May 20—Nearly 40 mobile home owners attended the City Council meeting Tuesday, holding signs and calling for rent stabilization ahead of a June 7 public hearing on the matter.
While it is not uncommon for Gary Hall, of the Northern Santa Barbara County Mobile Home Group, and a few others to advocate for stabilization during a council meeting, the larger-than-usual turnout was coordinated to make a statement.
"My fellow homeowners and I are here observing what we call our second Day of Action. It has been planned for many weeks in hope of shining a light on our need for both an enforceable and mandatory mobile home rent stabilization in Santa Maria," Hall said. "Tonight, I have delivered for you an important letter from our attorney Bruce Stanton. Mr. Stanton has once again provided you a partial list of the problems and unresolved issues with the model lease and enforcement agreement."
Because mobile home owners rent the plot their homes are on from park owners, they have called on the city to introduce an ordinance that would cap annual rent increases, similar to ordinances in cities like Lompoc, Buellton and Santa Barbara. The city had previously adopted a model lease in 2019, but mobile home owners have argued that the process to create that model was one-sided in favor of park owners.
"A fair agreement would benefit everyone. We understand that land owners need to make a profit, no doubt about it, but we also understand the financial conditions of our senior members on fixed incomes and our low-income communities who can barely pay their rent now, " said Andrea Mayfield, a resident of the Rancho Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. "The process around the 2019 model lease included the attorney for park owners but no legal counsel for the residents, so that was an uneven power distribution for negotiations."
After City Council members Gloria Soto and Carlos Escobedo showed public support for considering mobile home rent stabilization, the issue was scheduled for discussion during the June 7 meeting. Although a detailed agenda has yet to be released, many of the homeowners expressed gratitude that the City Council will consider the matter.
"I've come many times to talk to you about our housing situation," said Jackie Jones, who also lives at Rancho Buena Vista. "You've been very considerate in listening to our woes and I'm pleased that I don't have to present that kind of a presentation this evening; I just have to come and thank you and I appreciate your appreciation of our situation and putting us on the agenda."
During his public comments, Hall noted that the mobile home owners had retained an attorney who would be present for the June 7 City Council meeting.
Annual energy report
As a member community of Central Coast Community Energy, or 3CE, the City Council received an annual report from the community-choice energy agency.
"We are one of 24 community choice aggregators in California, serving 11 million customers, which is nearly 50% of Californians across the state," said Jenna Espinosa, manager of customer accounts and services. "Collectively, [community choice aggregators] support local governments to help them meet their climate goals, provide residents and businesses with more energy options, ensure local transparency and accountability and drive economic development."
By aggregating the purchasing power of communities from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara Counties, 3CE is able to partner with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to bring a wider array of renewable energy options at a lower cost. Currently, 98% of Santa Maria residents are enrolled with 3CE, according to Espinosa.
Since the last annual update, 3CE has seen a lot of growth, not only in total number of customers but also their output of clean energy.
"In the last 12 months since we came and presented to you, our enrollment in our 100% clean and renewable energy increased by 40%," said Espinosa. "We have at this time established contracts that increase the total megawatts of renewables by 49%, and have increased our battery storage contracts by 23%."
3CE has pledged to make its energy 100% renewable by 2030, primarily using wind and solar.
On March 1, 3CE rolled out new rates that Espinosa estimates save customers an average between 19% and 25% compared to purchasing from PG&E.
Another way 3CE has been helping make Santa Maria more clean is through its Electrify Your Ride Program. As a not-for-profit agency, the organization reinvests all of its profits, including offering rebates on electric vehicle chargers, rebates on electric vehicle purchases and more. Espinsoa noted that through Electrify Your Vehicle, Santa Marian residents have received more than $91,000 in rebates.
In other business
The council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance establishing a military equipment use policy for the Santa Maria Police Department. The policy was mandated statewide by California Assembly Bill 481, and discusses the process for acquiring and inventorying a wide array of tools that meet the definition of military equipment, such as flash bang grenades and bean bag ammunition.
The council also proclaimed June 2-5 "Go Rodeo Days" in honor of the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo, and encouraged everyone to wear Western attire while the rodeo is in town.