Oxnard Celebrates Constitution, Latino Heritage, Examines Heavy Housing/Homeless Issues

Rio Girls Fast Pitch Team Honored for Undefeated Season!

By George Miller

The Oxnard Council started off the 9-18-18 meeting on a very positive note, celebrating an amazing undefeated girls Rio baseball team, voted to celebrate the 231st anniversary of the US Constitution, then a month-long celebration of Hispanic Heritage month. According to the census, 3/4 of Oxnardians are of Hispanic heritage. Just about everyone else there has Hispanic friends, family or business contacts.

Meeting Agenda and Video

Ed Castillo praises US Constitution at the 9-18-19 City Council proclamation of Constitution Week. Photo: Dan Pinedo/CitizensJournal.us

 

The amazing Rio girls’ Fast Pitch team honored at 9-18-18 Oxnard City Council meeting for undefeated season! Photo: Dan Pinedo/CitizensJournal.us

 

Oxnard City Council proclaims Hispanic Heritage Month at 9-18-18 meeting. Photo: Dan Pinedo/CitizensJournal.us

Then things got more difficult as the Council reviewed and approved the housing dept. performance report, then plans for the serious and sometimes tragic homeless situation. The controversial plan was somewhat reluctantly approved, because the situation is so bad that council and staff felt they had to get something started, even with an admittedly imperfect plan lacking consensus from some longtime involved people.

The Council wrapped up the evening looking at and approving a $250,000 add-on tree trimming plan, which might sound trivial, but there are enormous deferred maintenance, safety, aesthetic and budget problems to address..

A common thread of the housing and tree discussions is that they barely even mentioned costs, except to write (not say) that they had already budgeted what was proposed, but this was not entirely clear for the homleless plan. There was some cost data in the included reports, though.

An attorney from the Ventura College of Law showed up to accept a proclamation honoring Constitution Week and said some inspirational words about its preamble. Several members of the “POV” (Point of View) group and other members of the public, showed up to witness the event and/or speak about Constitution week and the profound importance and influence of the Constitution on the nation.

Most of the Rio Fast Pitch (girls) and the coaching and managerial staff were there to bask in the admiration of parents, friends, officials and the public, as they were feted for their really outstanding achievement of being undefeated all season- an amazing accomplishment. Once they left, there weren’t many people left in the room to grapple with the weighty matters which followed.

 

L1. SUBJECT: The City of Oxnard’s (Housing Dept) Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) for Fiscal Year 2017-18. (10/20/10) 
RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council accept the City of Oxnard’s CAPER for FY2017-2018.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Arturo Casillas Phone: (805) 385-8094
Document: L-1 Staff Report

