After months of working toward a solution for mobile home residents in Long Beach who had seen dramatic increases in their rents, the City Council voted Tuesday night to scrap plans for a rent stabilization ordinance.
The council was scheduled to ask the city attorney to draft an emergency ordinance to temporarily limit rental increases at mobile home parks in the entire city but instead opted to receive and file the item.
The issue arose because mobile home residents were not shielded under the city’s existing tenant protection laws because they own their homes and rent the land. Under the city’s municipal code land is not considered a habitable domain and was therefor not covered.
The vote to table the issue came at the request of residents of the Belmont Shores Mobile Estates, who had seemingly worked out a deal with Newport Pacific Capital Company Inc., the property management company that notified them earlier this year of rent increases of up to 33%.
Belmont Shores, located just north of Pacific Coast Highway on Loynes Drive, is a senior living community reserved for people 55 years and older, many of whom are on fixed incomes. The park’s owners recently carried out nearly $30 million in improvements at the parks and tied the rental increases to those improvements.
In October residents cried foul, saying the projects weren’t improvements at all but were deferred maintenance that was being completed on the backs of residents. They were given a Nov. 15 deadline to agree to the new terms handed down by the property management company.
Later that month, the council said it would move forward with options to ensure no one was displaced by the rising rents, including the potential for a rent stabilization ordinance.
However, Tuesday night residents asked the council not to move forward with the rent stabilization ordinance with some citing a deal, and others pointing to a threat from the property management group that such an action by the council would lead to more dramatic increases in rent.
“We all have to remember, when we got our last rent offer from the park owners it very specifically said if a moratorium is passed they will rescind all their rent offers and hit us with the maximum rent they’re allowed, which is anything,” said Tom Lockhart, a resident of Belmont Shores. “That’s the overriding consideration. We cannot afford that.”
The deal struck between the residents and the property management group came with the help of the city attorney’s office and Councilwoman Suzie Price, who represents southeast Long Beach, which includes the mobile home park.
Price said that the owners of the park had made a number of concessions since negotiations began, including spacing out the rental increases over a four-year span instead of the originally stated two-year window.
They also created a subsidy program to help keep residents in their homes and pledged to not raise rents above the recuperation costs that would be reached in four years. This offer was made despite state law allowing for owners to pass on the costs of improvements to residents.
Price said the original goal of preventing displacement and homelessness was achieved through this deal and the council did not have the authority to address the question of whether the increases at Belmont Shores were legal.
“We can argue all day long whether what happened in the Belmont Shores Mobile Estates qualifies as an improvement or is deferred maintenance but those are issues that cannot be litigated or adjudicated by the City Council,” Price said. “Those are issues for a court of law or an arbitrator.”