The residents of heard the confirm the victory they actually won three weeks ago against the company that owns the park, at a special meeting on Thursday.
Three commissioners voted unanimously to affirm that Equity Lifestyle Properties will not get the rental rate increase the company had asked for—a rate increase that would have jacked up space rentals by about $472 a month for the average space in the park.
Given that the average rate the residents are paying now is around $720 a month, it would have represented a staggering increase, especially to senior citizens on fixed incomes.
But park residents did not race home to pop the champagne corks.
They say they know full well this was a skirmish—a minor battle—in the ongoing war between the park owners and the City of Santee.
“We know this is going to go to court, that the owners are going to sue the city over the whole rent-control law” says Joanne Lepur, a Meadowbrook resident.
“It’s all part of the park owners’ strategy, and not just Meadowbrook. The city has spent more than $2 million, so far, defending the rent-control ordinance in court, and the parks are trying to keep suing until the city runs out of money,” she said.
Cynthia Celeste, the assistant manager of the Meadowbrook park, says she’s doesn’t know what the owners might do.
“I know they’re talking about what they might do next, but they haven’t really told us anything.”
Asked if there’s a chance the owners might sue, Celeste says only, “It’s been done before.”
Lepur and others at the meeting fully expect to be in court fairly soon.
They say the only reason the owners haven’t sued is that they tried once, and were turned away by the court, since the owners had not gone through all the legal processes before suing, and therefore didn’t have legal standing to sue.
The appeal for the rent increase was the procedural step the owners had not taken.
There are 12 mobile home parks in Santee, and requests for rate increases have come from almost all of them since the Santee rent-control ordinance went into effect.
A park owner must prove that rental income is less than a published index of returns on similar real estate investments in each of the three preceding years, and that the loss must have increased in each of those three years.
Equity Lifestyle Properties was unable to do that, and their request was denied as a result.
The residents know it’s a win.
They also know the war is far from over.