Document: L-1 Presentation

Outgoing Oxnard Housing Director Arturo Casillas

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Presentation was made by outgoing Housing Director Arturo Casillas, who mainly read the slides, which were fairly self-explanatory and which you could probably read just as well by yourself. Casillas was in office during a critical period following big problems, bad reviews by HUD, followed by the exit of the previous Director. He was tasked with taking corrective actions and in fact did much to address them. He resigned recently, not long after the new City Manager came on board. This was evidently his last big presentation.
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NO public comments
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Council/staff comments (most wished Casillas good luck in his retirement/future activities)
Ramirez- Increase in federal CDBG (funding), surprising, hopes Trump “does the right thing” and signs it. We have a theory that there is great employment out there (referring to job growth and lower unemployment during the Trump administration), but some of those jobs don’t pay very well.
McDonald- Holding comments until next section.
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Perello- Casillas’ sister is very impressive. Re slide 7: Can we adjust this? Casillas– no., this is just a performance report. Some programs underutilized. Why? Casillas: we should do more outreach. Slide 8: Is there unspent money left over? Casillas- some items over-perform. We can improve some efficiencies.
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Flynn- Interested in family self-sufficiency. How many families in public housing? (520). How to move families on, make room for new needy families? About fifth participated in 10 years, only 27 families completed program- too low. Re: Section 8- 128 families participated of 1800. 99% did NOT participate. But 518 have transitiioned out of subsidized housingh. NO- only 18 per Casillas- that was a typo. Flynn: City council needs to set own affordable housing programs, detremine what requirememnts are and how we’re going to meet them. Need more rigorous program-  “a hand up,” NOT  a hand ut. CASILLAS SAYS LACK OF FUNDING. Many families leave of their own volition and this is not shown in reports (why not?). Flynn- need volunteers.
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Perello- please fix 518 family typo in report (s/b 18).
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Ramirez- Any sense of % of seniors/disabled? Casillas- may be as high as 40%. (what about their families helping them?)
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Vote: 5-0 Council + Housing Commissioners, accepted report
M1. SUBJECT: Homeless Five-Year Plan. (10/20/15)
RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council:
1. Receive a presentation outlining the Oxnard Homeless Five-Year Plan and Strategy, and
2. Approve the Oxnard Homeless Five-Year Plan and Strategy for implementation.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Arturo Casillas Phone: (805) 385-8094
Document: M-1 Staff Report
Document: M-1 Presentation

Presented by Mark Alvarado- Homeless Coordinator. 5 year plan was formulated. Not just vagrancy, but multiple aspects. Tried to broaden to other city dept. interaction. Set up homelessness service team- City Mgr, Atty, police, fire, pub works, Develpment Services ….

Identified available resources, best practices, comprehensive whole person care approach. 30 strategies, 9 depts and other cities involved + country. Monthly meetings and annual review.  Increase emergency shelter for families with children, mental health problems, temp and permanent housing, follow-up services to people placed in housing.

Target vagrancy and negative chronic tranbient behavior. 24 hour homeless shelter and “navigation” help. Improve street outreach and comminity partnerships., Build housing for homeless. Abate encampments.

Homelessness is a nationwide crisis.  CA is encouraging regional solutions.

The question of is it getting better or worse remained unanswered in the presentation, but in the report was:

“Despite working with the City of Ventura and the County Ventura to provide the
annual Winter Warming Shelter and the administration of the HUD CDBG and
Emergency Solutions Grants, the homeless issue and its negative impacts on the
community and businesses in Oxnard have increased significantly in recent years. ”

Yet, this statement in the report is at odds wih much higher numbers we were told about at past Council meetings:

“According to the 2018 Point-In-Time Homeless Count, on any given day there are
estimated to be nearly 400 people in Oxnard living on the streets, in vehicles, in
shelters, in transitional housing, or with friends and family in temporary situations. “

Goals from the agenda letter:
Packet Pg. 183
Homeless Five-Year Plan (10/20/15)
September 18, 2018:

1) Increase and Strengthen Community Partnerships and Alliances
2) Effectively Coordinate Street Outreach
3) Coordinate efforts to reduce vagrancy and chronic transient behavior
4) Operate a Year-Round Emergency Shelter and Navigation Center
5) Increase Emergency Sheltering for Adults with Children
6) Connect Social Services with Mental Health Services for Homeless
7) Develop Temporary and Permanent Housing Choices for Homeless
8) Provide Follow-Up Program Services for Homeless Clients Placed in Housing

1) Increase and Strengthen Community Partnerships and Alliances
2) Effectively Coordinate Street Outreach
3) Coordinate efforts to reduce vagrancy and chronic transient behavior
4) Operate a Year-Round Emergency Shelter and Navigation Center
5) Increase Emergency Sheltering for Adults with Children
6) Connect Social Services with Mental Health Services for Homeless
7) Develop Temporary and Permanent Housing Choices for Homeless
8) Provide Follow Up Program Services for Homeless Clients Placed in Housing

