Nipomo neighbors in uproar over migrant housing

April 1, 2016

Halsel home


A large strawberry grower in South County is seeking to move 112 or more foreign nationals into seven homes on Mad Place in Nipomo. A plan some neighbors are rallying against.

Under the federal H-2A program, employers file petitions for foreign nationals to temporarily enter the United State to perform work that citizens will not perform. The employer is then required to provide housing and transportation for the workers.

In this case, the workers for Mar Vista Berry will predominantly be men from Mexico and Central America. The current plan is to place 16 men in each home for approximately nine months out of the year.

Strawberry farmAfter learning of the grower’s plan to house farm workers in this residential neighborhood off of Tefft Avenue, near Highway 101 and the Dana Adobe, Supervisor Lynn Compton met with County Counsel Rita Neal to determine if this was permissible under current regulations, or if the county could enact an ordinance to limit the number of people living in a home, Compton said.

However, after researching the issue, Neal said that several court cases, including the City of Santa Barbara v. Adamson, have determined that those types of restrictions are unconstitutional, discriminatory and unlikely to withstand legal challenges, Compton said.

“When you live in a residential subdivision, your expectations are that there will be other families living there,” Compton said. “And not that you will be living next to a dorm, even if it is legal.”

In January, after meeting with county counsel, Compton and Jim Bergman, the director of building and planning, requested a meeting with representatives of Mar Vista Berry and Halsell Builders to voice their concerns about the proposal.

More than a year ago, Halsell Builders constructed three of the homes, but was unable to sell them.

Mad farms 2

“A happy, little cul-de-sac of six semi-custom and one custom home on an acre,” the builder’s website says.

“This is a neighborhood based on childhood memories, cutoff shorts and the ice cream truck” Halsell Builders’ Mad Farm’s website says. “Homes that reflect the spirit of family.”

Halsell currently has three homes built, three under construction and plans to build one more to finish out the subdivision.

On Feb. 10, Bergman informed the grower that his original plan to place 26 men in each home violated the California Building Code requirement of no more than 16 persons in a single-family residence. Bergman also noted his and Compton’s concerns about the impact a cluster of migrant housing units would have on the community.

“At the meeting, Supervisor Compton and I expressed to you that although your proposed course of action may be lawful (assuming no more than 16 residents per home), it most likely will become publicly controversial,” Bergman said in his letter. “In my career, I have witnessed four similar situations and all resulted in the community placing substantial pressure on the property owners which caused each to reconsider their actions.”

On Monday, at a South County Advisory Council meeting, a group of about 45 Nipomo residents voiced their concerns about crime, noise levels and their property values if seven neighborhood homes are used for migrant housing.

Last week, the grower moved bunk beds into three of the homes with plans to move the farm workers in on May 1.

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  1. 65buick says:

    I think what’s neat is they thought they were just going to move in several dozen bunk beds and hope nobody noticed.
    I’m so glad they are going to be ‘addressing concerns’. What a crock.

    (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
  2. Jorge Estrada says:

    I think our homeless problem has just been solved. Forget the students, place sixteen homeless at $250 a head per month and Ka Ching. Not bad for a one bedroom house and more if tents are in the back yard. Farming people is likely more profitable than strawberries but what a great excuse.

    (5) 19 Total Votes - 12 up - 7 down
  3. adustum says:

    Bergman said in his letter. “In my career, I have witnessed four similar situations and all resulted in the community placing substantial pressure on the property owners which caused each to reconsider their actions.”

    Unprofessional statement.

    (-14) 20 Total Votes - 3 up - 17 down
    • ccmom says:

      I agree. He’s basically saying that they strong-armed them out.

      (-10) 16 Total Votes - 3 up - 13 down
      • obispan says:

        Therefore encouraging vigilante action. The minute I read this I knew the houses would be torched. As this is County policy I do not see the County “wasting resources” to find out who did it.

