I’m sure most of you do not know there is a Task Force for mobilehome parks here in Los Angeles. I write about the Task Force because you need to be aware – after all it is your voice at the LAHD, the agency that oversees your rent control.
I personally sat on the Task Force for three years.At first look you would think a Task Force is a good thing, but looks can be deceiving. Let’s start with basics:
Definition of Terms
LAHD = Los Angeles Housing Department
RSO = Rent Stabilization Ordinance
RAC = Rent Adjustment Commission
MHPTF = Mobile Home Park Task Force
Los Angeles has had a Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) since 1979. The Los Angeles Housing Department’s Rent Adjustment Commission oversees it. So where does the task force come into the equation?
According to the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) Mobilehome Park Reference Guide, “the Mobile Home Park Task Force (MHPTF) is an advisory group established by the Rent Adjustment Commission (RAC) in order to provide a forum which allows full discussion of issues (that exist) in mobilehome parks. The members of the MHPTF are mobilehome owners, mobilehome park owners, and industry representatives who meet to discuss and resolve issues and provide advice and recommendations to the Rent Adjustment Commission.” The Task Force was formed around 1990 and has met on and off for the last 21 years.
The Mobilehome Park Reference Guide?
The LAHD publishes a useful document called the Mobilehome Park Reference Guide. You can see it online at: http://lahd.lacity.org/lahdinternet/RentStabilization/MobileHomeParks/tabid/243/language/en-US/Default.aspx
The Guide, although very outdated (last update was August 2008), does have some useful information about Los Angeles rent control (RSO), pass throughs, reasons for evictions, the MHPTF, advocacy organizations, government referral and resource information, complaint information, etc. The current Guide lists 56 parks (about 6,000 spaces). I’d suggest every mobilehome owner in Los Angeles get a copy. Call the MHPTF Coordinator Rosa Benavides at 213-808-8837. She can send you a copy.
Who Will Represent YOU on the MHPTF?
The last meeting on October 26, 2011 lists ten members: Don Brown, Stan Cerveny, Clint Lau, Anthony Sansone, Marion Steveson, David Evans, Valerie Montoya, Bill Schweinfurth, Rick Strauss, and Dan Fischer. Those in BOLD are owners of mobile homes and have served as your representatives for a number of years, some perhaps 20 years.
Who may serve as your representative? In fact, any mobilehome owner who volunteers usually becomes a member (in spite of the fact that many may be pro-management). For years, your representatives have been just that – mobilehome owners that have volunteered for whatever reason. They have not represented any group of mobilehome owners, nor have they made much effort to disseminate information gleaned from meetings. They certainly HAVE NOT represented the 6,000+ mobilehome owners in the City of Los Angeles. They attend meetings to ask questions important to them or perhaps their park. And they usually do not communicate with residents in other parks.
Park Owner’s Reps on the MHPTF
So what about the other side, namely park owners and their representatives? What about their representatives on the task force? Most of the time three high level WMA members attend task force meetings: Clint Lau (past president), David Evans (Southern Regional Rep) and Bill Schweinfurth (Vedder Community Management). These three actively REPRESENT park owners through out the state of California, not just here in Los Angeles. The WMA is also very active in Sacramento, working hard to get legislation favorable to park owners, while trying to defeat legislation that would help you and I. All three are paid by park owners to promote and protect the interests of park owners.
What Is The WMA?
The following information was taken from the WMA website at http://www.wma.org/about/wma.cfm
Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA) is a nonprofit organization created in 1945 for the exclusive purpose of promoting and protecting the interests of owners, operators and developers of manufactured home communities in California. WMA assists its members in the operations of successful manufactured home communities in today’s complex business and regulatory environment.
Who are WMA’s members?
WMA is a statewide trade association whose members are largely mobilehome park owners who, collectively own, operate and control over 175,000 mobilehome spaces in California. WMA has over 1700 member parks located in all 58 counties of California. Community owners, operators, and developers of manufactured home communities in California, as well as suppliers of industry goods and services maintain membership in WMA. Our members are committed to the success of the manufactured housing industry.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Obviously there is a considerable imbalance between representation for mobilehome owners and representation for park owners. Park owners use highly paid representatives that are very knowledgeable about mobilehome issues. They attend all meetings and are a strong, unified group. This is their job! And they do it well.
On the other hand, Los Angeles mobilehome owners are, in fact, not represented at all. Their “representatives” are novice mobilehome owners who might have some interest, but are not trained or paid, and are certainly not professional. Some in fact favor park owners, i.e. they work for the other side! Most are well meaning and have given their time, but ultimately they have only allowed an “illegitimate” group to appear legitimate. Both the LAHD and park owners would have us believe there is equal and fair representation and the Task Force serves interests of park owners and mobilehome owners alike. Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither the LAHD or Rent Adjustment Commission seem concerned whether or not there is good representation by mobilehome owners, just as long as some representation. It is not surprising that the LAHD has no procedures, policies, minutes or records and promotes a Guide which we feel is again highly biased toward park owners. REMEMBER, this is only one issue with the MHPTF.
Other Issues with the MHPTF
The LAHD does not even have an accurate mailing list for the 6000+ spaces covered by the RSO, i.e. they can’t effectively communicate with those they serve. And although they claim the Guide is terrific, very few if any of these residents see or even know it exists.
I served on the MHPTF for approximately three years. During that time I studied the Guide and found some serious flaws. The Guide states “MHPTF is an advisory group to provide a specific forum which allows for (full) discussion of issues in mobilehome parks.” The word “full” was eliminated for the 2008 edition. Why? Because I complained that “full” discussion simply doesn’t happen. I made numerous suggestions for agenda items, yet seldom were they discussed. In other words, the “leadership” picks and chooses what issues they discuss.
For additional informationHousing Department website at http://lahd.lacity.org.
The direct line to the MHPTF Coordinator Rosa Benavides, is 213-808-8837. I recently talked with her and Rosa suggested anyone having questions about or agenda items for the Task Force call or email her. Her email address is rosa.benavides@lacity.org.The new MHPTF leader is Susan Gosden. She can be reached also through Rosa.
Editor’s Note
I suggest you take an interest in your local government. Go to a Task Force meeting. Every other one is held in Van Nuys. Call Rosa for times and places.
Change will not happen without the involvement of mobilehome owners who are dedicated to serving others.
If you are having issues in your park, contact Rosa at 213-808-8837, or Mobilehome Magazine at 818-886-6479. If you need attorney help, contact Chandra Spencer at 213-631-8331.