Thank Sharon and Lupe – AT LAST, Rent Caps coming for Mobile Home Parks!


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URGENT UPDATE June 26

A day after writing this article, I realize I was desperate to write something optimistic in these dark times.  But it’s still by no means a sure thing that the Senate will pass SB 2895, or that the Governor will sign it.  And I need to emphasize how terrible things will be for senior and non-senior mobile home owners if the bill doesn’t pass – in Rancho La Paz alone, where 58 seniors are already having to be fed by charities because of Saunders’ rent increases, rents are scheduled to go up again this year by 19% this year, 17% next year, 14% the year after that; in six years they will be doubled, and in a decade they’ll be TRIPLED. 

On top of that there is still nothing stopping Saunders and other unscrupulous investors from buying up other parks and doing the same.  So please contact your State Senators and ask them to vote yes on SB 2895 (click on their names to send them an e-mail) :

  • Tom Umberg SD 34, (714) 558-3785 or (916) 651-4034 – remind him he’s a Democrat, representing many mobile home park tenants, and that HIS SB 999 [see below] won’t help any of them, will leave them at the mercy of conservative city councils, and to please do the right thing for the people.
  • Ling-Ling Chang SD 29, (714) 671-9474 or (916) 651-4029 – remind her that Rancho La Paz is in her district, that JOSH NEWMAN has been going there a lot, and that nobody will punish her for doing the right thing on this to save her seat.
  • Pat Bates SD 36 South County, (949) 598-5850 or (916) 651-4036
  • John Moorlach SD 37 (714) 662-6050 or (916) 651-4037 – as a conservative he’s allergic to rent control, but he really does care about the homeless, and remind him that the failure of this bill to pass will make many more people homeless, and not to let DAVE MIN use this issue against him.
  • Bob Archuleta SD 32 (just Buena Park in this county)  (562) 406-1001 or (916) 651-4032 – he should be good but make sure!

OK NOW my original article from yesterday:

Activist and Legislator, Lupe and Sharon, what a team.

At last – Fullerton Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (the OC’s only Democratic state legislator*) has a bill, AB 2895, that finally puts a reasonable cap on how high and frequently mobile home park owners can raise their tenants’ rents, and also extends to mobile home owners the no-cause eviction protections that AB 1482 gave to other renters. 

The bill has just recently passed the Assembly 50-18 (11 abstaining, more on that later*), and is set to go to the Senate some time in the next two months, where it’s likely to pass, and then be signed by the Governor, after which it will be retroactive to Feb. 20, 2020.

Fighting homeowners of Huntington Beach, 2014

And this bill has been needed for years.  It was six years ago I wrote about the depredations in my old hometown of Huntington Beach, where there were 18 mobile home parks (Hello Cottie.)  Mobile homeowners are different from the rest of us – they own their homes which often represent their life savings, and they pay rent for a patch of dirt on which to keep it.  Many of them are elderly, living in senior parks on a fixed income, accustomed to modest cost-of-living-sized rent increases each year.

The insatiable Saunders and Coldren.

But over the last 20 years, investors and corporations like John Saunders and Kort & Scott started seeing and taking the opportunity to buy up senior parks and convert them to all-age, allowing them to jack up rents by as much as double, because they could.  (They also raised rents exorbitantly in parks that were already all-age, because they could.)  Often – hundreds of times – the homeowner would be forced to abandon their home, because the things are really so unwieldy and expensive to move, and the park owner would come to own that too.

Huntington Beach council Democrats were willing to implement mobile home park rent control, but they were always a powerless minority.  Every year or so, some poor group of homeowners somewhere in California would read my HB story and write to me for help, but what could I do?  The same villains would pop up again and again – Newport investor John Saunders, sadistic “Star Management” manager Michael Cirillo, flamboyant attorney/investor Robert Coldren, all raking in countless millions driving seniors into homeless penury.

And I couldn’t get away from it – I moved to Anaheim, and the same crew took over the Anaheim/Fullerton park Rancho La Paz.  Once again they jacked up rents unconscionably, forcing many senior residents to have to choose between paying rent, food and medicine.  [I’m omitting many outrages, but if you have all day read this and this and this.]

But in Rancho La Paz, Saunders and his friends got a fight like they weren’t used to.  Don’t get me wrong, I met a lot of tough fighters in the parks of HB and San Juan Capistrano, but at Rancho they had to deal with Lupe Ramirez, an Apache warrior who’d moved to Rancho from a lifetime of activism in Long Beach.

Just a few of Lupe’s troops!

Throughout last year, the fighting Rancho La Paz seniors got a lot of good press and public sympathy, and, as their park straddles both Fullerton and Anaheim, they filled the city council meetings of both cities, by the dozens and dozens.  They noticed a big difference – the Fullerton Council listened sympathetically, asked lots of questions, visited with them… and came short of the real solution of rent caps which cities are perfectly capable of, but did work out some subsidies to help the hardest-hit homeowners.  (Many of us are cynical about subsidies even if they do help some seniors, because it’s basically the taxpayers subsidizing the park owners’ greed.)

