Is it really working for L.A. Mobile Home Owners?

Several times last year we wrote about the Mobile Home Park Task Force (MHPTF), a group set up by the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD). Although this is a local issue in the City of Los Angeles, we believe it is typical how local governments work (or don’t work) state wide and worth your time to understand.  Mobilehome owners need to know this “status quo” will continue unless they are willing to take an active interest and participate!  NO PAIN, NO GAIN!

According to the LAHD Mobilehome Park Reference Guide, “the 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 (“mho”), mobilehome park owners, and industry representatives (WMA) 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 15 years.

CoMO-CAL President Frank Wodley is a fairly new member of the task force and has identified several issues.  One important issue:  Is there equal representation for both sides – mobilehome owners and park owners?  Here are the facts:

Today the task force has five “mho” members and three park owner representatives.   Let’s look first at the side of the mobilehome owners.  Just who are the “mho” members? Who do they represent?  And are they working to protect and promote the interests of all mobilehome owners in the City of Los Angeles?

In fact 6600 spaces (62 parks) are covered by the Los Angeles City Rent Stabilization Ordinance–  perhaps 12,000 owners of mobile homes and less than 60 park owners (some park owners own more than one park). Any “mho” who volunteers usually becomes a member (in spite of the fact that many mobilehome owners may be pro-management).  For years, “mho” members 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 12,000 mobilehome owners in the City of Los Angeles.  They attend to ask questions important to them or perhaps their park.  They usually do not communicate with residents in other parks.

What about the Housing Department?  Surely there must be procedures and guidelines for this task force. In fact, NO.  There have been no guidelines regarding participation, i.e. “mho” members might not attend for several years,  yet were still considered “members.”  No attendance records or minutes have been kept.  There are no guidelines regarding meetings – how many from each side are required before it is an “official” meeting.  The LAHD has made no effort to update the membership list in the event of a members death, inability to serve,  lack of interest, moving out of a park or other reason.  As a consequence the “Guide” is often out of date.   The Housing Department has not made any effort to inform residents that they even need volunteers.     

So what about the other side – the park owners and their representatives?  What about their members on the task force?  Most of the time three high level Western Manufactured Communities Association (WMA – the PARK OWNER’S group)  representatives attend task force meetings: Clint Lau (past president), David Evans (Southern Regional Rep) and Bill Schweinfurth (Vedder Community Management).   These three REPRESENT park owners through out the state of California.  Surely they communicate with all their members (1700 park owners approximately).  All three are paid by park owners to promote and protect the interests of park owners.  And please know the WMA is very strong.

CONCLUSION

Obviously there is a considerable imbalance between representation for mobilehome owners and representation for park owners.  Park owners have representatives that are very knowledgeable about mobilehome issues, and they are paid by park owners to promote and protect park owners interests. They attend all meetings and are a strong, unified group.   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. They 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. In fact the new chairman claims this is really not an important issue.   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.

What does CoMO-CAL recommend? 

The next meeting of the “task force” is August 1, 2006. CoMO-CAL must begin a campaign of flyers into the 62 parks in the City of Los Angeles to inform residents of this situation.  We intend to alert residents regarding our concerns.  We will ask for residents to step up and help us.  Frank Wodley and CoMO-CAL will continue to work to unite the four other “mho” task force members so that any action will be supported by all “mho” members.   We are looking for a viable solution.   This is a serious issue which can not be resolved over night. We feel many issues must be resolved before any mobilehome owner can consider sitting on the Task Force again.

The LAHD and park owners want to continue the status quo.  However it will take considerable time and effort to insure the MHPTF has fair and equal representation. And the 12,000 L.A. mobilehome owners will first need to know those sitting on the task force actually represent them.  We can not sit back and allow the “task force” to continue as it has.  We are only playing into the hands of the park owners and their representatives.  Bottom Line:  THE TASK FORCE DOES NOT SERVE US!

Dear Ms. Ortega:

The following is a list of items supported by a  majority (if not all) of mobilehome owner representatives on the MHPTF.  We feel it important that all items be implemented by the Rent Adjustment Commission in a timely manner.

