Vineyard Valley Mobile Home Park

Vineyard Valley Mobile Home Park

The issue of rent stabilization at Vineyard Valley Mobile Home Park could be decided by St. Helena voters as early as June.

The City Council directed staff Tuesday to come back with a resolution calling a special election at the earliest possible date, which staff said would be June 4.

The council adopted an ordinance in November allowing residents of Vineyard Valley, St. Helena’s only mobile home park, to choose between a short-term lease subject to rent stabilization or a long-term lease subject to the park’s regular rent hikes. For leases subject to rent stabilization, maximum rent increases would be tied to changes in the CPI.

However, opponents of the plan, including many park residents, collected enough signatures to force the council to either repeal the ordinance or put a referendum on the ballot. The ordinance will remain suspended until the matter is settled.

The cost of the special election is estimated at $30,000 for a manual count, with certified results available in about a week.

It would be cheaper to wait until the 2020 primary or general elections, but councilmembers said it’s important to settle the matter now while it’s still fresh in people’s minds.

A June election in favor of the ordinance would allow Vineyard Valley residents whose leases expire on July 1 to opt into rent stabilization, said Councilmember Mary Koberstein.

“I am more concerned about the inability of people to get into this program than I am about the cost to the city of holding an election, which we are being forced to try to do,” she said.

Councilmember Paul Dohring said he doesn’t like having to spend $30,000 on an election, but the city made a $32 million investment in Vineyard Valley through the flood project, with the goal of preserving middle-class housing. The city needs to protect that investment, he said.

“Let’s put it to a vote and see where it goes,” Dohring said.

Staff will come back to the council with a resolution calling the election, either at the council’s Feb. 26 meeting or at a special meeting sometime before that.

Other action

- The council gave staff direction on a commercial leak adjustment policy that will provide relief to businesses that sustain water leaks.

The policy would give businesses a 50 percent credit for excess water use caused by the leak. A business could take advantage of the program once every five years.

The council told staff to create a policy after Tra Vigne experienced a $20,000 water leak. Once the new policy is adopted, the city will apply it to the Tra Vigne situation.

- The council approved the first reading of an ordinance and approved a resolution that will allow a council subcommittee to review otherwise confidential data about water use.

The ordinance will allow councilmembers to review the water use data to ensure compliance with water use agreements, conditions imposed by the city during a project approval, and representations made during the approval process.

The Planning Commission still has to review one aspect of the ordinance before it can be adopted.

- The council adopted an ordinance broadening the city’s social host ordinance, which holds property owners accountable for parties where minors consume alcohol, to include cannabis and other intoxicating controlled substances.

- The council approved a resolution supporting RV to Paradise, a community effort to donate at least one RV to victims of the Camp Fire in Butte County.

- The council revised the city’s financial policy concerning debt issuance.

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