Alvarado wants approval for the plan– but no money was mentioned. Previously, some money had been appropriated for homelessness, primarly for acquiring a shelter and operating it. We don’t see how this statement in the report ….
“There is no financial impact the adoption of the City of Oxnard’s Five Year Homeless Plan and Strategy.”
– Mark Alvarado, Homeless Assistance Coordinator
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…. can be accurate, given that significant resources are required to execute it. The report shows literally millons of dollars per year in Oxnard, CDBG and other funds, along with NGO (Non-Government Organizations) participation. He may be assuming that since much has already appropriated, that thplan will not impact the budget, but it does have a large cost. Plus, there appeared to be some additional off-budget items in there. Since the plan is admittedly incomplete, it is likely that there are still more costs to be reckoned with.
The biggests costs would be a large shelter, 10 more police officers and equipment and support for them. We’re talking a million for the shelter, another million to run it and $600,000 plus for the cops.
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Speaking of costs, we’re not sure how or why a mid-level city employee should be offering guarantees like this on page 11:
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“Human Dignity
A person who is homeless should have the right to an adequate standard of
living, the right to education, the right to liberty and security of the person,
the right to privacy, the right to social security, the right to freedom from
discrimination, the right to vote, and all other rights provided to all U.S.
Citizens.” 
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“Adequate standard” is left undefined, together with its potential cost, who would provide it and whether it is even legal to make such a guarantee.
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Officials we have listened to believe that Oxnard, Ventura and similar places have a disproportionate share of homeless problems, because its scenic venues, Mediterranean climate and services are a homeless magnet. This helps explain the attractiveness of a regional approach with higher level governments helping to fund it.
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Homeless team:
Alexander Nguyen………………………………………………….. City Manager
Ashley Golden ……………………………….. Interim Assistant City Manager
Arturo Casillas …………………………………………………… Housing Director
Mark Alvarado …………………………… Homeless Assistance Coordinator
Jason Benites ……………………………………………… Assistant Police Chief
Kevin Baysinger ………………………………………………. Police Commander
Roger Brooks ……………………………………… Code Compliance Manager
Rebecca Guevara …. Acting Supervisor / 311 & Neighborhood Services
Todd Housley……………………………….Environmental Resources Manager
Karl Lawson ……………………………………. Housing Complaince Manager
Kathleen Mallory …………Planning & Environmental Services Manager
Claudia Pedroso ……………………….. Downtown Revitalization Manager
Chelsea Reynolds …… Interim Director Cultural & Community Services
James Torrez ………………………… Interim Environmental MRF Manager
Jason Zaragoza …………………………………………..Assistant City Attorney

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Whether you agree or disagree with the plan’s recommendations and methodology, the linked report is rich in information and education about the homeless situation and possible approaches and should be read by anyone interested in the subject.

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Some think the HUD “Housing First” approach doesn’t really solve the problem and that the real problems that cause people to be homeless are “upstream”- mental health, bad families, addiction, abuse, motivation, bad fortune, etc.  But, agree or disagree, people do need a place to live. But, assuming government can provide housing for everyone and if it even should, can it pay for it and can the homeless even manage to stay in, pay for and proprerly maintain such homes- and would they even want to? I guess we shall find out in due time.

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Public Comment

Rosalita Torres- Her company offers geodesic domes. Want to implement here for disasters, homeless.

Mr. O’Connell- Homeless Commissioner. Wants plan approval. Plan has been reviewed by commission. Plan is long overdue. It is a working document meant to drive city solutions. Not meant to be a finished product- needs more development, lacks total consensus. Needs a regular review/revision, tracking.

Lucy Caretegena- Criticized some goals/omissions. Prevention and education. She said her recommendations fell on deaf ears, lacked public input. “I’m not going to reapply- I do not agree.”

