MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

Council questioned about allocating
in lieu fees to SP Housing Authority

August 22, 2014
Santa Paula News

The City Council’s recent decision to allocate a projected almost $7 million in-lieu fees to the local housing authority was questioned by the chairman of the Santa Paula Farm Worker Housing Committee (SPFWHC) at Monday’s meeting.

Victor Espinosa leads the committee that was founded in 2001, affiliated with the Ventura County Ag Futures Alliance. The alliance is committed to forming consensus-approved positions on issues most important to the future of sustainable agriculture and the community at large.  

At the August 18 meeting Espinosa told the council he wanted to address the June 16 council decision to commit “all the in-lieu fees to the Santa Paula Housing Authority... it’s an excellent organization,” that works with the SPFWHC on housing issues.

But, said Espinosa, “We have the following concerns about this... there was no notice to interested parties,” that the council was taking such action.

“For about four years,” Espinosa said the Farmworkers Committee has submitted letters about being involved in receiving said fees, set-aside by developers in lieu of building affordable housing required in developments.

When the funds  were allocated by the council to the Housing Authority at the June 16 meeting, “There was no transparency on how the money was allocated,” and, said Espinosa, “To date the Housing Authority has only built senior housings,” with no plans to house farmworkers and their families.

The projected almost $7 million in lieu fees would be generated in increments by Limoneira Co. as it builds its planned 1,500 residential development in East Area 1.

Espinosa noted that a majority of revenue in the county is generated by agriculture and the industry must protect its farmlands and workers.

“It appears the in-lieu funds,” generated by the East Area 1 project will “not be used to benefit,” Limoneira’s own workers.

A letter has been sent to the city asking that the council decision - including mandated guidelines that the funding be earmarked for senior, homeless and veteran housing as well as property improvement projects - be examined, as well as other methods of decision-making that would “ensure all have equal access” to such opportunities. 

Mary Ann Krause, a former Mayor and past chairwoman of Ventura County Housing Trust Fund board of directors, also attended the meeting on behalf of the Santa Paula Farm Worker Housing Committee and told the council she was available to answer any questions.

The June 16 allocation of the funding by the council was objected to by Councilman Martin Hernandez who questioned the deal, noting the Housing Authority request appeared to be “very fast-tracked,” especially as the council had just received a copy of the agency’s short letter.

During the future agenda items portion of the August 18 meeting Hernandez asked that the council be presented with, “A review of in lieu fees coming to the city,” and feasibility of “perhaps creating an advisory body,” that would consider expenditures.

Cook seconded the motion but it died on a 2-2 vote; Councilman Jim Tovias had left the meeting earlier after recusing himself from hearing the discussion on the proposed parking district.





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