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Local Elections : Mobile Home Rent Control Move Fails in Paramount

December 10, 1987|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

PARAMOUNT — With the defeat of a rent control measure for mobile home parks, one supporter of the failed referendum said tenants can expect big rent increases in coming months.

But a spokesman for park owners disagreed, saying a private agreement negotiated between mobile home park residents and owners will protect residents even better than the ordinance would have.

Voters defeated a rent control ordinance for mobile homes with nearly 57% of the vote. Only 15% of 10,777 registered voters cast ballots in the special election. Voters throughout the city were eligible to vote even though the issue was restricted to mobile home parks.

"The people have spoken. The council tried to cram this down the people's throats. They rejected it," said Donald Bendetti, who owns Americana Mobile Home Park.

Owners Banded Together

Bendetti was among owners of the city's 19 mobile home parks who banded together to fight the measure. The Paramount Park Owners Assn. along with the Paramount Taxpayers and Homeowners Committee raised more than $50,000 to defeat the ordinance.

"This was a case of no money against a lot of money. They had $50,000 to spend and we didn't have any," said Councilman Gerald Mulrooney, adding that many of the residents are elderly and needed the ordinance to protect them from sharp rent increases.

"Now that the owners have won, you'll see a lot of rent increases. They will have nothing to prevent them," Mulrooney said.

Bendetti disagreed. "There is not a shred of truth to that," he said, adding that owners are obligated to live by a private agreement negotiated among park tenants and the majority of the owners in August. Bendetti argued that the agreement is actually better than the ordinance proposed by the city.

Parks Favored Agreement

Twelve of 14 parks favored the park owners agreement over the city ordinance, according to Case Boogaard, former council member and co-chairman of the committee to defeat the rent control measure. Of the more than 1,400 residents eligible to vote, 681 tenants voted last summer for the private agreement and 261 voted for the city ordinance, Boogaard said.

The voting on the private agreement was overseen by the city. Mulrooney said the council proceeded with the election because there was no guarantee the owners will honor the private agreement.

The city ordinance would have allowed yearly rent increases up to 100% of whatever the consumer index increase is for any given year, while the private agreement limited the increase to only a 90% of the index, Bendetti said.

"We will now work with the tenants on the basic private agreement. In effect this is our own self-imposed rent control," Bendetti said.

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens. The question is will the agreement be enforceable without the passage of the rent control law," said Robert Eggertsen, a 65-year-old retired machinist who lives at the Californian Mobile Home Park.

"On the surface the owner's agreement looks better. We'll have to wait and see if it is enforced," said Eggertsen, who supported the city-proposed measure.

The council passed a mobile home rent control ordinance in July. It was suspended, however, pending the outcome of Tuesday's vote.

The council agreed to a special election after opponents gathered more than 1,500 signatures calling for a referendum. The election cost the city an estimated $18,000.

The ordinance would have exempted mobile home parks if 67% of the residents voted against rent control in their individual parks. Under the proposal, the base rent would have been rolled back to that of January 1. The council is restricted by law from taking the issue up again for 12 months.

Paramount Vote on Rent Control

Ballot Measure 10 of 10 precincts FINAL

Shall a mobile home park rent control ordinance be adopted?

Vote % No 966 56.8 Yes 735 43.2

Winner in bold type.

Voter turnout 15.89%

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