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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Jon Tatro

I hate to be Mr. Obvious but they own a farm with much land why not build housing where they work just like most ranches and farms do? This just seems so well…….obvious.


mkaney

PROPERTY RIGHTS folks. Do some research and you’ll find that the owner is entirely within his legal rights to house these men here. So the first thing to consider is that you really have no say in the matter. In such a situation, it’s usually best to either negotiate with him (you’ll have to give something up) or just start learning how to make the best of it.


Personally, when I say I support property rights, I mean it. It’s not always going to work in your favor, but that’s the nature of freedom. So, do the rest of you who support property rights mean what you say, or not? If you claim to but then start adding conditions, you’re full of *$*@.


Josey Wales

The bottom line is, even though the place should not have been burnt down, it is also very wrong for Mar Vista Berry (Greg & Donna France) to try to take advantage of our community in this manner.


Under federal and state laws, these H1 visa workers are entitled to a host of taxpayer-provided programs, including ObamaCare, etc. SLO County officials warned the France’s that there would be huge issues with the taxpaying public if they went forward with their scheme, and just look at the resulting situation.


Mistaking warnings for threats is just another indication that some people are ‘tone death’ and incapable of understanding the reasonable concerns of others.


kayaknut

Yes, many, often because they have money, fail to understand that legal and right do not always go together.


obispan

So “the place should not have been burnt down” but the France’s were “warned that there would be huge issues with the taxpaying public if they went forward with their scheme, and just look at the resulting situation” therefore it should have been burned down with the France’s responsible for not acceding to the mob. I invite you to take a drive down South Oak Glen as I did yesterday. Not a pretty sight/site. Try to take pictures of distressed properties for sale and the string of code violations; occupied houses with boarded up windows, RV’s permanently parked on the street with cobwebbed wheel assemblies and the redneck with the truck with illegal Idaho plates will threaten you along with a few other tooth and language challenged residents called up as his posse. What is the difference between a “warning” and a “threat”? The house turned into a backward-ass fundamentalist church is the icing on the white trash cake. The first Friday the farm-workers are there I will be there with cases of cold Modelo and a frank warning about their “neighbors”.


Kaiser Bill

Why don’t you move into the neighborhood once the migrant workers show up if you are OK with 100 of them moving in? Put your money where your mouth is.


mkaney

Thanks for that description of the “tranquil family-oriented neighborhood,” the sanctity of which is threatened by the presence of an excessive number of humble hard working men. I think I will drive through and take a peak myself. If it’s as you describe, then it will set the record straight on what’s really going on here.


obispan

“Effect on property values”? The reason the houses won’t sell for 550K and numerous distressed properties on South Oak Glen (?, no oaks, no glen) won’t sell is that this is hard core white trash country; non-op vehicles and junk in yards, high security fencing in front yard, etc. The 7 houses are the only ones on Mads Place and have no neighbors aside from the aforementioned crap on the opposite side of South Oak Glen as you leave. If I had the misfortune to live in that neighborhood I would welcome the farm-workers as a huge improvement in the character of the residents.


Citizen

This section of Nipomo is part white/part Hispanic. It’s a neighborhood that has been transitioning upward with new and more expensive homes.


Now, the entire part of town on the East side of 101 can look forward to being turned into a farm labor camp by Santa Maria corporate farmers who have land in Southern San Luis Obispo County.


If you want to envision the future, then look at what Santa Maria corporate farmers have succeeded in doing to the city of Santa Maria in the name of “cheap farm labor”.

Look at the demographics, the education rate, the gang violence–a third world city right here in the next county…and expanding North.


Corporate farmers in Santa Barbara County need to take care of their own foreign worker housing in their own county, not use Nipomo for foreign labor and leave our county to handle and pay for problems.


obispan

These aren’t gang members. Gang members don’t pick crops. Gangs do originate in group protection against oppression. The Mexican gangs in response to white and black gangs, MS-13 to protect Salvadorans against predominant Mexican gangs. If they become gang members it will be because they have to. So ask yourself, do they have to or not?


horse_soldier

What a cop out.

Group protection against oppression?? Because they have to??

Ask yourself, what ever happened to free will?


euroamerican

You are correct the hard working crop pickers are not gang members. It’s their anchor babies, now grown into violent, hostile young adolescents with gigantic chips on their shoulders. These kids have not taken advantage of living here in the States where they have received a 12 year education, and many more advantages that they would not have received in Mexico. Their parents are working hard in the fields, and the kids are on the streets. Years ago we played soccer in a Mexican league. The kids were dropped off by their parents who where on the way to the fields at 6:30am. The kids were there all day long with no money for food. One kid was walking around licking empty potato chip bags trying to get the crumbs. I asked when he had last ate, he said the day before. These kids have to fend for themselves, any kid can take the wrong path if there is no guidance or structure in their lives. We see a lot of these kids being taken advantage of at a very early age, put in homes used as day care, because parents do not have money for licensed day care centers. It is sad, and a never ending cycle….


mkaney

These are WORKING MEN, NOT FAMILIES. You are talking out your ass about your perception of something, a perception which is not only invalid, but has nothing to do with this specific situation.


