Oxnard Council 5-2-17- Safe City home inspections; community block grants; strategic plan update

By George Miller

The council took up and unanimously voted to pursue further the “Safe City” initiative to create a rental unit inspection program: approved the staff plan for allocation of block grant funding: and received an Update of the City Council Strategic Priorities Two-Year Business Plans for FY 16/17 and 17/18 (15/30/15).

 

Item L-1: “Safe City”

The City proposes cracking down on slumlords, code violations, via a rental housing inspection program. Funding is an issue.

Per city staff, as of 2015 there were approximately 24,600 rental units.  9,000 are estimated to be in single family homes and 15,600 in multi-family units. But there are only 773 properties with a Business tax Certificate (BTC); which at a minimum equates to 2,319 units.

Overcrowding, noise, parking problems, trash, unsafe conditions and increased crime were all cited as problems.

Homes would be inspected upon registration, change of ownership and every three years. Fee structure has not been determined.  There would be a self-certification program for owners who have demonstrated reliability.

Exempt from the program would be single family homes, homes under 5 years old and government inspected homes.

L. REPORTS
  Development Services Department
1. SUBJECT: Safe Homes, Safe Families (15/25/20)
RECOMMENDATION: That City Council receive a presentation and provide direction on elements of a Safe Homes, Safe Families Program which encourages the availability of safe and healthy living environments for Oxnard residents.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Ashley Golden Phone: 385-7882

Former Oxnard INCO VP Julie Pena speaks in favor of “Safe City” rental inspection initiative at May 2, 2017 council meeting.

Public speakers were very strongly in favor, including several neighborhood council chairs. Joe Avilar, retired Oxnard housing inspector, says the problem is serious, needs more and better inspectors and codes- more enforcement authority.. Says that Council has not been supportive. Says he doesn’t believe they are serious. But it is Councilmen who are pushing this. He suggested  a town meeting on this to learn resident needs. Jackie Tedeshi, INCO Vice-Chair said the city needs safe homes and safe families, big task, needs money.

Peggy Rivera said that inspection should be prioritized for safety concerned and that language skills are needed. She foresaw having to move people out while some repairs were done. She cited the very low housing inventory and that some tenants are taken advantage of.

Al Velasquez blamed city deterioration on budget cuts,m said this program is a step in the right direction. Steve Nash said half of housing stock is rental, that ownership will improve conditions. He said that Santa Cruz sample fees offered are too high.

Mr. Lopez of the Colonia Neighborhood watch said fees and fines are very high for poor people and that there is a shortage of low income housing, causing people to “double up.” Says farmers might be able to help. Said “Compos” (farm housing) used to be there.  Woody Thomas pointed out this is the owner’s responsibility, not tenants (although this will be passed along to them). Offered himself to help?

Barbara Macri-Ortiz said people were talking about symptoms, not the disease, which is the post-crash housing shortage. Investors have bought up many foreclosed homes and turned them into rental units. She wants rent control- says people can’t afford to pay 69% of income. Says inspection program won’t solve that problems. Says that $200K of CDBG money already allocated to inspections. Said that inspections may require warrants. Said unregistered owners are not paying license fees and taxes.

Another woman noted crowded streets with limited fire dept. accessibility. Said low income/senior housing needed.

Julie Pena lamented conditions, supports safe housing, said she doesn’t see how they will be able to enforce it wsith present thin resources., recommended curb cuts to alleviate steet parking congestion, also supported farmers providing worker housing.

Jack Villa of Inter-Neighhborhood Council Chair said that this is one of THE biggest problems, except for crime, favors rental inspection program. has concerns about doing it legally and equitably per neighborhood, stress on staff, budget.

Francine Castanon asked what kind of training, support and certification will be need for inspectors, along with 4th Amendment rights. “Undocumented” people may be very nervous.

 

Projected rental inspection incremental costs\. No revenues were projected. Source: Council presentation.

Council comments:

Madrigal favors, tired of slumlords offering inadequate housing.Says his local compliance officer underpaid. Overcrowding not addressed by program- may actually increase. People are there out of necessity. If you kick them out, they lose and will not be able to afford an apartment. Will push apt. prices up. How to handle challenges, appeals? Need to revisit curb cuts.