        (-5) 5 Total Votes - 0 up - 5 down
  4. wcschlecht says:

    If you think this is okay, or believe homes should have no limits to the numbers residing in a commercial dorm setting in a residential neighborhood. Then consider the traveling professional renting a room for less than 6 months and the Airbnb or vacation rental in your area. These resourceful people that provide the space that bring tourist and revenue in are under attack from a government trying to burden them with licenses, fees, added taxes and other restrictions may just say, If you can’t beat them join them.

    Why face the governments fight against them at all. why bother with all the work keeping a vacation rental cute and marketable. It will be far more profitable and easer to sell or lease to a farm at prices well above market value because the farm will be stacking migrant workers in by the dozens..

    Seems reasonable that a full house is coming to your neighborhood soon if these commerical dorms are allowed.

    (21) 23 Total Votes - 22 up - 1 down
    • mej says:

      Exactly, and people opposed to this shouldn’t be accused of the seriously overused offense of being racist.

      This is about a gross number of people in a house.

      (11) 17 Total Votes - 14 up - 3 down
  5. Jorge Estrada says:

    If he would provide public transportation disallow garage dormitories, parking on the front lawns or 112 more cars on the street curbs who would know?.

    (-5) 15 Total Votes - 5 up - 10 down
  6. obispan says:

    Dear Lynn, What is your definition of “residential subdivision” and “family”? I live in a residential area of SLO and there is only one “family”, per se, anywhere around. Lots of students and single people sharing houses though. Your problem is with Messicans. You sound a lot like “plain spoken” (LA Times) racist George Hobbs. I like the idea of farm workers not living in the substandard crap housing where the owners can afford anything but permits and maintenance. I know the people who own these places, they’re just like you.

    (-28) 50 Total Votes - 11 up - 39 down
    • Citizen says:

      Unfair attack on Lynn Compton. She is not responsible for the problem; she is gathering information and commenting on the legal research.

      Two questions. 1. Are foreign workers being imported to avoid the new California minimum wage rates?
      2. Will housing foreign workers in large homes in neighborhoods instead of on the farmer’s land result in the county/city assuming responsibity for the safety and welfare of the workers, instead of it being the farmer’s responsibility. Will the farmer have someone on site at all times to manage and provide meals?

      IMO, we do not have a farm worker shortage in the Santa Maria area, and importing foreign workers means unemployment for farm workers already living here. But that’s just my opinion. Does anyone have data on this?

      We know that allowing foreign worker dorms in residential neighborhoods can be a disaster for any neighborhood, whether it’s Russian workers, or Somali workers, or young male Smurfs. Stop with the racist accusations and discuss the issues.

      (14) 24 Total Votes - 19 up - 5 down
      • obispan says:

        1. No, foreign workers must be paid minimum wage. This question alone shows your enormous ignorance of the issue.
        2. The safety and welfare of ALL workers is governed by the state.

        And nobody is losing their jobs due to this, only higher paid workers are displaced per Republican party policy put in place in 1980.

        (-7) 7 Total Votes - 0 up - 7 down
  7. hijinks says:

    “When you live in a residential subdivision, your expectations are that there will be other families living there,” Compton said. “And not that you will be living next to a dorm, even if it is legal.”

    Lynn Compton, you are a genius, so much smarter than the idiots on the SLO city council who stand by while speculators build “legal” dorms disguised as “houses” in all our neighborhoods. Please move to SLO and run for city council! Please! We need your wisdom badly.

    (20) 24 Total Votes - 22 up - 2 down
  8. RealityBytes says:

    You will typically see a pack of dirty, unregistered cheap vehicles strewn out front of such residences. Mexican people also tend to enjoy loud music on weekends.

    (14) 46 Total Votes - 30 up - 16 down
    • obispan says:

      But if it’s white people on meth that are part of multi-generational families and members of the local Elk’s Lodge doing the same thing, and worse, it’s o.k.

      (-18) 48 Total Votes - 15 up - 33 down
      • horse_soldier says:

        Why should either scenario be allowed?
        Neighbor’s should respect one another, why is race even involved?

        (27) 31 Total Votes - 29 up - 2 down

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