Nearly every senior Huntington Beach resident in the council chambers clapped and cheered when the City Council signaled that it would extend the protection from conversion of their mobile homes.
The council voted Monday to tack on seven more months to an expiring moratorium that is preventing owners of senior mobile home parks from opening them up to all ages. The extended time was required to allow city staff to draft an ordinance to permanently prevent the change.
City staff has until April 30 to create and approve the proposed ordinance.
"As far as the folks who live in Rancho Huntington, we are definitely behind you 100% in your support of us," resident Bill McCann said. "You're not the devil to us. And as far as our forefathers are concerned, they would be proud of you today because it's supposed to be a government by the people, for the people and a government that listens to the people."
The item passed 6-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper dissenting. He has consistently voted against the proposed ordinance, arguing that residents should be negotiating with their landlords and not coming to the City Council looking for relief.
"This is America. We have rights to property, which were endowed by our creator," Harper said. "It is up to this council and these council members to protect those rights."
He said telling park owners what to do would be like a government agency telling a store owner that he or she could cater only to a specific age group.
"I believe in the rights of seniors. I believe in the rights of all people to their real property rights, and I will be voting against this once again," Harper said.
Mobile Home Advisory Board member Vickie Talley warned council members that what they were doing was in violation of state law, explaining that they could extend the moratorium only in the event of an immediate threat to public safety.
Councilman Joe Carchio asked City Atty. Jennifer McGrath if the council member's actions were within legal bounds, and she said she believes that city staff has the evidence to support their move.
"This is real simple. If we want to protect our seniors, we vote for this moratorium tonight," Councilman Dave Sullivan said. "And if we don't vote that way, they're not protected."
Fireworks ban to continue
In other council action Monday, the ban on fireworks in Huntington Beach will continue after Harper's hopes to repeal it fell short.
The item, which failed 3-4, included two options: either ask the city attorney to draft an ordinance to remove the ban and allow the sale of state-approved fireworks or place the issue on the 2014 general election ballot and let voters decide.
Carchio said he is aware of the misuse of fireworks in the city, but said the sale of legal fireworks is important to nonprofits and athletic booster clubs in the city.
"I think it's so important that we really at least consider putting it to the vote of the people," Carchio said. "I would like to see us lift the ban, but I think it's so important that at least we should let the people decide. And I don't think that the seven of us should decide the fate of fireworks and taking away the opportunity for these nonprofits to make this money without at least having them voice their opinion."
Mayor Connie Boardman and the other council members who dissented said the past two years have been a nightmare for residents.
"I believe the trial was a total disaster and did not work," Boardman said. "It was very obvious that the people did not follow the rules in the ordinance. They were setting off fireworks down in the downtown areas where it wasn't allowed."
A free new car
The Huntington Beach Auto Dealers Assn. gave away a new car to a lucky winner Monday night.
The Huntington Beach Police Officers Assn. won the drawing and can choose a $25,000 vehicle from any of the car dealers in the group.
The Auto Dealers Assn. printed 5,000 tickets and divided them among seven of the city's nonprofits, which then sold them at $10 each. The organizations are allowed to keep the money from the sales.