The Anaheim majority must live with themselves.

But the Anaheim Council (with the notable exception of Jose Moreno and Denise Barnes) was useless – no wonder as Mayor Sidhu and other members of the majority enjoy campaign contributions from the very people they were being asked to regulate.  Jose and Denise’s efforts to enact rent stabilization were repeatedly suppressed and tabled by the majority.  Sidhu and “Democrat” Jordan Brandman met with Saunders, and convinced him to slow-walk some of the increases (putting off some folks’ penury for a year or two), and with great fanfare Councilman Trevor O’Neil announced a “senior safety net” which will help about 100 seniors citywide for a few months, and taken out of what was supposed to be affordable housing funds.

(One byproduct of all this is that the fighting seniors of Rancho La Paz are now in the forefront of the movement to recall Mayor Sidhu and defeat Councilman Stephen Faessel.)

Jose, Denise and Sharon with Rancho people.

But there was ONE Orange County politician in the area with the guts AND ability to do what had to be done – rent caps for mobile home parks – and that was Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva from Fullerton, OC’s only Democrat.*  Rent control, or as they euphemize it these days, “rent stabilization” was FINALLY an acceptable idea in Sacramento, as last year saw the passage of AB 1482.  But the mobile home park owners’ very effective lobbying group, the Manufactured Housing Association, managed inexplicably to keep themselves out of that law.  (Sharon sent me a couple of examples of their propaganda.)

So now it was up to Sharon and Lupe to take on the Saunderses of the state with AB 2895, and I can attest that Lupe has been working full-time, for free, lobbying for the bill that will save the thousands of seniors and others in her situation now and in the future.  For free, because she believes in it.  While a few miles away, Peter Whittingham and Associates, the public face of billionaire rent gouger John Saunders, pays $10,000 just to sit at a dinner called, in a panic, to SAVE MAYOR SIDHU from recall.

*Why do we say Sharon is our only Democrat?

I’d referred to Sharon above, a couple times, as the only Democrat in Orange County’s state delegation (at least until Josh Newman gets back his Senate seat.)  This may surprise some readers, as there are a few others who are regularly seen with a “D” next to their names.  But it is unclear what this “D” signifies in their cases, or if it is an innocent mistake, or maybe some sort of subterfuge.  And none of them were of any help passing this essential and timely bill, AB 2895.

For example there’s Assemblyman Tom Daly, who in 2016, while representing the poorest and brownest part of the county, had his aide Avelino Valencia call the police on peaceful union protestors who had come to his office unsuccessfully trying to get him to vote to raise the minimum wage.  More recently he (and Congressman Correa) gave their “Democratic” endorsements to an immigrant-bashing Sheriff candidate, Don Barnes, who is now endangering the county by refusing to enforce Governor Newsom’s mask orders.  And this Daly fellow calls himself a Democrat – innocent mistake, or some sort of trick?

Tom ABSTAINED on Sharon’s bill, as did first-term Costa Mesa assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.  We all jump and exult when some “Democrat” beats a Republican in the OC, but later when we watch that Democrat walk, talk, and vote like a Republican, we feel very foolish.  I have yet to see Cottie make any vote that would take any sort of courage, and I can’t wait to be wrong about that, but I KNOW she represents HUNDREDS, maybe THOUSANDS of mobile home owners, because I KNOW THESE PEOPLE.  It’s just a good fucking thing that the rest of the state has good Democrats.

Then there’s the OC’s ancient DINO cipher Tom Umberg, who once again sits in the State Senate, feeling that since he beat Janet Nugyen with a law-and-order campaign and pictures of himself with the Reagans, he doesn’t need to please any of the 3/4 of the public that’s to his left.  What did he do to help Sharon’s bill?  Well, we still hope he surprises us and votes for it in the Senate, so we won’t be TOO rude, but so far he’s tried to subvert it with his OWN bill, SB 999, co-sponsored by the Manufactured Housing Association – yes, the enemy – which does nothing but tell cities and counties that they have the ABILITY to enact mobile home rent control, which THEY ALREADY DO AND THEY KNOW IT.  That’s right, Umberg’s SB 999 has all the TEETH OF AN APPALACHIAN TWEEKER.

And so, we celebrate Sharon’s AB 2895, and Lupe’s pushing for it, and look forward to it passing the Senate and getting signed by the Governor – AT LAST.  Did I leave anything out?  Oh, a song…

Today, my bill AB 2895: Mobile Home Rent Stabilization passed on the Assembly Floor and is headed to the Senate. As…

Posted by Sharon Quirk-Silva on Wednesday, June 10, 2020

https://www.facebook.com/QuirkSilva65th/posts/3995330470509516


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.