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Seniors give City Council an earful on higher rents

Dave Moller
Senior Staff Writer

Higher rents and rent control are a possibility for residents of a Grass Valley senior mobile home park, but city officials are concerned what monthly price restraints might do to the four other trailer communities in the city.

About 100 residents of the Olympia Glade Mobile Home Park in Glenbrook Basin filled the City Council chambers Tuesday night, insisting council members do something about impending rate increases from Sierra Corporate Management.

“It has to stop somewhere. I think it’s total greed,” said park resident Karen Albin who has seen her rent go up each of the four years she has lived there.

Though council members and staff said they would do all they could to get impending raises of $65 per month dropped to $37 in the park, they warned a citywide rent control ordinance some want could punish other park owners and tenants who are amicable.

Park residents said they are caught in the double whammy of watching the value of their homes plummet to almost nothing while their rent goes up. Their rent averages from $450 to $600 per month, and they were told several months ago it might increase $400 per month or more by Sierra Corporate Management.

That’s when city officials began negotiating with Abe Arrigotti, the president of that firm, to bring the increases into line for the seniors.

“The rents were too high and that’s when we got involved,” said City Administrator Dan Holler. “For renters, anything will be too much and to the owners, it won’t be enough,” he said.

“Things have gone to hell,” said resident Bob Dunn to the council. “Are you willing to give us help?”

Councilman Dan Miller said he would.

“When I see a senior being skinned by someone at the corporate level, it makes me sickened,” Miller said. “We’ll work our (tails) off to see you’re not skinned.”

“We care, but we have to be in our bounds,” said council member Jan Arbuckle, who met with Olympia Glade homeowners along with fellow council member Lisa Swarthout.

Swarthout reminded the park residents that the council couldn’t set their rents in the end. Holler said rent controls are no guarantee of the future, either, because new city councils could change or reject them.

“We need to be real careful,” said Mayor Mark Johnson. “There are other parks being run well.”

Rent control would take two steps by the city if implemented, Holler said. First, an urgency ordinance would freeze rent increases, and second, a full rent control ordinance would be written.

Research in other cities that have rent control show mixed results, Holler said.

The city has been negotiating a deal with Arrigotti, seeking the $37 per month increase for two years and then tying future hikes to the consumer price index with a floor of 4 percent and a ceiling of 7 percent. The draft agreement which is being sent to park residents also seeks long-term leases of 10, 15 or 20 years.

Council members said they wanted to look at the final agreement’s language before deciding anything. Park residents said they feared it would strip their rights for legal action. Holler and City Attorney Ruthann Zeigler said they would research the issue further.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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