Park owners outraise, outspend tenants in Oceanside rent control campaign

by Ryann Grochowski | inewsource

Tenants of Oceanside’s seventeen mobile home parks have enjoyed controlled rent since 1984.

Oceanside is one of the last San Diego County cities with rent caps on mobile home lots, and last year, the city council voted to allow park owners to increase rents to market value when current residents moved or passed away.

A backlash from tenants followed, and the issue is going to the voters in June.

If city residents approve Proposition E, they will affirm the council’s action and rent control will gradually disappear.

Like any election, people have taken sides with their pocketbooks.

As of March 17, a park residents committee raised about $42,000 in mostly small donations from more than 100 donors to fight the measure. Eighty-two percent of those donors listed their occupation as “retired.” The committee has used the money for office supplies and door hangers, according to their most recent campaign finance filing.

On the other side, park owners have contributed heavily, raising nearly $270,000 — $107,000 in the past three months alone. Some donated twenty thousand dollars or more to the cause. They’ve spent the money on media ads, mailers and campaign consulting from firms in California and Washington, D.C., according to their filing.

Tim Sheahan, a volunteer working with tenants on defeating the measure, said it’s clear the park owners have an advantage in fundraising.

“They have very deep pockets,” he said, “and it was our money to start with that we paid in rent that they are using to try to gain even further advantage on homeowners.”

Sheahan said most mobile home owners are retirees on fixed incomes, and if Oceanside enacts vacancy decontrol, it would make it difficult to sell their homes.

But park owners say they just want a fair rent. Amy Epsten, an Oceanside park owner and chair of the “Yes on E” committee, said her group will spend as much as it takes to inform voters and fight “misinformation.” She emphasized that the ordinance will not affect rent prices of current residents.

“It’s a confusing issue and it’s an emotional issue,” she said. “Once people understand it, they’re on board. But, yeah, we have to spend our time and money educating the public.”

There is no limit on how much a person or company can donate to either committee.

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