Rent Increases and a New Theater

Last night’s council meeting was a bit of a love fest. Mayor Sam Abed was present, and was very pleasant. He seems to have accepted his loss.

There were two short-form rent review hearings for mobilehome parks, and the second for the Sundance Mobilehome Park was the one item on the agenda on which there was some conflict.

I have written about the way mobilehome owners in Sundance have had to absorb the park owners’ legal costs for the long-form rent review process, as well as the owners’ increased property tax.  The combined long-form rent review increases averaged almost $300. For seniors on fixed incomes this is a large chunk out of their incomes. https://ablueviewescondido.com/2016/08/04/another-major-rent-increase-for-sundance-mobilehome-park-tenants/ 

This rent review meeting was a bit unusual, as 11 of the 21 mobilehome owners (under rent control provisions of Prop. K) were present to object to the proposed new rent increase of an average $36.54 per unit. Having a majority of the mobilehome owners present to object to the space rent increase meant the council could reject the proposed rent increase.

The owner’s representative, Jeff Fisher, said he would like some verification of the presence of that many mobilehome owners.

Diaz noted the owners had already experienced traumatic rent increases. She again expressed her belief that the situation of the park owner’s property rights versus the rights of the owners of mobilehomes (homes that aren’t really mobile) presented a very difficult conflict.

Representing the mobilehome owners, Bob Wise quoted from the preamble of the Constitution, and stated his belief that the park owners were misusing Prop. K, to the point of elder abuse, cruel and unusual treatment, etc. He listed many ongoing problems with the park’s maintenance, and noted that the park owners had been required by the city to obtain four retro permits (permits for work that was done without prior required permits from the city.)

Councilman Mike Morasco asked Fisher why the park hadn’t obtained permits before doing the work. Fisher hemmed and hawed and said he didn’t have those details. Morasco scolded Fisher, noting that the time to have that information was at the present meeting.

Another mobilehome owner Susie Clark, who is a Realtor specializing in mobilehomes spoke. She had sent copies of mobilehome Multiple Listing Service information to the council, and emphasized the fact that the space rent in Sundance was around $100 more than the average space rent in Escondido parks.

Abed asked City Attorney Michael McGuiness to clarify what the council could do under Prop. K. McGuiness said the council could reject the request, or lower the amount of increase requested.

Morasco noted that a rejection or lowering the rent increase could trigger the park owner seeking a long-form rent increase. McGuiness said the owner could also try another short-form application. Morasco said he feared that a long-form rent increase process would likely be more costly to everyone concerned.

Councilman Ed Gallo said it was, and always had been, the nicest mobilehome park in Escondido.

Diaz thanked Morasco for reminding Fisher that he should have been prepared. She agreed that the short-form process was quicker, but the long form was more transparent even though there might be a greater risk to the mobilehome owners. The long-form process could clear the air.

Deputy Mayor John Masson agreed that Sundance was one of the nicest parks.

Abed repeated Morasco’s refrain about the long-form being more costly.

The rent increase was approved by “three yes votes, Gallo and Diaz voting no.”

The highlight of the meeting was item 13: “Conditional use permit, master and precise development plan and demo permit for 301 and 309 East Grand Ave.” That is, the remodeling of the old Ritz Theater, and the demolition and reconstruction of the building on the corner of Grand and Kalmia into a performance arts complex. John Masson’s company is involved in the project, so he recused himself from the discussion. Well, not so much a discussion as a celebration of the project.

The old Ritz movie theater was opened in 1937, and has a history that is typical of many such theaters, including a short stint (1972-1976) as the notorious Pussycat Theater. I didn’t move to Escondido until 1980—but the Pussycat reputation was still present. Morasco, who grew up in Escondido, said he couldn’t count the number of pairs of shoes he had lost going to the theater. (Referring to the sticky floors.) The city has done a nice job of recapping the history. https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/agendas/Council/2018/12-05-18CCAgendaPacket.pdf  (Go to page 54.)

The project is being developed by the New Vintage Church, and there will be some religious services in the building, hence the need for a CPU. But, everyone who communicated with the council was positive about the project. Every public speaker from the head of the Chamber of Commerce to the folks at the next-door Patio Playhouse were elated. Both Gallo and Abed said it was a great way to end their time on the council.

I have to agree with Gallo and Abed for a change. This will be a great improvement to Grand Ave. I think Grand Ave. and the old neighborhood to its south, are Escondido’s greatest jewels.

It was another, for the most part, very pleasant meeting.

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