By Jim Tortolano
Wednesday’s meeting of the Westminster City Council went into overtime, extra innings and overflow. Finally, several of the major items on the agenda will get a second life next month.
The meeting lasted for six hours and six minutes and attracted a crowd of several hundred people, flooding the council chamber and onto the lawn outside and into a nearby building.
In the end, the council voted only to “receive and file” – that is, take no action – on options for rent stabilization (or rent control) for the city’s 17 mobile home parks.
The first part of the meeting was taken up with several hours devoted to oral communications, in which rent stabilization and the awarding of a permit for the annual Tet parade dominated as the most discussed topics.
One speaker claimed to have evidence that Chinese Communists were planning on acquiring all the city’s mobile home parks, closing them and building new housing there to bring in fellow communists from China.
Other speakers used terms like “traitor” and “bastard” to describe leaders of rival groups seeking to run the parade.
However, much of the remainder of the meeting was taken up with the issue of mobile home park rents. Speakers on both sides addressed the council.
Joseph Nguyen, a mobile home resident, said that some park tenants were being hit with rent increases of up to 70 percent. “Eventually no one will be able to afford the rent and that’ll lead to abolishing all mobile home parks in the city,” he said.
But Julia Paule, representing the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Assn., argued that “rent control erodes the supply of affordable housing” by discouraging property owners from developing rental housing. She added that the costs of administering such a system would be passed on to the rents charged to tenants.
Councilman Tai Do opened discussion of the issue by saying that past councils have ignored the pleas of financially strapped mobile home dwellers and promised to “heed the voice of the people.”
But the council wasn’t ready to do more than that. “The more I learn about rent control,” said Mayor Tri Ta, “it’s more complicated than I ever knew.”
Councilmember Kimberly Ho, citing past examples of residents, tenants and city representatives working together to solve disputes, suggested that as the best option instead of a formal system. The council voted 5-0 to receive and file the city staff report on the topic.
Also on Tuesday night, the council voted to choose the Little Saigon-Westminster Tet Parade organization to hold the annual Tet holiday parade set for Jan. 25, 2020 on Bolsa Avenue.
The council voted 3-1-1 (with Councilman Sergio Contreras abstaining and Do opposed) in favor of the Little Saigon group over the rival Vietnamese American Federation, of which Garden Grove City Councilmember Phat Bui is president.
Because of the length of Wednesday’s meeting, other items not taken up – including a report on homelessness in the city, as well as the issue of term limits for city council posts – will be postponed until the Sept. 11 meeting of the council.