LAKEPORT, Calif. – The man who led the effort to place a senior mobile home park rent control initiative on the Lakeport and county ballots asked the Lakeport City Council on Tuesday night to consider instituting such a rent control law in the city to protect seniors.
During the meeting’s citizen input period, Lakeport resident Nelson Strasser made the request to the council, which could not take formal action on his request because it had not been agendized.
Strasser and the Save Our Seniors Committee gathered signatures last year and qualified to place senior mobile home rent control initiatives on the county’s ballot this June and on the city’s ballot this November, as Lake County News reports.
However, a coalition of park owners sued the city and the county over the initiatives.
At a March 14 hearing, Judge Richard Martin ruled the initiatives had to be removed from the ballots because they were unconstitutional, had no administrative mechanism for a rent control board and that the flaws with the initiatives were significant enough that he couldn’t fix them in order to have them go before voters, as Lake County News has reported.
Strasser told the council that similar laws are working all over California. He said he spoke with officials from Santa Rosa and Ukiah, where such laws are in place.
In the case of Santa Rosa’s law, a copy of which he sent to interim City Attorney David Ruderman for consideration, Strasser concluded, “Tenants and owners are living very happily with that law.”
Strasser said the marketplace isn’t working when it comes to protecting mobile home park tenants. “We mobile home tenants are captive.”
During his comments, Strasser said he wasn’t interested in attempting the initiative process again, but wanted to propose a law in Lakeport like Santa Rosa’s.
“I’m not revisiting the initiative process at this point,” he said, adding, “If I have to, I will.”
He asked how to get the council’s consideration. Mayor Kenny Parlet said the process would need to start with city staff.
Ruderman explained that there is an ordinance process which would include staff review, council direction to pursue it and two readings by the council. He said the council could direct staff to meet with Strasser to discuss the proposal.
Strasser asked the council if they would be willing to do that. Parlet said they could direct staff to meet with him but couldn’t take action at the meeting.
The council also received a letter from the owners of Fairgrounds Village Mobile Home Park – McKay and LaRee Florence, Ralph and Barbara Beatty, and Jack and Lou Lefevre – read by the park manager during the meeting.
The letter explained that on April 10 the owners met with park tenants to get input on a proposed lease for existing residents.
“The objective of the lease would be to ensure affordability for existing residents, provide stability in the community while ensuring a fair rate of return for the property owner,” the letter explained.
The form of that proposed lease is “substantially similar” to one endorsed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in September 2008, the letter said.
It includes a 10-year lease term, annual rent increases limited to the consumer price index or 3 percent – whichever is more – and in any event cannot exceed 8 percent. The lease is fully transferable upon sale of a park resident’s home with a one time increase to the highest rent in the park at the time of sale.
The park’s current residents pay between $312 and $330 a month for space rent, which the letter said is significantly below fair market value for quality senior mobile home parks in the Lakeport area. Tenants also are offered affordable rent credit of up to $25 per month for tenants whose rent is more than 30 percent of their monthly income.
Park residents seemed supportive of the proposal, with a larger meeting of residents planned, the letter explained.
Strasser, who lives at Fairgrounds Village, was at the park meeting and there he announced his plans to ask the city council for a rent control ordinance. The park owners said they asked Strasser to hold off while they negotiated a lease, as they believed that could derail the lease effort.
The letter ended by asserting that Lakeport does not need rent control, rents are affordable and increases historically have been reasonable, with the park owners doing their part to provide Lakeport’s seniors with affordable housing.
“Mr. Strasser is acting prematurely and in bad faith,” the letter said, adding, “We urge you in the strongest possible terms not to give consideration to rent control in the City of Lakeport.”
Richard Forbes, who lives in the Sterling Shore Mobile Home Park in north Lakeport, said the proposal from Fairgrounds Village could put seniors in the poor house.
Seniors, he reminded the council, are retired and on fixed incomes. “This is a very reasonable thing that we’re asking,” he said, encouraging Parlet to have the matter agendized.
Parlet said he was directing staff to speak with Strasser.
Council woman Stacey Mattina reported later in the meeting that she also had been in attendance at the April l0 meeting, noting that the park came up with “a lot of solutions for the tenants,” including a program to help widows and widowers.