Kaiser Bill

OK Hypocrite, why is it OK for you to use the term White Trash but any time someone mentions Hispanic crimes and gangs they are a racist?


mej

Another point to this discussion is that it won’t be the same 112 men each year. It’s not like they will be neighbors you will get to know. It will be a round up every year. These people won’t have any ties or accountability to the community. The France’s really do need to build housing on their farmland so the workers can live and work there


obispan

You need to mind your own business and not try to illegally intimidate property owners using their property legally.


mej

“illegally” intimidate property owners? What country are you posting from? How is pointing out that there will be different workers each year illegal? Wow


achillesheal

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Cant blame people for trying to save their neighborhood. Why doesn’t the slumlord buy her serfs a house in her own neighborhood?


obispan

Save what? The residents have no pride in their neighborhood, flagrantly violate property maintenance codes, and despise government interference, until now. The only codes they, and Lynn Compton, want to enforce is the ones that don’t exist.


achillesheal

You’re right. Annex nipomo and everything south to Mexico. Build the wall in south AG.


fishing village

what a terrible thing to burn down these homes! I hope they find the perp and jail them! We don’t need people walking our neighborhoods who would do this. Someone could have been hurt, firemen, neighbors!! Arson is serious business let’s find the people who did this!


kayaknut

Cal Poly students must love this, now they know they can have 16 people living in a home meant for a single family. So much for SLO’s new code enforcement policy


obispan

http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tech-coliving-20160224-story.html


LA Times article about the 16 person/SFR housing trend (per California Code of Regulations Title 24, Part 2, aka the California Building Code) to deal with high housing costs.


However these aren’t techies in Nipomo, they’re Messicans, and therein lies the problem. And speaking of lies, don’t deny it yet again. If 16 young professionals decided to share the house you might not like it (I’m not wild about the parking problem in my neighborhood) and be quick to report crime, noise, parking, trash, code violations…but you would accept as established fact that you do not have the power to vet and veto neighbors. There are many white people in Nipomo that I would not hold out as the finest examples of our shared Northern European heritage. If I were the France’s I’d get those farm-workers in ASAP, warn them about looking out for each other to insure their personal safety, and have them keep an eye on the other construction sites.


obispan

http://archive.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/viewpoints/articles/20100314thompson14.html


Another great article. A lechugero at $9/hr costs 3 cents a head. So if you paid another 10c/head that went to the picker the salary would be a little under $90,000/yr. But that is not acceptable. Most would but lettuce for 10C less and most growers would pocket the millions that an extra 10c would generate if they did.


“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.”


AmericaBeautiful

Neighbors/”farm workers,” AKA Illegal Criminal Aliens like this guy, you mean?

http://calcoastnews.com/2016/04/man-convicted-of-molestation-despite-reported-erectile-issues/


This is what you have to look forward to, Nipomo, it you tolerate them.


obispan

And I will likewise assume that the Nipomo neighbors are just like the upstanding child rapist the County provides victims for in exchange for money from the state.


womanwhohasbeenthere

I thought zoning laws were supposed to mean something. My take is, under zoning laws, this is a single family residence, yet it is effectively being turned into a “single room occupancy” facility, and overcrowded at that.


Since the homes are to be occupied only nine months a year, will this be a regular rental or the equivalent of a B&B? Can the owners write off the three months the homes are vacant? Of course!


A long term solution might be to build more apartments or renovate old hotels for this housing, or of course, put the housing on the farm…but probably the ag zoning laws prohibit this?


I thankfully don’t live there. But I’ve had some pretty awful neighbors over the years and some great ones as well.


My advice? Try to get off on the right foot with these people. They may not feel very comfortable there, either. I have found that (sometimes) a little kindness in the beginning can go a long way. Ask the Lord to help you either love your neighbor or have him move.


mej

Your advice is repulsive because there is no way you would want 112 men living next to you. That is offensive to tell these people to try and get off on the right foot with them. I’m sure those in the neighborhood are nice people and have no feelings about them being immigrants. They don’t want their block to be motel row.


obispan

You might want to check your assumptions about the block being out of Leave It To Beaver and the neighbors being “nice”. It’s not and they’re not.


AmericaBeautiful

http://calcoastnews.com/2016/04/man-convicted-of-molestation-despite-reported-erectile-issues/


This is what you’ll get living next to you. Will you “get off on the right foot” with him?


obispan

What do you mean by “write off”? Do they have to pay taxes on income they did not receive? No.


womanwhohasbeenthere

The owners can write off three months’ rent as lost income. It’s not income, it’s a deduction against income. Anyone with rentals no doubt itemizes, so he can write off the lost rent as a loss. Ask your accountant.


I wouldn’t want to be living there either as I pointed out. And I would be very concerned – like I said I’ve had some awful neighbors before, too. Just try not to antagonize them, that’s all. My neighbor from hell finally moved…


obispan

What the hell is your point? Yes, you get to offset income with expenses. You are taxed on NET income, the money you get to keep in the bank. It’s really funny how this somehow represented as a tax dodge. More Lynn Compton reasoning. I am starting to dislike her as much as Adam Hill. The letter from the County gave the green light for the arson.