OC Mobile Home Park Seniors Win Rent Relief After Two Years of Activism

Source: Voice of OC

Rancho La Paz senior mobile home residents now have a state law to shield them against rent spikes throughout the park — which straddles Anaheim and Fullerton — after more than two years of activism on the issue.  

Park resident Lupe Ramirez spearheaded the fight, which began in early 2019, to get Anaheim and Fullerton city councils to enact a rent control ordinance. She and other seniors from Rancho La Paz became regulars at city council meetings in Anaheim and Fullerton throughout most of 2019 and early 2020 — until the pandemic hit.

While the political will for rent control wasn’t there, respective city council members passed rental subsidies for the residents.

Ramirez and other park residents then took the fight up the legislative chain to Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) who crafted a rent control bill, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law late last month.

“We worked very closely with Lupe Ramirez and their advocates,” Quirk-Silva said in a Thursday phone interview. 

Ramirez said she and the rest of the park residents felt relieved when Newsom signed the bill.

“It felt like a ton of bricks was lifted off my shoulders,” Ramirez said in a Thursday phone interview. 

She said the stresses of rent spikes — coupled with worries during the pandemic — took a toll on the mobile home residents. 

“We’re seeing people just die from giving up,” Ramirez said. “Over the pandemic there were like 24 people that died. And 19 of them we know — for sure — started getting worse from the stress.” 

The law mandates “management shall not, over the course of any 12-month period, increase the gross rental rate for a tenancy in a qualified mobile home park more than 3 percent plus the percentage change in the cost of living, or 5 percent, whichever is lower, of the lowest gross rental rate charged for a tenancy at any time during the 12 months prior to the effective date of the increase.”

Quirk-Silva said very few cities have been willing to issue rent control ordinances.

“We often heard that local jurisdictions can work on these ordinances — they have the power to do it. The truth is they don’t choose to do it — like we saw with Fullerton and Anaheim. At any point Anaheim or Fullerton could’ve put in an ordinance for these residents,” Quirk-Silva said.

The Assemblywoman also said she tried to get statewide rent protection for all mobile home residents, but had to make some concessions due to opposition from mobile home park owner groups. 

“That bill, as written, really applies at this point to Rancho La Paz because what it specifies is mobile homes that fall within two jurisdictions,” Quirk-Silva said. “We had to make those amendments to back off the opposition.” 

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Since the bill was signed into law Ramirez said she’s been getting calls from residents in other mobile home parks who are looking to mirror the efforts by Rancho La Paz seniors.

“It’s been a lot of trial and error on how we’ve gone about this. I thought that when we first started going to talk to the city councils, I thought they were going to be sympathetic — boy, not in Anaheim,” Ramirez said. 

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Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu tabled a proposed rent control ordinance — cutting any discussion on the issue — during an October 2019 city council meeting. 

Rents went up throughout Rancho La Paz the next day.

Ramirez said many residents rely on social security income and that mobile home parks have “some of the most vulnerable people. It’s usually seniors, poor people and the disabled that live in mobile homes.” 

Quirk-Silva said mobile homes are also part of the solution to California’s worsening affordable housing crisis and she’s examining ways to get statewide protections for the rest of the parks.

“I certainly want to do what we have done for Rancho La Paz for others,” she said. “The parks are one of the biggest ways to combat homelessness.”