Roundtable: Voters To Decide Oceanside Rent Control Measure
Friday, August 19, 2011
Guests: Eric Anderson, KPBS business reporter
David Garrick, reporter, North County Times
Ray Huard, reporter, North County Times
ST. JOHN: And the thing that's happening in Oceanside that seems to be a very hot political potato right now, ray, is this issue of rent control. Now, the council has decided to phase out rent control at the city's 18 mobile home parks, and there's a lot of seniors and veterans and young families who I have been well there. But the council says it's at the expense of park owners. So first of all, how many affected -- people are affected by this issue, ray?
HUARD: There are about 2,000 or so spaces. So I don't know. Probably about 22,000 people.
ST. JOHN: 22,000 people.
HUARD: Something like that.
ST. JOHN: And this rent control issue only afternoons those people; is that right?
ST. JOHN: So would you say it's accurate to say it's seniors and veterans and young families?
HUARD: Yes, mostly seniors and veterans, not many young families.
ST. JOHN: So 22,000 people, why were there 15,000 who signed the petition?
HUARD: Because what you had was the City Council has a number of things to alienate different groups. The groups managed to coalesce, and you'd have them all in one alliance. And the neighborhood would be working together on each other's problems.
ST. JOHN: Can you give us some other examples of these issues?
HUARD: One of them is this group out in eastern Oceanside, their neighborhood is Jeffreys ranch, there's this big to do about closing a particular road in and out of the neighborhood, they're very upset about that. There's also a proposal to extend -- a road that connects to Highway 76. This council has more or less been in that issue, this council has resurrected it, and they want to build this road which has angered a number of people.
ST. JOHN: Do you think this issue of rent control, though, is a hot enough issue that it could actually threaten the majority? One of them is up for election next year, etc?
GARRICK: Three members are up for election. One of them, the majority, the ruling three.
ST. JOHN: Okay. So I guess that's the big unknown, is whether this issue of rent control in Oceanside's mobile home parks, which has been a key constituency for the past and the politicians there, whether it's still a strong enough constituency to make an impact on the City Council there.
HUARD: I think it is very strong because these are people who tend to vote.
ST. JOHN: Okay, Eric --
ANDERSON: I was trying to get at what the real issue was. I was doing some of the reading, and is it so bad? And I ask this as a question, but is it so bad to let you have whatever rent you currently have and when you pass it reverts back to market control? Isn't that what the measure is about?
GARRICK: Ray and I were talking before we came on the air because I cover Escondido, and they have 7,000 people living in the parks, and the all of profit that the mobile home park owners, their bottom line is very, very very wide. And I'm not arguing with what you're saying. But a wide profit margin will dramatically inn crease if they're able to go to decontrol. I think that might be an argument on the other side.
ST. JOHN: So Escondido does not have rent control right now?
GARRICK: They do. But they had for a while what ray's ordinance would create, right? When you move out, it goes to the market rate. If you stay in there -- you get to keep your rent control until you leave.
ST. JOHN: So right now, the problem is that the people who live in those mobile homes, their equity is decimated if rent control is immediately gone once they sell. That's the problem.
HUARD: They're saying we invested our money into this mobile home with the belief that at some point, we have to leave. If we have to go to assisted living or something like that, they could sell their mobile home, recoup their investment, then use that to pay for their living expenses in some other environment.
ST. JOHN: Tony, do you think this is the last vestige of affordable housing that stands little chance of with standing the winds of change? Or do you think it will be a hot enough issue to actually affect Oceanside politic politics.
PERRY: I think it could affect Oceanside politics. Almost anything can affect, as a man who's watched Oceanside over the years, it's always about two degrees away from a fist fight. This is being fought all over the country, as has been noted, there's money to be made here, a lot of money in these parks, and the people who own them would like to make a lot more money. And there's been all sorts of tactics, and ask supervisor Jacob, she got involved in a brawl involving east county and some parks out there. So this is very volatile, and as ray points out, these are pokes oft times who have their public plan for the rest of their life set based on a certain condition that now the park owners would like the pull the rug out from underneath them. This is tough stuff, and this is hitting sort of that very vulnerable people who thought they could live out the rest of their lives, and now it's threatened.
ANDERSON: David you said there this is a very lucrative business for the owners of the mobile home parks. But ray, is it the case where there's concern that people are trying to find a way to move these people out of the parks so they can be turned into something else?
HUARD: Well, the park owners have said that they don't want to drive people out of the park. They're saying they just want to be able to get a better return on their investment. In fact, at the hearing the other night, we had a park owner get up and say flat out, no, we are not going to try to move anybody out of the park. Nobody's being driven out, not now, not ever. It's just that once they leave, the owner -- the park owners say we want the right to raise rents.
ST. JOHN: Is this the only measure that the council majority has taken that is causing concern about affordable -- the stock of affordable housing in Oceanside?
HUARD: No, they repealed their inclusionary housing ordinance.
ST. JOHN: Can you sprain that?
HUARD: The way it works now is -- or the way it did work, if you're a developer, and you build a new project, you have to pay a certain fee. You have to include some affordable housing in your project or pay a fee instead of doing that. What they've done in Oceanside was they moved to eliminate it, now they've reduced it.
ST. JOHN: I'm sorry we're going to have to cut it off there. Thank you so much, Ray Huard, and David Garrick from the North County Times, Tony Perry from the LA Times, and our own Eric Anderson here from KPBS.
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