Oxnard City Council- 10-22-13- “Courts” subsidized housing project replacement controversy- and more

OXCC10-22-13-05By George Miller

61 year old subsidized housing project to be demolished & replaced, much controversy about approach; $21 million wastewater bond refunding approved; continuing saga of the Recycling Plant City takeover countdown ‘til Feb. 1.; Child Abuse Prevention celebrated.

Photo- left: Jane Alvaraez, Founder of National Association Against Child Abuse, accepts Proclamation endorsing their mission from Mayor Flynn (see section on this and local CASA org. below)

 

 

Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting October 22, 2013 04h 32m Agenda   Video

 

61 year old “Courts” housing projects being demolished, replaced. Residents unhappy. (Agenda I-1)

Housing Director William Wilkins and Asst. Cary Sabatini said that the 260 unit Colonia neighborhood project is 61 years old, outmoded, dilapidated, decayed, non-insulated, antiquated HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) with asbestos and lead all over over it and not cost-effective to renovate.  Mayor Pro-Tem Ramirez asked if some units could be saved and was told, no.   Wilkins said efforts to repair it would be mere “band-aids.”The units comprise about a third of the city’s low income housing stock. They showed  horrible example photos to make their point. Some residents pointed out that their own units, and many others, are immaculately kept.

N Rose Ave & E 1st St, Oxnard, CA 93030

As the discussion went on and residents weighed in, the biggest objections were over the elimination of private washer/dryer hookups and communications/support in helping residents to relocate. Egloria Lamont complained that the project has not been well-maintained. Lydia Riveri (sp?), VP of the Colonia Association, is very upset with the Housing Authority Director and the laundry situation.  She feels that the project should be postponed until residents are better informed by the city. It was pointed out by the Director that the project is a private effort not under the direct control of the City Housing Authority and also that inspection will not resolve the problems, which require replacement of the facilities.  May Hernandez, Hilda Ruiz, a man named Juan and others expressed their objections to mainly the laundry plans.

The replacement plan entails putting in more modern, efficient units and also changing the street layout for improved emergency access.  It entails private sector developers, compliance with state and federal housing laws, obtaining substantial tax credits and getting favorable financing.  With interest rates rising, this has become more urgent. Most residents would be “Section 8” (welfare) recipients, some who have a multi-generational welfare dependency, as pointed out by Councilman Perello.

Government subsidies would pay for moving, with housing allowances provided and right of return to the new buildings and assistance to do so guaranteed.

Numerous residents complained about the elimination of washer/dryer hookups, inconvenience and danger of walking to Laundromat sites within the planned development (probably true), failure to be informed of or receive moving and living allowances, inconvenience of being contacted by officials and going to meetings,  and breakup of their comfortable community. Not  a single one expressed any thanks for the government largesse (via taxpayers) they have received for decades. In fact, some demonstrated attitudes of entitlement. Some of these complaints were delivered in Spanish, by residents who have lived here for decades, partook of the benefits, but somehow, had not yet learned to communicate their demands in English.

We were told that typically, such apartment complexes have 5 units washer/dryer. This one is planned for 4.7, with 7 Laundromat facilities spread out through the complex.  These would have extra lighting, secured access, surveillance video and an on-site apt. manager (required by law).

City officials and the developers seemed very knowledgeable about the applicable laws, financing, and intricacies of trying to do a workable project within all of those imposing constraints. They seemed to be making an effort to address objections to the extent that is possible, given said constraints.

The new project has new rules of tenant acceptance. Some current residents have incomes that exceed the caps on the new project and will be required to go through annual income re-certification.  Several people, including resident Eileen Tracy, asked whether legal U.S. residency is required for acceptance. The answer is, yes, at least for the nominal lessee. There are also limits on the number of people who may reside in a unit. We heard that it was 2 per room. although we also heard 3 per bedroom.  Gang members and Zombies will be excluded.

Councilwoman Padillo pointed out that no city money is required, and factors to consider are value of the land, costs of infrastructure, demolition and  reconstruction.  Multiple council members wondered if there had been other Requests For Proposal (RFP’s )(yes) and whether it should be rebid (may take years).  Councilman MacDonald opined that many units are in poor condition, not worth repairing and that washers are a valid issue. Councilman Perello wondered if Cabrillo, which is well regarded and manages 1300 local units, could manage the project. At this point, Cabrillo  only manages its own units. The Las Cordas non-profit entity was also mentioned, as was “CHDO” (Community Housing Development Organization).