Further, we feel the Task Force does not abide by the Brown Act, and is therefore not acting legally.  There have been no minutes and although the purpose of the MHPTF is to discuss important issues and make recommendations to RAC, I feel neither goal has been accomplished.  Until the Task Force abides by the Brown Act, I feel I can no longer participate and will recommend all other mobilehome representatives follow my lead.  For us to  participate only adds legitimacy to an illegitimate group.

MHPTF PROCEDURES:

  1. Agenda Items: There should be a call for agenda items perhaps two-three weeks prior to a scheduled MHPTF meeting.   MHPTF members should participate in the selection of those items that will be addressed first.  Others might be postponed until the next meeting.
  1. Minutes: All meeting should have minutes taken and distributed to MHPTF members within 2 weeks after a meeting.
  1. Meeting Schedule: There should be a definite meeting schedule.  There should be flexibility to meet on an emergency basis as necessary.
  1. Meeting Location: Van Nuys is preferred by many of us who sit on the MHPTF.
  1. There should be a written policy regarding membership, minutes, meeting schedule, etc. It should be made available on the website and in the Guide.

The Guide should be revised as follows.

1)       Representatives of advocacy groups for mobile home owners should be included in the mix (they are not now included). That means that our attorney, or Maurice Priest, or Milt Burdick (Zone C V.P.) can be a member of the Task Force.  After all park owner reps (WMA) sit on the Task Force.

2)      The list of MHPTF members should be updated – the Guide, modified in March 2006, still lists members incorrectly (Shipley no longer even resides in California, Tony Sansone is not included, nor Joe Posito, and no one even knows  who Sharon Kayser is nor has she attended any meetings in the last year or longer.)

3)      All representatives of the Mobile Home Park Task Force should be noted as park owner, park owner rep, mobilehome owner or mobilehome owner rep. All contact info for each person should be included – address, email address, phone number.

4)      CoMO-CAL should be listed with GSMOL and WMA as a local mobile home owner advocacy group (with our contact information including website).  CMRAA is listed but is in San Jose California and has few members here in Los
Angeles.

5)      CoMO-CAL should be the “Ombudsman” for the City of L.A. rather than David Evans.  We are an advocate for mobilehome owners – the L.A. Housing Department should be directing them to us, rather than to David Evans, WMA representative for the park owners group.  This is like having the fox guard the henhouse.    We have attorneys we can consult with should the need arise.  David Evans is paid by the park owners.  I’m sure he uses his position to alert park owners (his employers) of possible situations where tenants are angry and may litigate.  His advice to mobilehome owners is biased.  CoMO-CAL represents mobilehome owners.  We serve them.  We were formed to educate them and to help protect their rights.  Park owners on the other hand already have WMA to consult.  And I ask those who support David Evans in this role:  Where is the evidence he has done a good job?  Where are the checks and balances?

6)      At least four mobile home owners have volunteered to sit on the Task Force.  They have not even had a reply that their application was received.  Immediate action should be taken by RAC to approve them.

7)      A letter should be written (jointly by the LAHD and MHPTF) and sent to ALL mobile home owners covered by the RSO to:  1. Alert them as to the existence of the MHPTF.  2.  Alert them as to the purpose of the MHPTF.  3.  Indicate that a GUIDE is available to them.  4.  Indicate that CoMO-CAL is the ombudsman and they can be contacted with any questions – RSO related or otherwise, 4.  Ask for volunteers from parks with out representation. 5.  Tell them who their reps are and the reps contact info.

8)      Other content of the Guide should be scrutinized as to fairness.  For instance, the WMA version of the MRL is in the GUIDE.  This is certainly biased.  It should be replaced with Senator Dunn’s version or some other unbiased version.  The GUIDE lists 12 reasons for eviction, yet the MRL only 7.  Why?

This of course is not a complete list, and we reserve the right to suggest other items.  I feel it important that you take these items seriously.  The MHPTF has hurt mobilehome owners in the City of Los Angeles, rather than help them.

Thank you for your assistance,

Frank Wodley

MHPTF Member