives and park landlords. We heard from people who want rent control and those who did not want rent control. Residents and park owners made concessions during the negotiating process.”
Councilman Mike Cordero, along with Soto, dissented during the model lease vote, which passed with support from Patino, Councilwoman Etta Waterfield and then-Councilman Dr. Michael Moats. Both Cordero and Soto at the time commented that the lease wouldn’t do enough due to its lack of enforceability.
Mobile home owners continue to say that the model lease doesn’t go as far as rent stabilization, and is only a guideline for park owners and not a requirement.
“I live in a senior park, and you see the unaffordability every day,” [Eileen] Armijo said Tuesday. “Our owners chose not be part of the affordable lease program — the model lease — it’s not enforceable and our rent keeps going up.”
Hall and others are calling the May 17 council meeting a “Day of Action,” where mobile home owners from across the city will appear at the meeting for public comments, and several area nonprofits will be invited to show support for the rent stabilization ordinance.
The Santa Maria City Council will next meet on May 3.
[ED. NOTE: The Santa Maria Rent Stabilization Ordinance campaign has been funded in part by GSMOEF, the Golden State Manufactured-home Owners Education Fund, and GSMOL Corporate Counsel Bruce Stanton has assisted the residents, including speaking virtually at one City Council meeting. He is scheduled to appear virtually also for the May 17 Day of Action.]