Mark Irving, the developer, spoke at length. He described the plan as 45 units in a three story building, 3 – 6 plexes and 6 U-shaped buildings, with 1-4 bedrooms and patios, parking. All would be built to stringent CA energy specs.  He said that private washer-dryers were in the original spec but were deleted when interest rates rose, increasing project costs beyond government-permitted parameters.  He was stymied as to what else could be cut to accommodate the washer hook-ups. Financing would be via Bank of America Development Corp. via a private placement, to reduce costs, 35 year term.

Mr. Irving  mentioned that public housing voucher authorizations needed renewal to proceed.

Vote: Council approved unanimously. BOTH Housing Commissioners voted NO.

.

Del Norte Recycling Plant City takeover (Agenda M-1)

Todd Housley, Project Manager and future Facility Manager, updated us on progress/status. See our past City Council meeting reports for a history.

Three supervisor job descriptions are done, other technicians job description in process. Contract labor RFP was to be released 10-23. Custodial assessment underway, as is HVAC assessment.  IT, phone and computer assessments, including software and license needs, are in the works.  Heavy equipment assessment is also underway. Security of financial transactions, access protocol, are being worked on.  The recyclable material purchase RFP is being worked on.  Mr. Housely was asked for a timeline on all this by Council (Flynn, Perello), which he said he would provide.

Whether all of the necessary steps would be complete by the 2/1 turnover date was not  made clear. We have heard some concerns about this and don’t know what the backup plan is, whether Republic Services would be willing or in a position to continue management or heavily support the City if it became a problem.

 

$21 million in Wastewater bonds to be refunded (Agenda J-1)

A no-brainer– lower interest rates (from 5.25% down to 2 7/8%!), will mean big savings to the City. Staff would have done it sooner at lower interest rates, but bonds are just now callable 12-1-13.  The transaction was unanimously approved. Council members were tripping over themselves to figure out how to spend the savings loot, with little thought about paying down some of the nearly half a billion dollar City debt.  In fact, it looks as though they are on track to increase it instead in the longer term. Currently, debt service is nearly 10% of the total budget and a third of the amount of general fund expenditures.

 

CASAChild Abuse Opposition Month

Mayor Flynn read a proclamation declaring opposition to Child Abuse (lead photo) and had Jane Alvarez (child abuse expert and former crime analyst from the Oxnard Police Department) of the National Association Against Child Cruelty speak. She cited alarming statistics on the extent of abuse- $585 billion in estimated costs, 800,000 abused, 500,000 missing children, 80% of the abused children have psychological problems. See www.thechildrenswalloftears.org to help.  They want a change to Title 42 federal law to improve accountability for abuse crimes.  Marion Mack of CASA described the organization’s mission to help abused, neglected and abandoned children.  They work under court supervision to help hundreds of children in distress.

 

Other

OXcc10-22-13-30Council has been conducting labor negotiations in closed meetings with SEIU Local 721. We have not been told of anything that is going on.  The open session started 45 minutes late, so they must be finding lots to talk about. left: Mr. Alvarez speaks on behalf of SEIU.

Bill Terry spoke once again about former officials who received illegal retirement supplemental payments.  This was later reinforced by Dan Pinedo, who quoted specific amounts but did not name the recipients.

 

 

VenturaFernandoVentura Fernando (left) complained that City staff are not addressing Council questions. He also lamented the nearly half billion dollar city debt and said “the Rich” should pay for it. We think they mostly do.

Jim Henley continued his quest for a new aquatic center.

Jim Lavery lamented major ethical, moral lapses, staff failure to advise council properly on priorities, targeted expenditures, resulting in what he feels are inappropriate allocation of funds.

Juan Delgado and Amy Park objected to dangerous crossings in Lemonwood and other neighborhoods.

___________________________

George Miller is a “retired” operations management consultant and a Citizen Journalist, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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George Miller

LOL, I don’t get much fan mail, so I’ll have to savor this and make it last- thanks. But that’s two in one week!
I had that guy in my notes, but didn’t trust myself to write about him. Didn’t get his name- did you? Maybe you should write for us- after all, this is “Citizens Journal,” not Main Stream Elite News.

Janice

I have never seen such comprehensive reporting on city council meetings, although I have for specific topics. I was at this meeting and compliment you on the Courts housing project summary. It addressed the main issues.

I wonder how much government money will ultimately go to this- let’s count the ways: loan guarantees, oversight, tax credits, housing allowances and moving allowances, Section 8 welfare payments for rent, local taxes….?

You didn’t write about that man who complained about how hard his 95 y.o. mother has it in the projects. He disgusted me. Why is he even letting her live in such a slum on government subsidies and not with him?