The Lancaster Rent Arbitration Board Will Hear Us Shout,

“It’s Too Much!”

The new owners of the Locust Grove Mobile Home Park at 1617 East Avenue I in Lancaster have          petitioned  the Lancaster Rent Arbitration Board (RAB) for a rent increase that will more than double the    current rents. The owners cite increased taxes and operating costs as the main reasons for the huge         increase. The hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on May 2, 2006 in the Lancaster City Council chambers.


Sound familiar? Last July the new owners of Sherwood Mobile Home Park, also on East Avenue I in   Lancaster, petitioned the RAB  for a sizeable rent increase. In spite of a huge turnout of mobile home    residents objecting to the increase, it was a slam-dunk for the Sherwood park owner. With deaf ears and blind eyes, the RAB ignored the Sherwood Home Owners Associations facts and figures showing  that the park owners argument for an increase was exaggerated.   And with virtually no discussion, they approved the increase. The Lancaster RAB’s decision can not be appealed.

This time, when the RAB meets, they will find the Council Chambers filled with protesters who are willing to walk a picket line outside City Hall on the day of the hearing, carrying banners and signs screaming  protests against the unfair and unjust rent increase!  The AV CoMO-CAL group says it wants to make a circus act out of this protest and hopes to draw attention from the local media  so that the general public may know what is going on.

It is almost common knowledge throughout the Antelope Valley that the RAB in  Lancaster is heavily   biased toward mobile home park owners.  In the case of the Sherwood MHP, approval of the Sherwood MHP rent increase was based on a Review of the park owners petition by Clay Hage, hired by the City of Lancaster to render an impartial decision about whether the rent increase was justified or not. The big fly in this ointment, however, was the fact that Clay Hage’s credentials show he was a management consultant for mobile home park owners.  For 15 years, he worked for the largest manufactured housing trade  association in the United States, Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA).  Do you think his decision was impartial?  Well that’s out the window!

For the Locust Grove MHP review, the City of Lancaster has hired one Michael St. John. At the time of this printing, the Lancaster City Clerk could not give us any resume for Michael St. John. Want to guess which way this guy will lean?

But the Locust Grove residents are going to block this slam-dunk! Upon the advice of CoMO-CAL’s Antelope Valley Group, they have formed a five man committee and have had  a certified public accountant look into the park owners statistical reasons for the increase, and according to latest unofficial reports from the Locust Grove committee, the Accountant has found numerous exaggerations and flaws in his petition.

The rent increase petition requests three levels of rent increase, with the minimum increase being about $70 and the highest over $167 per month. The Seniors living in Locust Grove, say that any of the three increases, if approved, would severely hurt them; even make it unaffordable for them to stay in the park.  However, at a CoMO-CAL meeting, the residents said they realize that there will be some sort of rent increase,  but more than doubling the rents is not equitable.

The Lancaster City Clerk tells us that the recommendations, which will be made by Michael St. John, will not be available until after April 15. This means that the CPA working for the Locust Grove residents will only have about two weeks to build a case against the rent increase. This is grossly unfair.  In our opinion, the RAB hearing should be held 30 days after the decision by Michael St, John, so that the Locust Grove accountant can have enough time to counter recommendations in favor of the increase.

The Lancaster Rent Arbitration Board is a five member group approved by the Lancaster City Council. It consists of  a Park Owner, a mobile home park tenant, and three at-large citizens who live in the city of Lancaster. Right now, there is a vacancy for one at-large member; a vacancy which may or may not be filled by the time of the May 2nd Locust Grove hearing. At the Sherwood MHP hearing last July, the   mobile home park owner was Chairman of the panel!  All members of the RAB are appointed to serve for two years and only meet when a petition for a rent increase (over and above the annual CPI-based rent increase) is filed with the City Clerk. The term of one  at-large RAB member will expire  next year, and the other members terms will expire in 2007. The AV CoMO-CAL Group is now seeking Lancaster    residents, with no ties to mobile home parks to file for appointment to the Board.

Any and all mobile home residents living in Lancaster are encouraged to show up at the May 2nd hearing. As we all know, there is great power in numbers and the bigger the crowd the louder we shout. Support your fellow mobile home park space renters, you never know when you’ll be next!                               .            .                         (Article by Ralph Weber, President of the Antelope Valley CoMO-CAL group.)