Sex and the County
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Facial hair is hot, thinks the girl reporter. At least among Monterey County officials (Supervisor Butch Lindley and assistant administrative officer Jim Colangelo), beards are the new soul patch. So she’s thinking about facial hair, and staring at bearded men, waiting for the Supes to reconvene on Sept. 21.
The Board is slated to receive a report on the Moro Cojo subdivision on Castroville Boulevard that 170 families—mostly farmworkers—call home.
According to a ‘95 court settlement, the homes are supposed to remain affordable in perpetuity, and the County agreed with the developers—the Community Housing Improvement System & Planning Association (CHISPA) and South County Housing—that the houses and apartments would remain affordable to low-income and very-low income families and seniors.
But last May, a family tried to sell a home at market rate, saying they were unaware of the deed restrictions. Since then, county staff has been meeting with the “parties to the previous litigation.”
This has peeved some North County neighbors and affordable housing advocates, who say once public funds play a role in developing affordable housing, the public is a stakeholder, too.
Four months later, at the Supervisors Sept. 21 meeting, the elected officials were scheduled to “receive a status report” about Moro Cojo, not to “change any conditions or amend the settlement agreement.” County Counsel Charles McKee (who’s wearing a suave taupe suit) says this at least four times.
But there’s a line in the staff report, that worries some people in the audience: “Parties to the previous litigation are prepared to…clarify that 175 units must remain affordable to moderate income households.”
Moderate-income households are not low-income; there is a difference in home prices of about $100,000.
CHISPA’s attorney, Tony Lombardo, who wears a charcoal suit and his white hair thick, tells the Board “for the benefit of the families and the County, some additional documents need to be provided to clarify those documents,” referring to the settlement agreement, deed restriction, etc. The girl reporter’s seen Lombardo in action and he’s good—so smart and charming. No wonder the Supes and certain other County officials like him so much.
A few days earlier in another part of the county, a different group of low-income residents fought a different battle for their homes.
It probably is still too early to say whether Rippling River residents have escaped eviction. But according to a federal report, the facility can be renovated for $2.7 million, and can serve the elderly and disabled for 20 more years.
“It’s very good news,” says Merri Bilek, president of the residents’ association. “We’re excited, but also somewhat cautious. Anything with the Housing Authority—there’s going to be issues and questions.”
Indeed, Jim Nakashima, the Housing Authority Director, has been hell-bent on razing the 79-unit complex and relocating its residents. Over the last 10 years, studies uncovered electricity problems, other safety hazards, and building maintenance problems. The estimated cost to rehab the buildings climbed to more than $10 million.
The Housing Authority’s solution: Demolish the buildings.
Supervisor Dave Potter, who represents Carmel Valley and owns a construction company, repeatedly told the Housing Authority that the price tag was grossly inflated. In late July, despite huge resistance, the Housing Authority announced its insurance carrier would no longer cover the liability, and Nakashima said notices of eviction would be forthcoming.
Residents asked the County Supervisors to step in, and they asked the US Army Corps of Engineers to survey the facility.
“And—isn’t that interesting?—for $2.7 million, you can get those buildings fixed,” says Potter. “It’s a total confirmation of what I believed to be true from the beginning. There’s no need for any eviction notices.”
As always, Nakashima didn’t return the girl reporter’s phone calls. Apparently, in her three-inch stilettos, she strikes a very imposing figure, even to a retired Air Force colonel.