Farr's affordable housing plan gets a mixed reaction from FORA.
Thursday, September 19, 2002
It was not a warm reception that greeted Rep. Sam Farr and members of the Housing Authority following their PowerPoint presentation to the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) board last Friday, but it was an interesting one.
The topic was the Housing Authority''s new study, which shows that homes can be built in Monterey County more cheaply than anyone has dared to dream--for as little as $225,000 on the Peninsula or $180,000 in the Salinas Valley. On Fort Ord, the study says, a 1,300-square-foot house could be sold as cheaply as $145,000.
After the lights came back on, members of the FORA board and then the public took turns emoting at the microphone in tones that ran the gamut from grateful to skeptical to hostile.
FORA board chair and Marina mayor Jim Perrine, who ultimately pronounced the study a "useful tool," asked Housing Authority presenter Starla Warren several careful questions about whether the study factored in costs for infrastructure. The question of infrastructure frequently comes up in discussions about building on Fort Ord land, with one camp arguing that the land is free and the other camp arguing that infrastructure costs make it in fact quite expensive.
Seaside mayor Jerry Smith didn''t mince words. "I don''t know if your report realistically addresses the situation on Fort Ord," he told Warren. After Seaside councilmember Tom Mancini chimed in with a criticism that the study didn''t address the issue of water, Smith came back with a point that underscored the sense at Seaside City Hall that the city already supplies a disproportionate amount of the low-income housing on the Peninsula, and should not be required to build still more on Fort Ord.
"Your plan doesn''t seem tied in to producing a balanced community," Smith said. "The county has produced what are sometimes called ''projects,'' with higher density, higher crime is this what we should be building?"
Housing Authority Executive Director Jim Nakashima hurried to the microphone to assure the assembled that the objective is mixed use and mixed income--and that the study did indeed factor in costs for water and infrastructure.
During the public comment period much of the focus was on the issue of prevailing wage, with several union-affiliated audience members making the case for ensuring that any Fort Ord housing be built by workers who are well paid. The study''s baseline figures don''t account for union wages, though the study includes a table for factoring in higher wages.
After several other speakers thanked Farr and the Housing Authority for the study, County Supervisor Edith Johnsen spoke up. After reciting a list of concerns--including water and wages--she urged FORA to conduct a similar study taking into account Fort Ord''s unique circumstances.
"I recommend that the board does its own follow-up to these numbers," she said. "And I think we can do that and we should do that."