Members of the public raise their hands in support of a resident of Cabrillo Mobile Home Estates Park in support of a new mobile home park rental stabilization ordinance passed by the Capitola City Council Thursday night. (PK Hattis – Santa Cruz Sentinel)
CAPITOLA — The Capitola City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to include measures to stabilize mobile home rent in its municipal ordinance, just days before a sharp increase in rental rates for residents at the Cabrillo Mobile Home Estates Park was due to be introduced.
The decision came after weeks of protest from residents at Cabrillo Mobile Home Estates Park, who said the park’s private owner told them their rents would increase by 56% from $641 starting June 1 following the expiration of an existing 12-year lease would rise to $1,000.
The ordinance, which requires a four-fifths majority, went into effect immediately after it was passed Thursday night.
Among other things, it sets a maximum allowable annual rent increase that is slightly higher than the CPI or the park’s base rent, whichever is lower. It also includes exceptions for other RV parks that already have long-term leases or operate with more protective agreements.
“Increasing my rent would have a significant impact on the quality of my healthcare and would require adjustments to my prescriptions,” said John Hakin, Cabrillo Estates resident and president of his homeowners’ association, ahead of the vote. “I urge you to vote for the Rent Stabilization Ordinances so that we can continue to live here and I can afford my health care.” And it would take a lot of the stress out of a lot of people.”
The council chamber was standing room only and packed with more than 70 in attendance. The vast majority of them supported the ordinance and were either residents of the 68-space park themselves or neighbors and friends.
Many speakers from the public expressed concern for the residents, many of whom are elderly, on low or fixed incomes, or from underserved communities.
“The possibility of losing all of that because we can’t pay the rent is terrifying. I love the social interaction, I love seeing and talking to the kids, I love the laughs and greetings from people who walk by while I’m gardening,” said Dianne Delisle, who is 83. “The idea, even if I could hold out for a while, was that a lot of my neighbors were gone, especially the kids. And that makes me extremely sad.”
According to the staff report, the regulation sets a maximum allowable annual rent increase at 5% plus the CPI or up to 10% of the base rent, whichever is lower. The basic rent is the rent as of May 25th.
It also includes a resident dispute procedure and allows owners to increase the base rent of vacant spaces by 15%.
Exceptions to the ordinance include rooms subject to a rental period of more than 12 months; newly built rooms; Rooms where the tenant does not claim the room as their main residence; spaces subject to an agreement that offers more protection than the regulation; Parks owned by residents.
According to the staff report, most of the city’s eight mobile home parks are exempt from these conditions, with the exception of Cabrillo Estates and possibly some residents at the Surf and Sand Mobile Home Park.
Cabrillo Estates owner Linda Vieira of Vieira Enterprises did not respond to multiple Sentinel requests for comment Friday, but called in at the meeting Thursday to disagree.
“There are several serious elements of this restrictive legislation that we oppose, but unfortunately, as we have not received adequate notice, we cannot fully formulate our details of the objection,” Vieira noted, saying she had no communication from the city on the agenda item receive. “We therefore urge the Council to refrain from passing this unenforceable regulation at this time.”
City Clerk Julia Moss confirmed that the agenda was released more than 72 hours before the meeting, in accordance with the state’s Brown Act requirements.
Mark Alpert, who said he represented Surf and Sand some 15 years ago during a protracted legal battle over a previous rent control regulation that resulted in a settlement and several long-term leases, also spoke up to object.
“I don’t think you’ve had enough time to consider the potential litigation costs that are very, very likely to result from the decision to introduce rent control,” Alpert said, adding that he was considering possible litigation by Surf and Sand was “very likely”.
Ultimately, four council members voted in favor of the ordinance, with Mayor Margaux Keizer, who lives within 500 feet of a park subject to the new law, voting no.
Deputy Mayor Kristen Brown contradicted comments that the council had not fully thought through the action or was touched by the “emotional appeal”, calling the comments “a little offensive”.
“I’m a renter and I’ve had to move twice in my entire tenure on City Council, and twice I didn’t know if I would find somewhere I could afford to live in,” Brown said. “If I were faced with a 56% rent increase now, I couldn’t afford it.”
A Spanish-speaking resident of Cabrillo Estates told the council, with translation by Capitola Police Officer Jaime Ponciano, that she was very concerned about the impact of the potential rent increase, but did not have enough resources to understand what actions would be taken into account.
City Manager Jamie Goldstein, in response to a question from Councilman Joe Clarke, confirmed that the city is not currently translating its ordinances.
“I hope we can do that,” said Clarke, who also advocated expanding Spanish-language outreach on “something like this that affects so many of our citizens.”
Councilor Yvette Brooks reiterated Clarke’s call for multilingual information sharing, adding that she was “proud” to support the passage of the regulation.
“This is affecting real people’s lives — the lives of seniors, children and the workers in our community,” Brooks said, “and it’s our responsibility — my responsibility — as your representative to make sure everyone here has an opportunity to unfold.”
The Council also approved a further regulation at first reading, which is essentially the same as the emergency regulation but intended as a longer-term replacement that offers additional protection against potential challenges.
This regulation is intended to replace the immediate regulation and will come into force on July 8th.