Ramirez: Program won’t solve overcrowding, parking, but will address safety issues. ot illegal to rent room. Have always had slumlords to take advantage of the most vulnerable. Laws exist but people are afraid to exercise.  Better for city to inspect than tenants to complain. Agrees with Macri-Ortiz on effects of economic downturn. Tenant should not bear burdens of landlords’ bad decisions. 1941 CA Civil Code 17975? sets forth tenant rights/amenities.  Go after worst landlords. Knows one farmer considering return of Campos.

MacDonald calls this a blanket approach to handle problems. Says many landlords not a problem. Says it is illegal to collect rent for inhabitable structure, but people don’t understand this and other rights. Wants to exempt landlords with good history. Fees will ultimately be passed to tenants.  Council eliminated dozens of positions, crime went through the roof and conditions deteriorated.  Need resources to deal with this. lack staff to enforce existing parking rules. Code enforcement spread too thin.

Perello – What are salary and benefits? Re: fees: some cost recovery- need to break even. Ashley Golden said they will set a fee schedule to do that. He is opposed to self-certification. Says there is an unsatisfactory history and people have died because of it. Wants to know if three year plan is firm. Golden said could be done.  Dumping into trash bins and elsewhere a problem. Pointed out “crime free housing” approach. What happens if we chase people out of units, he asked? But what happens if we don’t clear out unsafe, overcrowded units? This is getting worse. “Group homes” are a big problem- locals are “terrorized,” fabric of neighborhood is being destroyed.  Need to paint red in front of fire plugs. Reiterated that investors are buying up homes for rentals. He added that lenders are returning to dangerous lending procedures. Overcrowded parking is a symptom of housing overcrowding. Do e do nothing or take a stand.

Flynn- Outside of violence, housing conditions are the #1 quality of life issue. If not willing to back it up with resources, chances of success are slim. Fresno an example. Cites Theodore Roosevelt/Jacob Riis in NY as examples  uncovering/addressing squalor. We have thee same problem 125 years later. Unfathomable that largest city in county has this problem and bears the low cost housing burden. Will not satisfy demand if other cities don’t carry some of the load. One of the reasons he ran for office in 2004. Time is now, we can do it. Requires courage/political resolve. Neglected for 30 years- unpopular.  He would go down for this issue, will find a way tgo deal with it,. He will do anything to tackle it.  Thanks to Ashley Golden(Planning Dept) and Roger Brooks (Code Enforcement.).

City Mgr. Nyhoff- Continue with process. Concern throughout community. Will pursue.

 

Item K-1: FY2017-18 CDBG (Community Development Block Grants), HOME, and ESG Annual Action Plan Funding. Purpose of session is to present and solicit public input.

1. Conduct a public hearing to consider public testimony regarding project funding recommendations from the Application Review Panel.
2. Approve the Annual Action Plan (AAP) with final recommended use of funds for the three entitlement grants: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investments Partnership (HOME) grant, and the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG).
3. Authorize the City Manager to make any changes to the AAP as directed by the City Council.
4. Authorize the City Manager to execute the required applications, certifications, and other pertinent documents for the submission of the AAP to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
5. Authorize the City Manager to execute HUD agreements and sign all agreements for the implementation of the AAP including subrecipients, interdepartmental, and intradepartmental agreements.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Arturo Casillas Phone: 385-8094
Arturo Casillas- developed needs assessment, prioritization, action plan. Addresses extremely low and very low income housing. $85,60 county income- Oxnard’s is lower.
 
Projecting possible 10%  decrease due to shrinking federal appropriations. $1.981 million anticipated.5 grant applications received. Recommended choices.
 
Homeless shelter allocation to increase from $30 to $43 thousand. St. Vincent Paul defunded ($44 thousand).
 
It wasn’t made clear on how the priorities and amounts fort grant requests were determined.
 
Grant allocations held up by Congressional funding delay.
 
