5 Hot Issues to Watch This Week

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Here’s a rundown of the main issues we’ll be tracking this week throughout Orange County.

Is there something happening next week we should know about? Let us know!

1. Judge to Decide on New Santa Ana Gang Injunction

A local judge will rule this week on whether to approve a controversial new Santa Ana gang injunction, which would curtail the movement and activities of both juveniles and adults in the Townsend Street neighborhood.

The district attorney’s office, which said it will seek the order on Tuesday, describes the Townsend Street gang as a violent, criminal, “turf-oriented Hispanic street gang” that has sold and used illegal drugs, assaulted rival gangs, and intimidated, threatened and assaulted community members.

Gang injunctions have been an effective tool to combat street gangs and improve neighborhood safety across Orange County, the DA’s office argues.

At the same time, several Santa Ana residents, activists and youth advocates have spoken out against the gang injunction request, urging the city to meet with community members and collaborate on solutions that focus on gang prevention and intervention.

That approach, they said, would be more effective than police suppression via a gang injunction.

While Judge Franz E. Miller originally closed the hearing to the public, he later reversed that ruling.

The hearing starts Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Department C14 of the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

2. Huntington Beach Considers Rent Control

As local seniors and veterans face sharp rent hikes at mobile home parks, Huntington Beach voters could decide in November whether to implement a limited form of rent control.

The City Council will hold a special meeting Monday afternoon on whether to put on the November ballot a 6-percent per year cap on mobile home park rent increases.

The measure appears aimed at growing tension in Huntington Beach over large rent hikes for seniors living in mobile home parks.

After corporate owners took control of mobile home parks, the rents nearly doubled, according to the Orange County Register.

“People have already lost their homes, people have already lost their life savings,” Councilman Joe Shaw said earlier this year.

The increases in Huntington Beach are part of a broader trend across Orange County, as more mobile home parks change from family to corporate ownership, according to the Register.

Rent control measures, meanwhile, are highly controversial among landlords, who argue they violate property rights.

In a Twitter message last week, Huntington Beach Mayor Matt Harper disagreed with a comparison between rent control and Proposition 13, the measure that limits property tax increases.

“Proposition 13 limits the government. I support #Prop13 Rent control limits the freedom of individuals,” Harper wrote.

Renée Franks, a former Huntington Beach resident now living in Denver, tweeted back her disagreement with Harper.

“Its a decent comparison & rent control is needed Its not private owners jacking up rent its corp developers,” Franks wrote.

Brea-based blogger Rick Clark also chimed in, asking how Harper would address rising costs for seniors and veterans.

“Curious how you might support seniors and vets? Stabilize their costs?” Clark tweeted Harper, who didn’t reply.

Rent control ordinances are rare in Orange County, with a search finding one city that has enacted such a law. San Juan Capistrano has protections for the seven mobile home parks within the city, according to the Register.

In Lake Forest, residents earlier this year asked for rent control at mobile home parks, to no avail.

Broader rent control measures, beyond mobile home parks, have been enacted in five cities in Southern California, according to a tenant law website: Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and West Hollywood.

According to Census data compiled by Governing magazine, some Orange County cities have among the highest disparity between income and housing costs in America.

Anaheim and Santa Ana rank among the top cities in the country for the share of rentals where gross rent is at least 30 percent of income.

In Anaheim, 65 percent of rentals fall into that category, and in Huntington Beach it’s 62 percent.

The data also show Anaheim and Santa Ana as more expensive, in terms of median rental costs as a share of household income, than New York City.

Huntington Beach’s proposed measure would limit rent increases at mobile home parks to 6 percent per year, or the local Consumer Price Index if it’s higher. It would apply to tenants “whose monthly rent payment exceeds 33% of their gross monthly income.”

The cap would be unlikely to exceed 6 percent, barring a large increase in inflation; the local CPI increase hasn’t exceeded that level since at least 1996.

Click here to read the proposed measure’s text, and here to read communications with the city about the proposal.

Monday’s special meeting starts at 2:30 p.m. at Huntington Beach City Hall.