Peggy Rivera- Commissioner- I’m the most seasoned member. I’ve seen good, bad, ugly. We’re at the same place we were 14 years ago, a little better, but still a lot of gaps in this program. Thank Council/Staff for dedication to get shelter money for very serious problems. I do NOT think this is ready. We asked for more time- denied. Needs more work. Some merchants want to take this on themselves- a disaster. Afraid to walk some areas at night.Police doing great, but overworked.

Barbara Macri-Ortiz- Plan attempts to address problem, but missing key agreements. Too many people can’t afford housing. Plan rearranges deck chairs. Folks need place to call home. Calls for police to spend $1.2MM to reduce impact of homelessness. They can not be expected to be caretakers- will just move problem around. Want another $150K for police to clear encampments. Not dealing with ants- boric acid. Endorse Prop 10 rent control- it’s how to control housing cost. Need to allow construction of more housing. Need ADU construction, including garage conversion. Santa Cruz has good proigram. Need to change culture, especially development services. How to solve probelms, don’t use code as an excuse not to.

Francine Castanon- Homeless commmission had quite a discussion, but we did move it forward. It’s a changeable document. Some city projects require living wage. You are not holding developers accountable. How much of housing starts are for homeless/low income? She panned Santa Monica rent control- court actions. Can be done but not their way. Fail foward, not back. Put our homeless to work- some can do it. Wants $18/hr. wages.

Abel Magama- (Oxnard Downtown Management Dist, Director)- Hard to keep downtown clean and safe. Homelessness major problem. Want to make it attractive for visitors to come. Takes a village to tackle this probelm. Thanks to Carl (Lawson of Housing Dept).  Appreciate that dealing with vagrancy was near top of the list. Supports homeless liasion officers to assist, not just enforce. Would support downtown restrooms (avoid San Francisco situation). 9th circuit has ruled that people cannot be remoived from sidewalks.

Woody Thomas- I live across fromPlaza Park- see homeless /mental health issues al the time. Homeless hang out at Plaza Park and other areas. If you can aford to buy drugs, you should be able to afford a place to stay.. Some are renting out rooms for cash, not paying taxes.  Many on drugs, can’t fully help themselves. some have children not placed in a sound, safe , secure environment. Kids must be in school at 5 and have shots, etc. You are promoting illegal actvity. Poeple without papers.  Need 1 yr/5 yr plan and adjust it. Sees some progress/funding.

Gabiella Basua- Candidate for District 5 Council. Sure are problems. Neighbors NOT happy with plan or how it was approached. Need some specifications, do monthly staff upodates, need to answer to residents, needs a culture where people can come and know things will get done.

Steve Nash- We can deal with the situation,  Problem is with chronoically homeless- addictions, mental health or just like the  lifestyle in a wonderful climate. How do we get them into housing? Never discussed. How do we drive down housing costs when units cost $400k- and we call that affordable housing. This is coastal Californai. Cost of land here may prevent us from ever doing this.  Not even hearing a consensus from the Homeless Commission.

Darlene Miller- Please complete latest 5 year plan so we can discuss. Need to know what money will be used for. We have the armory (for use as a shelter). Many ways to save money and get partner investors. Plan shows where the money goes (ed. note: this aspect was NOT presented). We shoudn’t just rubberstamp this like being discussed tonight. Please delay this.

Council/Staff Comments

Carl Lawson- Was asked to clarify process. I have been staff liason for staff transparency and consideration. Per Alvarado, this is from 3 years of input. Plan was developed by (homeless) commission. Presented in June- no consensus. Scheduled August meeting (8-06-18). No quorum. but had discussion (ed: is this a Brown Act violation?) . Group encouraged further input from commission in writing. Special meeting held 9-10-18. Council approved unanimously with three conditions. (Author’s note: if approved unanimously. why did multiple Commissioners disown it?).

Madrigal- Complex problems. People are compassionate until it comes to their neighborhood. Housing is ridiculously expensive. Pushing more people into homeless situation. Many live from paycheck to paycheck. What is definition of homelessness? Includes people in hotels. People consider poverty to be contagious- homelessness  too.

