First threats, then fire burns migrant housing in Nipomo

April 7, 2016

Nipomo Fire

Following several reported threats, an arsonist likely set a fire Wednesday night that burned a home under construction in Nipomo. The home was one of seven houses being built to shelter 112 or more foreign nationals who would come from Latin America to work on a local strawberry farm.

Around 11:25 p.m., Cal Fire received a report of a fire on Mad Place in Nipomo. Firefighters responded and extinguished the fire by about 11:45 p.m.

The fire destroyed the home’s frames, which builders had recently laid. It also damaged a second home under construction. The homes are located in a residential neighborhood off Tefft Avenue near Highway 101 and the Dana Adobe.

Greg France’s plan to house a minimum of 112 migrant workers in seven homes located in a residential neighborhood has resulted in misinformation, anger, threats and intimidation. The workers provided through the federal H-2A program will be primarily men from Mexico and Central America who will live 16 to a home for approximately nine months out of the year.

Mad farms 2

Three of the finished homes on Mad Place.

On March 28, the South County Advisory Council sent out an email announcing a discussion on the matter, which they failed to place on the agenda. At the meeting, a  group of about 40 Nipomo residents raised concerns about crime, noise levels and the effect the migrant housing would have on their property values.

On March 29, South County Advisory Council Chairman Art Herbon sent an email to council members and the media claiming that the project was permitted because of a loophole and that the county had sanctioned the project.

However, the county has no jurisdiction over the number of people permitted to live in a home and France is not required to bring his plan in front of the county.

While the California Building Code requires that no more than 16 persons live in a single-family residence, local ordinances restricting the number of unrelated people living in a home have been deemed unconstitutional by the courts.

Supervisor Lynn Compton has been working with planning and county counsel staff to determine if they can prevent this type of use in the future through an ordinance restricting business uses in residential neighborhoods. At the April 4 San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisor’s meeting, Compton asked staff to place a discussion about commercial uses in residential neighborhoods on a future agenda.

Nevertheless, Herbon had already sent another email, as chairman of the council, claiming that the bulk of cities and counties in California have ordinances limiting occupancy. He requested that his email be forwarded to hundreds of HOA members in Nipomo without consulting with county officials or staff, Compton said.

“Unincorporated San Luis Obispo County has no laws in place that prevent 16 people from living in single family residences,” Herbon wrote. “I believe that most cities and counties in California have laws that prevent this excessive overcrowding. We are the exception, and companies are taking advantage of it.”

However, in San Luis Obispo County, the city of San Luis Obispo is the only community with an occupancy ordinance restricting the number of persons in a home, which several local attorneys including county counsel said is unlikely to survive a legal challenge.

Following Herbon’s emails, online arguments over property rights versus allegations of racism became heated with some discussing burning down the homes and another placing France’s home address online.

Cal Fire officials said they could not come up with any scenario other than arson being the cause of the fire. An investigation into the blaze is ongoing.

The federal H-2A program allows employers to file petitions for foreign nationals to temporarily enter the United States to perform work that citizens will not do. Foreign applicants are screened and those with criminal records are not permitted in the program.

The employer must then provide housing and transportation for the workers. France is currently housing his migrant workers at hotels in Ventura and busing them to and from the work sites.

Construction on some of the homes is already complete, and the farm workers are scheduled to move in to three of the homes on May 1.

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First of all the burning of property in opposition to, or disagreement of proposed projects or plans is absurd and quite frankly detracts from any legitimate questioning of said project or plan.

Secondly; I’m not sure where you’ve all been, but housing 4 to 6 persons per room is not an uncommon practice for dorms and recovery programs. This means housing 16 individuals in a 4 bedroom house is by no means a stretch.

Lastly; to say that petitions for foreign nationals to temporarily enter the United States to perform work that citizens “will not do” is questionable. How does one prove this? Must an employer prove it in order to qualify?

Also, seems to me it might be more cost effective to hire locals with a better wage rather than having to pay for housing and transportation for 112 people. The employer still must pay wages, SS and workman’s comp for all these folks……..where’s the cost savings? I guess the “follow the money” statement is in order here.

Why are these temporary employees paying Social Security, State employees don’t pay Social Security because they are not eligible through State employment. Are these temporary employees brought here to stay?

Here’s 5 things you need to know about seasonal workers

The farmer should put them all up at the Marriott and pass the cost on to the consumer with $10 lettuce. Better yet, get the government to subsidise his housing project with our tax $. Oh, the government, isn’t it wonderful the way it regulates all this shit? Wait a minute, the guy with the match did that.

It’s not $10 lettuce, it’s a few cents more. 1 cent/head = $3/hr for the picker. But the free market dictates we not one cent more than necessary so we pay 3 cents/head or $9/hr.

“John McCain, R-Ariz., speaking several years ago to a group of union members in Washington, D.C., told them, “I’ll offer anybody here $50 an hour if you’ll go pick lettuce in Yuma this season and pick for the whole season.” Amid jeers, he didn’t back down, telling the audience, “You can’t do it, my friends.”

There are no “buts” about it.

You don’t burn down houses to prove a point. We have a legal system in place for this reason. This is vigilante justice, and it is horrible to think neighboring homes, innocent people could have been hurt.

HUD housing actually specifies guidelines on how many people should occupy a room. There was president in place so arson didn’t have to happen.

*precident* OMG. Autocorrect wants to vote today!

“Supervisor Lynn Compton has been working with planning and county counsel staff to determine if they can prevent this type of use in the future through an ordinance restricting business uses in residential neighborhoods.”

LOL! Lynn is so clueless. She hasn’t been working “with” them. County counsel tells her what to do and she does it.