3. Toll Lane Debate Stirred Up by State Decision

Given a recent state decision to place toll lanes on the 405 freeway in Orange County, Monday’s county transportation meeting is expected to feature a heated debate.

Officials with Caltrans announced Friday they would eventually be placing toll lanes on the freeway, arguing they would speed up traffic and raise much-needed revenue for freeway projects.

It sets up what will likely be a drawn-out confrontation between state and local officials in Orange County.

When the idea of toll lanes on Interstate 405 came to the fore last fall, the backlash was fierce.

Numerous elected officials and business representatives protested, calling the proposal – among other things – a violation of a promise to voters for Measure M2, the county’s half-percent sales tax for transportation upgrades.

And earlier this month, Orange County Transportation Authority or OCTA Director Frank Ury said regional and state officials are slated to “bludgeon” the county with pressure to add the lanes.

The toll lanes, called Lexus lanes by opponents, create two categories of drivers. Those who can afford it, can pay the tolls and use special lanes to avoid heavy traffic. Those who can’t afford it, stay in traffic jams in the free lanes.

Local officials are already reacting to Caltrans’ decision.

“It is unconscionable and unprecedented that Caltrans would ignore the clear direction of the OCTA Board and the local communities,” Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey, who represents a coalition of cities along the 405, wrote in an email Friday.

OCTA staff, meanwhile, generally agree with Caltrans that toll lanes would be the most efficient option for reducing traffic congestion.

The transportation board meeting starts Monday at 9 a.m. at OCTA’s headquarters in Orange.

4. Anaheim Youth to Learn About Civic Engagement

Local community groups have planned a summit this week aimed at boosting civic engagement and participation among Anaheim youth.

The two-day training at Anaheim High School “seeks to educate youth with an introduction to civics and how the government works…and provide opportunities for youth to become civically engaged in Anaheim through experiential learning,” according to organizers with the Orange County Congregation Community Organization.

Scheduled speakers include Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Mike Matsuda, Los Amigos of Orange County President Jose Moreno, Orange County Congregation Community Organization or OCCCO Executive Director Miguel Hernandez and Ryan Ruelas, founder of the student leadership group BROS.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. More details are available by clicking here or contacting Cynthia Sanchez of OCCCO at cynthia@occcopico.org.

5. Santa Ana Activist to Fight ‘Bicycle License’ Ticket

As Santa Ana tries to become a more bike-friendly city, a local activist says his experience doesn’t jibe with the city’s rhetoric.

Igmar Rodas, an outspoken activist on homeless and police issues, was cited by Officer S. Lopez on May 20 for riding an unlicensed bicycle and cycling on a sidewalk in the city’s Civic Center.

Rodas, who runs a Facebook page titled “SAPD – Stop Abusing People’s Derechos,” plans to fight the ticket at a hearing in Orange County Superior Court on Wednesday. The hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. at the Central Justice Center, Department C46.

It’s unclear how often the city issues such tickets; the police department hasn’t yet allowed Voice of OC to inspect bicycle license and sidewalk cycling tickets sought in a July 2 public records request.

While state law requires agencies to give an estimated date the records will be provided or request an extension within 10 days of a request, Santa Ana police officials have not yet done so after 25 days.

A section of the Santa Ana municipal code prohibits riding a bicycle that hasn’t been licensed with the city or has another state-approved license. The Santa Ana law was enacted in 1975 and last updated in 1989.

Another section of the municipal code prohibits riding a bicycle on “a sidewalk within a business district.”

Proponents of the license requirement have argued registration makes it easier to recover stolen bikes. Cycling advocates, meanwhile, say the law is too often abused by police to cite cyclists who are unaware of the requirement.

The city of Long Beach, which many biking advocates consider a regional leader on bike-friendliness, eliminated its bike license requirement in 2011. Los Angeles suspended its licensing program in 2009.

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

Orange County Transportation Authority Board 

San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency (Special Meeting) 

Cypress City Council 

Huntington Beach City Council (Special Meeting) 

Seal Beach City Council 

Tustin Unified School District Board (Special Meeting) 

Tuesday

Fullerton School District 

Wednesday

Laguna Woods City Council 

Thursday

Westminster School District 

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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