The president of the Chula Vista Mobile Home Residents Association said the city of Chula Vista alienated Spanish speakers with a notice the city distributed in March.
The notice informed mobile home park residents that to retain the right to appeal park fee increases and receive services under rent control, they were required to fill out a survey and return it to city officials by April 30.
“Speaking for park residents, we are totally appalled as to the atrocious wording of the ‘hold harmless agreement’ contained in the resident survey document,” she wrote in an email to city offcials.
Vaughn also said that translations from English to Spanish were inaccurate and some portions were even omitted.
“We are likewise infuriated with the back-handed way that you have treated Hispanic park residents by eliminating most of the critical legal language in the Spanish translation.”
Vaughn sent a letter to city officials last week demanding the survey be rewritten and redistributed.
Deputy City Attorney Simon Silva redrafted the language and said the new version will be mailed out sometime next week.
“We’re sorry for the mistake,” Silva said. “We take responsibility and plan to fix it.”
The survey asked residents to sign a release of liability to park owners, its employees and associates from “any and all claims, demands and causes of action in any manner … or willful misconduct by them, arising out of or in connection with the information and/or confirmation of eligibility.”
Vaughn said she knows of at least five people who did not receive the original mailer.
Vaughn asked city staff to push the deadline back to mid-May to account for the miscommunication and loss of time, but Silva said it would remain at April 30.
If any residents miss the deadline, within 60 days their home will no longer be covered under rent review.
“But if they choose to come back in they will have to wait 10 months, and during that time the park owner can increase the rent significantly,” Vaughn said.
Silva said the city will charge a fee that allows park residents to appeal certain issues like rent increases through the city.
Staff anticipate the fee could be as much $60 per year.
Silva said that resident outreach will begin the last two weeks in April.
“If they (park residents) need more information they can go to the (outreach) meetings,” Silva said. “The card will note where they will be held so we can answer for the residents how to fill it out.”
Vaughn said that having outreach prior to postcard distribution would have cured the problems that ultimately arose.
Chula Vista has 31 mobile home parks and 3,018 spaces where residents may pay anywhere from $450 to $850 each month in rent.
“You have a lot of seniors and people on fixed income or Social Security and they won’t be able to pay their rent and could be evicted,” Vaughn said. “I see several residents in this park where after they pay for their rent and bills and food, they may have $30 or $40 left over.”
Vaughn said while this incident shouldn’t have happened, she is pleased with the revisions.
“The city is stepping up and I want to give them a chance,” Vaughn said. “We all make mistakes but let’s get it right.”
On July 19, four members of the council approved a change in the city’s rent review ordinance to implement a temporary vacancy decontrol, allowing mobile home and trailer park owners the opportunity to set rent for their land at any price when a resident sells their property.
Some claimed it was a victory for property rights, while others said it makes residents more vulnerable to abuse by park owners.
The City Council is expected to adopt the fee in June and billing will start between July 1 and December and be applied annually thereafter.
Residents and city officials won’t find out how much the fee is until they determine how many residents qualify for rent control.