County counsel tells Lynn Compton what is legal to do. You know that. You just want a reason to criticize Compton. She hasn’t done anything yet. So, stop it.

I was her biggest supporter and campaigned for her. That all ended with her first meeting as chair when she was easily tricked into aiding Hill and Gibson in an hour long attack on Dan Dow. She lost me at that point.

Good point.

And PB builders and other developers tell Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson what to do and they do it…………..

Arson is bad we all agree but so is housing 16 adults in one house. If this farmer is trying to do something nice for his workers why not build homes right next to his own home or perhaps on the farm where they friggin work so they can roll out of bed and be at work. This farmer is full of crap he isnt trying to do something nice for his workers he’s is just trying to run tenement housing and make his labor rent from him.

Exactly as I predicted given that one of the “threats” was by the County Building and Planning director and Supervisor Compton basically saying that what you’re proposing to do may be legal under all applicable laws and regulations but will be prevented by the neighbors as it has been in past cases.

The farmer must be crazy…16 people living in one home? How is this even legal? I know this has been going on forever but when discovered it was halted and the property was cleaned up. This is in the open and in your face. Sorry I’d rather pay a few dollars more for groceries than to stand by nonsense like this. Stop welfare payments to healthy childless adults and watch the fields fill up with American citizens.

Time for the lies and misinformation to stop. Americans will do the work if they have no other choice. This type of migrant work force brings down the pay scale for everyone. Build the wall and save middle class America.

Statistically speaking, “welfare” payments to healthy childless adults are virtually nil. It’s all in AFDC benefits which will increase logarithmically with generations. 98% of illegals don’t work in the fields, they do however dominate all phases of construction for Republican developers who do not want to have their profits cut by obeying the law. Everything is piece-worked in such a manner so that no connection can be made to anybody. Middle class Americans will do these jobs, but not at one-third of the wages 10 years ago. As to farming, you bring in farm labor or you don’t farm. Unions used to be the biggest force against illegal immigration. Reagan took care of that problem.

Your points are well taken except for the part about welfare payments to childless adults being nil. They do get them and then there is the “single” mother that is not single at all and has an X husband or boyfriend working and living in the prop 8 housing with her. His income completely unrecorded as household income. This practice is widespread.

As far as farm worker compensation is concerned I’ve always supported paying field workers more in order to attract out of work legal citizens. Working on a ranch or farm can be a very healthy rewarding career. I would pay more for groceries in order to bring up hourly pay in agriculture.

They will do the work if they have no other option and they and us will be better off for it.


I think we can all join together to denounce any lawlessness that may be at play here, but let’s wait for the investigation to reveal more. That being said, it is also true that we can denounce the attempt by the Big Ag crowd to solve their problem by causing problems for the families already living in this Nipomo neighborhood. Along with problems like this, we are now seeing illegal aliens committing vicious crimes on American citizens, and, very often, ‘Sanctuary City’ politicians minimize the impact of such crimes

Big Ag ought to reevaluate their relationship to the Central Coast community.

Josey Wales

RIP Mrs. Marilyn Pharis

Illegal aliens didn’t burn the houses down. I’m pretty sure about that.

I read your opinion posted on another new source the other day. Interesting how that all turned out.

Google it, they DO commit arson.

I understand there are illegal aliens on the planet that may commit arson. That is different from what *I* said, and that was I don’t think illegals aliens burned the houses down in THIS scenario.

I read YOUR post on another news source the other day. Interesting how all that turned out.

Reject Sanctuary City politics and sanctuary City politicians.

Reject SM Mayor Alice Patino.

How do you conclude that this will be “causing problems for the families already living in this Nipomo neighborhood”? You need to take a drive around South Oak Glen, it is about as backward-ass as you will find in SLO County. The liquor store around the corner on East Tefft is quite the peach as well. We should have let Nipomo go to SB County when they proposed it years ago as it is in Santa Maria’s sphere of influence.

Maybe it’s naive, but I just find this despicable and so disheartening. This is not the type of thing that is supposed to happen EVER, but especially here on the Central Coast. I know things change, but this is terrible. There is no justification.


“However, the county has no jurisdiction over the number of people permitted to live in a home and France is not required to bring his plan in front of the county.”

Under the fact stated above, albeit that if you lived directly next door to this housing project and had young children, that way in the back of your mind you may be somewhat relieved, but would never state this fact.

You have less to fear for your children from hard working “Messican” farm workers than County CPS who will gladly take your children away from you and present them to upstanding community child molesters in exchange for a chunk of state change ($1,600/mo per molested child).

That is a whole lot of ignorant assumption all the way around.

You assume all “Messican” farmers are hard working and peaceful. Most human beings on the planet basically hard, so it would be a fair guess that most farm workers are too. There are dirty perverts in every social class, so it would also be reasonable to assume that amongst the farm workers, that SOMEONE has perverted tendencies.

Child Welfare Services doesn’t come in the night and rob children like the boogeyman. Calcoastnews gets a few stories without all the information and then postulate that this is the entirety of the CWS system. You would be astounded at the chances families get to “reunify” with their kids- over and over, relapse after relapse, failing to do the most BASIC of tasks– like stay sober, go show up to your own kids’ visitations.

STOP POSTING IGNORANCE. CWS isn’t making money and bonuses off these kids. These kids often need medical care, specialists, clothing, dental care, you name it. They pay for foster homes and family Foster placements to get their home ready to take care of their loved ones. Whenever possible, children are placed with families.

Just please, stop posting blanket ignorance.

Yes CWS does make money. Kids=cash=job security. Taking children is extremely lucrative and is the goal.