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As someone who has been involved with and is quite familiar with the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) in Calistoga, I have been questioned by and had discussions with several people interested in the proposed St. Helena ordinance.

Because I am somewhat hobbled and usually experience severe pain during the evenings, I could not attend the July 24 City Council meeting, so I wrote a letter to St. Helena Council members and the City Manager prior to the meeting.

Unfortunately, I forgot to mention a significant aspect of rent stabilization that may be especially important in making your decision -- vacancy control.

Vacancy control prohibits a park owner from increasing the space rent when a mobile home is sold unless the former tenant has been evicted or the home has been removed from the space.

Park owners fought this practice in a case that went on for years, claiming that it was “an illegal taking.” It was a case that originated in our own neighborhood called “Cashman-Cotati.” Finally, after decisions going back and forth, based upon a decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court, vacancy control was upheld.

It has been indicated to me that space rents have been routinely (and substantially) increased on the sale of a mobile home at Vineyard Valley.

I’ll try to make it as simple as possible. Turnover in over age 55 parks is substantial. Without vacancy control, someone sells you their home. The former owner was paying $500/month space rent. ( We like to refer to space rent as paying rent for “the little piece of dirt” that our homes sit on. There’s not much space around our mobile homes.) The park owner raises “your” home space rent to $700/month. You pay $200 more space rent and the 3 percent annual increase, not on $500/month, but on $700/month.

People move -- or die. Homes are sold, and rents continue to go up, and up, and up. Get the picture?

If you could get Mr. Reynolds to agree, in writing, to increase space rents only 3 percent per month each year, to implement vacancy control, and to give homeowners input into pass-through proposals, I don’t think you would really need an RSO.

Marvin Braun