A dispute over the treatment of mobile home and RV tenants in Imperial Beach is now a point of contention in the mayor’s race.
Republican Shirley Nakawatase’s campaign reported two donations Thursday, totaling nearly $10,000, from two sources — Eugene Mobile Village and Riverbank Mobile Home — that share an address with an investment trust administered by Erin Ogg.
Ogg is also an owner of the Miramar Imperial Beach Mobile Home and RV Park, where tenants rallied against the management in June, citing poor conditions, harassment and a policy forcing renters to move out every six months for at least 48 hours. It’s expensive to leave, and some come home to find that their rent has increased. Those who refuse to leave are facing eviction.
Nakawatase said she met with Ogg on the same day she received the donations through her website. She said she was surprised by the amount but is keeping the contributions. Those contributions amount to about a quarter of her fundraising total for the election.
“You don’t select who you’re going to get the money from,” she said. “The money just comes in.”
The City Council agreed last week to draft a new ordinance that would institute anti-harassment provisions, a moratorium on evictions, a 3 percent rent cap and mediation process for complaints. Officials are aware that it might trigger a lawsuit, because the regulation of mobile home and RV parks typically falls under state jurisdiction.
The ordinance was proposed by Councilwoman Paloma Aguirre, a Democrat who’s running for mayor against fellow Council member Jack Fisher as well as Nakawatase.
“Shirley wants to sell IB to the highest bidder,” Aguirre said. “She’s interested in protecting outside developers but not the residents of IB.”
Nakawatase was also critical of the park at a recent forum, calling the situation there “unacceptable.” But on Thursday, Nakawatase said she hasn’t taken a position on the ordinance because she hasn’t seen it. She’s open to an eviction moratorium under certain conditions, she said, but wishes the city didn’t need to intervene and the various parties could simply talk it out.
“I just don’t think we need more laws in the land,” she said.
The tenants tried to resolve their issues with park management, though, and approached the City Council after that didn’t work out.
Nakawatase runs an accounting business and is herself a landlord — she owns an apartment building in Imperial Beach — but said she sympathizes with the tenants based on her past as a renter. She said she pressed Ogg at their meeting on how the park intends to make repairs while keeping the tenants housed.
“I’m not out there to try to protect a singular landlord,” she said. “I genuinely feel that our citizens need to be heard.”
Instead of an ordinance, Nakawatase said she proposed a town hall to “see if we could come up with solutions,” and Ogg was amendable to that.
Ogg also met with city staff and some of the tenants this week, but officials are proceeding with the ordinance. Ogg didn’t respond to a request for comment but previously said she inherited the move-out policy when she and other owners bought the park earlier this year. She characterized the policy as a necessary step to make repairs on site before California rental protections kick in at nine months.
The city’s ordinance is up for discussion and vote on Wednesday.