Responding to dozens of complaints of substandard housing, the Ventura County grand jury has recommended that both neighborhood leaders and county officials do more to clean up El Rio.
In a report released Friday, grand jurors said they have found numerous zoning, building and safety violations at illegal boarding houses and second dwellings and illicit businesses in the unincorporated community near Oxnard.
"It is apparent that the violating residents have become very adept at stringing out the complaints registered against them, causing the complainants and officials to become frustrated," the jurors said.
Jurors noted that Ventura County has only two code enforcement officers to cover complaints from all of the county's sprawling unincorporated area, including El Rio. Those officers now handle 940 open cases, the report said.
The grand jury concluded, however, that both residents and officials should be more diligent in making sure substandard conditions are eliminated, not accepted as a way of life.
"An organized effort on both the part of El Rio residents and county officials is necessary to provide positive results," the report said.
Specifically, county zoning enforcement officers need to assume "a more aggressive posture" when forcing prompt property improvements, the report said.
And community leaders should distribute written complaint forms to concerned residents, it said.
Tom Berg, who oversees code enforcement efforts as chief of the county Resource Management Agency, said he welcomes any grand jury suggestions, but noted that the county budget is shrinking, making it difficult to expand services.