One Anaheim City Council member wants voters in town to strengthen property owners’ rights this upcoming election in a city that’s repeatedly shot down rent control efforts.

The idea would allow people like landlords to “establish the price for which their property is sold, leased, rented, transferred or exchanged,” said Councilmember Trevor O’Neil, who proposed the idea at the City Council’s most recent July 19 meeting. 

Citing the “cost of inflation on the rise in California,” O’Neil said that night he aims “to place a charter amendment on the November general election” as a ballot measure and directed staff to come back with more information at the council’s next meeting on Aug. 9.

O’Neil didn’t respond to phone and messages seeking comment Wednesday, namely questioning whether the idea would then shield property owners from overhead regulations like the statewide rent increase cap known as Assembly Bill 1482. 

“We have not sat down with Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil on his proposal,” wrote city spokesman Mike Lyster in an emailed response to questions Wednesday. “We look forward to learning more at that time and sharing information in a staff report ahead of our Aug. 9 meeting.”

The state rent control law, which took effect in 2020 and expires in 2030, limits annual rent hikes to no more than 10%.

It also sets just cause eviction standards – to prevent unfair evictions – for landlords looking to boot a tenant.

Meanwhile, Anaheim officials – including O’Neil – have in the past rejected protection proposals on the renter’s end, in a town where 54% of Anaheim’s housing stock is rented, according to U.S. census data

In 2019, the council majority under former Mayor Harry Sidhu denied the idea of rent control on multiple occasions – the last time being in October of that year, when the proposal was shelved. 

At the time, much concern surrounded the retirees and fixed-income seniors living at the Rancho La Paz mobile home park straddling Anaheim and its neighbor city, Fullerton. Faced with rent hikes and growing desperation, residents at the time cast their options in grim terms: To relocate, or let go of their own lives

O’Neil, at the council’s October 2019 meeting, joined Sidhu in attempting to cut off the rent control discussion.  

When former council member Jordan Brandman proposed a program modeled off one Fullerton adopted, covering the Rancho La Paz seniors under a rent subsidy, O’Neil introduced a safety net program and subsidy instead. Still, it wasn’t expected to roll out until the following year. 

One day after the council’s October 2019 meeting, rents at the mobile home park went up.

The program O’Neil proposed became part of what is known as the Senior Safety Net Program, which includes tenant rental payment assistance and has since 2020 provided more than $264,000 in assistance to seniors needing help with rent, according to Lyster.

“Assistance was provided to seniors living in mobile home communities, but we don’t have a breakdown by mobile homes or apartments readily available,” Lyster said.

Eventually, last year, mobile home park residents won protection through Sacramento, where lawmakers passed a rent control bill authored by State Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva. 

Rancho La Paz resident Lupe Ramirez spearheaded advocacy on the Sacramento route. She’s also turned up at recent meetings this year to chide officials for sitting the protection efforts out. 

“You are killing the senior citizens in this park, and damn it, wake up and realize that every single one of you have mobile home parks in your areas where you have seniors that can’t make it,” Ramirez said during public comments at a July 12 meeting. 

“This is the last vestige of affordable homes for low-income people, for senior people,” she added. “You greedy jackasses are killing them.”

Among those who left the park in recent years was former resident Cheryl Moi, who with her husband sold their mobile home and moved to Henderson, Nevada. 

But Moi returned to town this month, namely to speak at the July 19 meeting – the same night O’Neil introduced his property owners ballot idea. 

Rancho la Paz “became a nightmare,” Moi recalled, adding, “Harry Sidhu showed us how little he cared about our troubles, and others went along with his lead.” 

Moi, like others in the audience that night, signed up to speak amidst an FBI public corruption probe that’s hit the city since she left – one which forced the resignation of Sidhu and resulted in a federal criminal guilty plea by the old Chamber of Commerce CEO. 

But neither were at the meeting to hear those words – only the remaining members of Sidhu’s majority voting bloc, O’Neil included. 

Before making his property owner ballot proposal, O’Neil and the rest of the majority turned down a proposal to let voters decide on a Disneyland gate tax to bridge the city deficit and fund things like libraries and parks. 

Before that, O’Neil and the majority turned down proposals to let voters decide on campaign finance reform – pushed to lessen the influence of corporate interests in local elections – on three occasions. 

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @photherecord.

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