Ramirez- Concerned about whether there Is consensus in the commssion, since there is obviously conflict. Asst PD Chief Benites explained to residents what city can do and how layers of government intersect. Hesitant to delay the plan. It’s a living document. Can be amended. Concerned about emphasis on law enforcement. Spending a lot of city resources on that which can be spent on housing.  This is a regional/statewide/national phenomena. Was in Bay area last week- very bad.

City Mgr,Alexander Nguyen- Wasn’t broad consensus. Don’t need to wait for that perfect mousetrap because it’s not there. Boom in homeless in recent years- primarily caused byy abdication of the state and unwise voter initiatives. Courts have ruled that you can’t criminalize homelessness. He differentiated managing homelessness vs. solving it. But must manage right now. It’s like playing whack-a-mole- clear them out of one park/river bottom and find them elsewhere. Some of actions DO require public attention while we solve the problem. He is a proponent of the housing first approach, which he said is proven to work worldwide and has been  adopted by HUD. It will be mandatory to adopt a housing first plan. Housing crisis is a contributing factor but can’t wait for building. Utilize existing housing- get more vouchers. Urged adoption tonight so we can get started.

MacDonald- He has seen the problem everywhere he has traveled. We tend to lump homeless into one category. Catastrophic homelessness (house fire, etc.). We’re good at dealing with that. We fall short on chronic and long term homelessness (those dealing with demons- drugs, alcohol, mental illness.). Hates needle exchange, wants drug programs. Some just want to be homeless. Homesteading public or private propety where others fear it is unfair. Must protect population. Has heartache with winter warming shelters. What do they do during the day? Was disappointed with vague staf report. This is a team effort- cities/county. Sometimes police are needed. Hauled off 11 tons trash from an encampment. You can’t engage in activity that negatively interferes with others. Year round shelter has to be coupled with services- work to help people make them better members of society. Wants to approve plan.

Perello- Code enforcement and trash dept not included on Homeless Team. (Team Mgr says we do have those people on team.) I’m one of 5 people who hired new City Mgr. Nguyen. Those who served on Homeless CAG need to be listened to. I invested my trust in Nguyen. He wants plan approved and I wil hold him accountable for this. He mentioned CA law and decisons, Some homeless issues due to prison releases, can’t take people off public property, some people with serious problems untreated. Homeless now in Ormond Beach- Coastal Commission preventing city from emptying it out. He said a law enforcement person claims people being given train tickets to Oxnard. We can’t be tent city. We can’t do things to the detriment of the rest of the population. I support City Mgr’s request to approve the plan.

Flynn- Have worked with committee seeking homeless shelter site. Getting shelter ASAP compatible with community is top priority. Will support the plan. Have heard more opinions on this than any other issue. Need to get the shelter, get it open. We need to move ahead getting homeless out of parks, river bottom, etc. Convince service resistent people that they need to get to the shelter, get help.  The public is VERY frustrated, I am frustrated, we need to get on with it.

Nguyen- this plan has no new expenditures not already in the budget.

Vote- 5-0 unanimous, Mayor held a vote without even hearing public comments, then went back, heard comments and did the vote again.

Public Comment

Mr. McConnell- want approval. This is a crisis.

Lucy Categena-

Abel Magama- Supports

Voted again 5-0 unanimous in favor

 

Casillas introduced  County and Ventura Human Services people.

