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Written by Jesse Duarte | Source
Napa Valley Register | October 10, 2018


ST. HELENA — Facing opposition from the owners of Vineyard Valley Mobile Home Park and many of its residents, the St. Helena City Council is moving ahead with a rent stabilization ordinance that would limit rent increases in the park.

An ordinance would cap rent increases for park residents on short-term leases of one year or less. Residents would be able to choose between a short-term lease that would be subject to rent stabilization or a long-term contract that would not.

Caps can be based on a set percentage, tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or a combination of both. On Tuesday, the council directed staff to come back with a draft ordinance that would cap rate increases at 3 percent or 75 percent of the CPI, whichever is lower.

Administrative fees would be split between the park owner and the city. The owner would be prohibited from passing its share of the fees on to residents until 75 percent of the park has opted into rate stabilization.

The idea, which originated during a City Council goal-setting workshop in 2017, has drawn strong reactions from residents of Vineyard Valley, St. Helena’s only mobile home park.

Park resident Andree Bryan presented a letter opposing the ordinance signed by 149 park residents, which she described as a majority of the park.

Critics say that with the park’s longstanding policy of 3 percent annual rent increases, rent stabilization is unnecessary, could damage their strong working relationship with the park’s ownership, and could threaten home values and reduce owners’ ability to maintain the park. They also worry about administrative fees being imposed on residents.

“It ultimately will undermine the business model and impact our ability to continue on the path we believe to be best practice,” said Greg Reynolds, managing partner for the park’s ownership group.

Councilmembers Paul Dohring, Geoff Ellsworth and Mary Koberstein were in favor of moving ahead with crafting the ordinance, although Ellsworth said he’s withholding judgment on whether he’ll ultimately vote for it.

“I’m still of an open mind and want to hear full discussion,” Ellsworth said.

Dohring said the ordinance would need to be reviewed in two or three years to see if it’s working.

“If it’s not working … and if the support is still not there, then we scrap it,” he said.

Mayor Alan Galbraith and Councilmember Peter White said they oppose rent stabilization.

“I don’t believe a majority of the folks at Vineyard Valley support it,” Galbraith said.

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