Oxnard Police Clearing Out Squatter Encampments on Ormond Beach Nature Conservancy Land

By George Miller

The Oxnard Police Department reported clearing out 26 squatter encampments in The Nature Conservancy land at Ormond Beach yesterday. Assistant Chief Eric Sonstegard told us that and explained that various legal impediments made it more complicated than previous similar actions which were on Oxnard City land.

Oxnard Police approaching a squatters’ encampment, in a previous action.

It seems that when there is such a problem on private land:

  1. The owner must initiate certain actions, such as posting the property with signs, requesting the offending parties to vacate and giving notice
  2. Then initiate a complaint to code enforcement. Yes, believe it or not, this is considered a code enforcement action, not a police action.
  3. Only when those steps are properly executed, then finally, can a Nuisance Abatement order be issued, which recently occurred, leading to ….
  4. The police enforcing the vacate order.

One big difference: last time the city removed many tons of belongings/debris that those vacating left behind. But, in cases like this, it is the owners’ responsibility to do so, according to Sonstegard. He further pointed out that those vacating will come right back when the police leave if that does not occur. When I asked him if the police could arrest and jail them, he said they’ll just be out in two hours.

Encampments at Ormond Beach have been a problem for years, A couple of years back, OPD cleared out dozens of encampments. Other city agencies removed and sanitized the area. The Housing Dept and Ventura County resources offered services to people who were living in the area.

But, encampments sprouted up again on city land, the Halaco Superfund toxic waste dump area and on Nature Conservancy land. It has taken a lot of pressure from the public to get action on this problem, but groups and certain individuals have been quite persistent and vocal.

The city is between a rock and a hard place, because it is lean on resources to do this. Because of legal requirements and the logistical difficulties of getting into and out of this most remote area of Oxnard without nearby paved roads, it is a very resource-intensive proposition to do such a massive eviction, and even to maintain regular police patrols of the area. The Police have public safety responsibilities for those vacated, too and need to consider where they might go.  There are dozens of open beds at various facilities throughout the area, such as VC Rescue Mission, Casa de Vida and more. City and county officials can help those displaced “navigate” to needed services. But the homeless/vagrants/squatters are often resistant to these services and the terms for granting them. This difficult duty falls on the Housing Dept., headed up by Emilio Ramirez, who also holds a useful law degree and much experience.

Ormond Beach is a once pristine wetland which has been adversely impacted by the influx of squatters. Aside from unsightly debris, wildlife were disturbed and pollution safety hazards arose. Very high coliform bacteria levels were detected in tests taken over the summer.

Christina Zubko of the grassroots group “Save Ormond Beach gave us the tip that OPD had initiated action via a sent copy of a message from Sonstegard to an concerned Hueneme resident (name withheld). They are one of the groups maintaining constant pressure to resolve the situation.

Note from OPD Assistant Chief Eric Sonstegard clarifying the Ormond beach enforcement status.

 

 

Homeless advocate Lang Martinez (R), with a squatter on an Ormond Beach tour last summer with Citizens Journal.

 

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


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3 Responses to Oxnard Police Clearing Out Squatter Encampments on Ormond Beach Nature Conservancy Land

  1. William Hicks December 21, 2019 at 10:51 am

    Where are all the politically correct environmentalists in this “crisis.” What politician will address the critical need to clean up this human toxic spill?

    Certainly, this has an environmental impact. Where are all the politicians that make laws about plastic bags in all this? Certainly, this is at least at the level of plastic bags.

    Reply
  2. Citizen Reporter December 20, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Written by Oxnard PD Assistant Chief Eric Sonstegard….

    On Thu, Dec 19, 2019 at 8:43 PM Sonstegard, Eric wrote:
    Good evening, Christina:

    Please feel free to share my email correspondence with whoever you would like. It’s probably best if that message gets to as many stakeholders as possible.

    Code Compliance is a division within the City of Oxnard government that is responsible for the enforcement of most of the City Codes, including building, zoning, advertising, and property maintenance codes. I have cc’d our Code Compliance Manager, Roger Brooks, in this reply in case you have further questions.

    Regarding your question about a squatter in your backyard…imagine it more like this scenario: Imagine 80-100 people that have created a “city-like” environment on a private property with 40-50 tons of junk/property/etc. The people are not the problem; it’s the junk that is the problem. We (the police) could remove the people but they would come back in a few hours and you would be right back where we started. The abatement process addresses the tons and tons of junk and property that needs to be removed.

    I hope this information helps.

    Happy Holidays!

    Eric S. Sonstegard, Assistant Police Chief
    Oxnard Police Department

    Reply
  3. Martin December 19, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Congratulations to the citizens who were persistent.

    The key to prevention is for the city to act immediately when there are squatters etc. not waiting until the problem is so large it becomes almost insurmountable. Allowing one person to take over the land needs to be stopped immediately. Do not wait for hundreds to arrive as the word spreads within the homeless. Rather the word to be passed is codes and laws will be enforced in this area.

    Reply

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