 

Room was almost empty at this point

M2. SUBJECT: Declaration of Shelter Crisis; MOUs for Foul Weather Shelter and Countywide Homelessness. (5/15/10) Due to lack of time, this wasn’t discussed.
RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council:
1. Approve a Memorandum of Understanding with the County of Ventura and the City of Ventura for the Governance and Oversight of the Foul Weather Shelter System;
2. Approve a Memorandum of Understanding on “Ventura Countywide Homelessness” with the County of Ventura, the City of Camarillo, the City of Fillmore, the City of Moorpark, the City of Port Hueneme, the City of Santa Paula, the City of Simi Valley, the City of Thousand Oaks, and the City of Ventura; and
3. Adopt a Declaration of a Shelter Crisis resolution.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Arturo Casillas Phone: (805) 385-8094

Homeless Shelter Oxnard 2012

Document: M-2 Staff Report
Document: M-2 Presentation

 

Public Works Department

 

M3. SUBJECT: Report on Street Tree Trimming Services (5/5/5)
RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council:
1) Receive a report on the status of street tree trimming services; and
2) Approve a budget appropriation in the amount of $250,000 from the Measure O Special Sales Tax Fund Balance to augment contractual Citywide Tree Trimming Services Program (MO5710).
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Jesus Nava Phone: (805) 385-7497
Document: M-3 Staff Report
Document: M-3 Presentation
Eric Garwick, Parks Manager, presented

Formerly had 4 tree triming crews. Now only have 1. (City is way behind. 2,700 tree backlog of 56,000 trees total. 2 1/2 years backlog now. 50 years backlog for all trees at 900 trees/years. Budget dropped as requests increased. Need manager, improved tree structure, improve aesthetics, safety. Need a manager of fruit production. Remove/replace dead/badly diseased trees. Need to do clear lane trimming- affects traffic., signs, safety.  In summary, HUGE deferred maintenance. Current budget is $90,000. He didn’t even mention requested budget, but the reoport asks for $250,000.

Public Comment

Jackie Tedeschi- Our award for tree city seems ironic. How would we take care of these trees?

Gabriel Tehran- Parks and Recreation Community Commissioner- Current state of our city’s trees is an item of discussion. Trees damaged by droughts or not maintained. Lack capacity to do this. Many are no longer viable. Have CalFire grant to plant 1000 drought-tolerant trees. Proposal is welcomed.

Pat Brown- Been noticing dead, black trees.

Steve Nash- Parks Commissioner and self-described “tree hugger. Trees need maintenace. It could be done for the cost of one lawsuit, he intoned, refering to potential liabilities from NOT properly maintaining trees.

Council/Staff Comments

Garwick- applied for grant to remove 531 trees. They are  a liability.

Jesus Nava- will do grid/block trimming plus serious emergencies elsewhere. Do latter first.

Madrigal-  See lots of dead trees. Did a 311 call on Lemonwood neighborhood  tree problems.

Ramirez- losing urban canopy= heat islands. Avoid trimming during nesting season.

MacDonald- Wouldn’t mind putting own trees in- need advice- can we get some adivice- a program? Liability issue? City will look into it.

Perello- Gary Blum talked about the value of trees in Oxnard. Some trees may damages cars, some trees make a mess. Did not receive copy of presentaion. Could barely read parts of this one. Have serious issues in Mayor’s neighboorhhod (F Stree). Last year, tree fell on car and “creamed” it. Big dead tree near Dallas Cowboys training area. More elsewhere. Rose Ave on Camino Del Sol. Multiple large dead trees – one went down.  Clearances should be 8′ vertical on sidewalk, 14′ on street. Some traffic lights, stop signs are blocked. Wants neighborhod-oriented trimming. (Parks/Recreation already said it would be a grid approach, which is close to the same.)

Vote: 5-0 to approve

 


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


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One Response to Oxnard Celebrates Constitution, Latino Heritage, Examines Heavy Housing/Homeless Issues

  1. Dotty Pringle September 22, 2018 at 8:35 am

    Government is too happy to please the Speculators and because of this, housing will never be lowered.

    All talk and promises, yet no true action that would actually make sense.

    Start with the Real Estate Speculators
    who are the start of this problem. Work from that end.

    Section 8 is a burden on taxpayers and
    highly abused by Speculators also, who buy homes to go into business with the State. It screws everyone in the end!

    Reply

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