This story has been altered since its original posting.OCEANSIDE — Oceanside voters will decide on Propositions E and F come June 5.Proposition E upholds vacancy decontrol and allows mobile home park owners to increase space rents without limits for mobile home owners.
Proposition F amends the city charter and adopts a required majority vote for the election of the mayor and City Council members. This also means the likely costs of second elections to get majority winners.
Councilman Jerry Kern shares arguments in favor of the two propositions and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez speaks in opposition to the propositions.
Proposition E supports vacancy decontrol and nixes rent control on mobile home lot spaces, which has been in effect for 27 years.
“It’s basic fairness,” Kern said. “Rent control transfers property rights from land owners to tenants. Vacancy decontrol restores balance and restores the property rights of land owners.”
Sanchez argues just the opposite. She said mobile home owners have more of an investment in their home purchase and upgrades than park owners have in a plot of land.
“Vacancy decontrol transfers property rights from homeowners to the land owners,” Sanchez said.
Mobile home owners purchase and invest in homes that must be situated in a mobile home park. Kern said the requirement to have their homes in a park does not give homeowners the right to insist on regulated rent increases.
“It’s not equity, it’s a commodity bestowed on them in a form of government action,” Kern said. “Government gave them that commodity at the expense of land owners. How can you have equity in something you do not own?”
The city rent control ordinance that was passed in the late 1980s ensures controlled rent increases for homeowners and an annual return of 75 percent of the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, for park owners.
Kern and others argue the return for park owners is not enough.
“Owners have only been able to capture 75 percent of CPI, that’s 40 percent of what the market should be,” Kern said.
Sanchez said the return for park owners under rent control is fair.
“Land owners are guaranteed a fair return on investment,” she said. “Forty percent is a pretty decent profit margin built into the rent control ordinance.”
Vacancy decontrol will allow current homeowners to keep rent control provisions as long as they live in their homes. The following owners will not have this protection if vacancy decontrol is passed.
“They are protected as long as they live there, that’s part of the ordinance,” Kern said. “When the mobile home changes hands the rent goes to market rate. It provides a gentle, gradual change to the market system.”
Kern said allowing fees to increase without restrictions would bring about a fair market rate and stop lawsuits against the city.
“It lowers the cost of city administration and legal fees we’ve been facing the last 27 years,” Kern said.
Park owners have challenged the rent control ordinance, sued the city, and lost. Mobile home owners cover fees and attorney costs by a yearly fee they pay. There was a year that collected fees came up short of court costs and one-time city funds were used.
Although this was a one-time city cost, Kern argues this cost could come up again.
He said he expects future costs to be $10 million in the next 10 years. He did not specify if mobile home owners or city funds would cover these anticipated costs.
Sanchez said it is unfair to suggest the city is subsidizing costs due to an OK for one-time funds. Since then, the fees paid by mobile home owners have been raised to ensure they cover future costs.
“They’re paying their own way the entire time,” Sanchez said. “It’s not costing taxpayers a dime.”
Mobile home owners are a vulnerable population of seniors, veterans and families on a fixed income who must keep their home in a mobile home park and comply with the rules and rent rates of the park owner.
The loss of rent control would mean a loss of some of the city’s affordable housing.
“It would impact other senior affordable housing,” Sanchez said. “It’s an injustice to all homeowners in Oceanside and to seniors and veterans.”
Proposition F amends the city charter and requires the positions of mayor and City Council members to be elected by a voter majority. If a candidate does not receive 51 percent of the votes in the first election, a second election will be held between the top two winners. The amendment also requires council candidates to name the council seat they are running to win. Currently council candidates run for unnamed open seats and the top vote getters fill the positions.
Kern said the amendment gives voters control over the election.
“We’re too big and too important a city to have minority elected officials,” Kern said.
In previous elections a dozen candidates sometimes ran for two unnamed council seats. This often ended with the winner gaining a seat with less than 25 percent of the votes.
“The top vote getter did not get the majority of votes,” Kern said. “More people voted for someone else.”
Sanchez said the proposition, which was put on the June ballot Feb. 29 without discussion, is a power grab by the current City Council majority of Kern, Gary Felien and Jack Feller.
“It’s taking away local control,” Sanchez said. “They waited until the 11th hour. There was little public participation.”
Sanchez added that with further vetting of the amendment and safeguards in place, like a limit on campaign contributions, a majority vote could work.
Some say that the majority vote, which often requires a costly second election, gives the candidate with the most funds an unfair advantage. It also swings votes in favor of candidates financially supported by a political party or other organized groups.
Some think this makes the election more partisan than representative.
Kern said, “There is no such thing as a nonpartisan position.”
He said he is a Republican and is endorsed as a candidate for the November mayor race by members of the Republican Party.
Kern added that elections are won by message, organization and money.
“You appeal to a constituent group along party lines,” Kern said.
Others argue City Council positions are officially nonpartisan and should represent the diversity of local citizens and their interests.
“The extension of Melrose Drive and getting rid of the rent control ordinance are not partisan issues,” Sanchez said.
Lawsuits have been brought against other cities, challenging that their election outcomes did not represent the local constituents.
Kern defends majority elections and the costs the city will pay for second elections.
“It gives voters a clear choice,” he said.
Sanchez opposes the cost to taxpayers. She said second elections would be an unfunded mandate the city budget would have to absorb. This would mean a reduction in city funds and fewer city services.
“This is not a tsunami (recovery) coming out of reserves,” Sanchez said.
She added that in addition to high costs, second elections usually have a lower voter turnout.
“A true majority election includes runoffs,” Sanchez said. “This is making things worse for the citizens of Oceanside.”