Peggy Rivera requested a $62 thousand homeless winter warming shelter set-aside.
 
Barbara Macri-Ortiz laments Community Action fund cut. Says they have produced in helping homeless- injustice.  CDBG expected cuts wlll be a big problem. Was focused on housing- little of it goes there now. Median income actually lower than stated. $680K first time homebuyers this year. Prices rising. Need to use funding for housing.
 
Father and mother (Gonzales) of murdered Joshua Van  and cousin of another murder victim requested more money for CCTV surveillance cameras. Genote was also related to two the murder victims and reinforced that request. Same with Penny Reyes, grandmother of Joshua Vann.
 
Bottom line- there are many needs, few dollars. Oxnard is not able to adequately fund needs on  its own.
 

Council Comments:

Madrigal- Median income only about $70,000. Why was funding Community Action funding reduced? Casillas: Panel recommended it. Says they accepted that,

Ramirez: $43,000 on winter warming shelter? Casillas- actually higher this year + money expected from Ventura. How many applicants? Casillas: 25.

MacDonald: Comfortable- will support

Perello- Thanks for camera request- support. Would like more.  What about makeup of the panel: who from City staff on panel and what do they represent. Casillas: Hsg, Public Works, Finance, Perello: and Parks and Rec, Comm  Services, Oxnard  Shores Neighborhood Council. . Homeless and Sr. Svces Commission. Why is Oxnard Shores Neighborhood Council on the panel?  Why did some get more or less. Casillas- regulatory requirements. Perello: Can’t afford to pay from general fund. Casillas: $300,000 leverages $3MM in grants.

Flynn- Thanks to service providers- providing vital services, hope Congress is reasonable with budget for money we have come to depend on.

Want facility for many more homeless. Per USA-Focus.org, there  are more than enough beds for homeless, but there are conditions.

Ramirez- Any first time homebuyers money? Casillas- Can’t be reallocated. Casillas- Could revisit Community action if grants not cut 10%. Not sure of amount- will advise.

Vote was unanimous for plan as presented

 

Item B-1:SUBJECT: Status Update of the City Council Strategic Priorities Two-Year Business Plans for FY 16/17 and 17/18 (15/30/15)
RECOMMENDATION: That City Council receive an update on the four FY 16/17 and FY 17/18 strategic business plans: (A) Quality of Life, (B) Organizational Effectiveness, (C) Economic Development, and (D) Infrastructure and Natural Resources, and provide feedback and direction.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Greg Nyhoff Phone: 385-7430

Document: B1 Staff Report (PDF 2Mb)

Document: B1 Presentation (PDF 7.6Mb)

 

Item L-2 postponed:  Change Order No. 1, Task Order No. 54, Task Order No. 55 and Task Order No. 63 to Contract No. A-7721 with Sam Hill and Sons, Inc. for Project Specification No. 14-12 Non-Scheduled Repairs of Wastewater and Storm Drain Systems (10/15/10)

 

George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard


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2 Responses to Oxnard Council 5-2-17- Safe City home inspections; community block grants; strategic plan update

  1. Bruce Boyer May 9, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Mandatory inspections have been fought inthe courts. Tenants have the right as do all property owners to refuse ‘inspections’. need a warrant. Its an excuse to pacify problems and create more Govt. If a violation occurs, there ias a remedy. This is about nit-picking and revenue.

    Reply
  2. Camille Harris May 7, 2017 at 9:29 am

    These code enforcement ramp-ups are almost always about gaining more money and govt. power for than they are about safety. This is a very slippery slope where preferential treatment or abuses of power could easily occur. People could end up on the street without housing. But then that creates more incentive to build Public Housing, so this program could certainly benefit developers. However, public housing pays no property taxes while public services are still required, so the middle class continues to get hammered. The original Safe City Initiative opposed by the staff in Ventura was a program to provide safety, aid and protect existing affordable housing provided by private citizens who pay taxes for public services. Will Oxnard’s program allow owners to purchase legal permits for existing rentals that are missing permits in the public files? Or will they use that as an excuse to gut this existing affordable housing?

    Reply

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