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Ventura County

Oxnard Panel OKs Homes for Farm Workers

Construction: Villa Cesar Chavez development would contain six houses and 52 apartments. City Council approval is expected.


A new housing development for farm workers that will be dedicated to the late labor leader Cesar Chavez has received approval from Oxnard planning officials.

"This is a great victory," said a tearful Alfonso Villegas, whose family has waited six years for a chance at owning a home. "It means we can make our dream come true. And for other families too, not just us."

The Oxnard Planning Commission voted Thursday to approve construction of the Villa Cesar Chavez development, which will include six affordable single-family homes and 52 apartments exclusively for farm workers.

The City Council is expected to give final approval at its July 9 meeting.

The project calls for razing a collection of shacks in south Oxnard that were built 60 years ago to house farm-worker families.

The new development was made possible after former tenants won a three-year legal battle over slum conditions.

Tenants had reported that raw sewage flowed from broken pipes and rain leaked into the small wooden houses that were infested with rats and cockroaches. When they complained, their landlord tried to evict them. The eight families involved then enlisted the help of legal aid attorneys and fought to stay on the land.

After winning a judgment against HR Inc. in 1998, the tenants reached an out-of-court settlement in 2000 in which they each received $10,000.

The land was then sold to Cabrillo Economic Development, the county's leading builder of low-income housing.

Cabrillo officials said this is the biggest housing project for farm workers in Ventura County since the development of Rancho Sespe in Fillmore in 1993.

That development houses more than 500 residents.

"It's very significant because the farm workers themselves identified the need for affordable housing," said attorney Barbara Macri-Ortiz, who represented the eight families who will be given the first opportunity to place bids on the new houses.

"We could have gone to trial, and they would have gotten a lot of money. Instead, they settled to be able to control the land and bring home housing," said Macri-Ortiz.

Construction could begin early next year, with completion set for early 2004, said Yissel Barajas, project manager for Cabrillo.

The six Craftsman-style houses included in the project are targeted for families who earn 80% or less of the area's median income. The apartments will be split between families who earn 50% or less of the median income and those who earn 30% or less of the median income.

The price of the new homes will range from $162,000 for a three-bedroom house to $172,000 for a four-bedroom.

Apartment rents will vary from $439 to $980 a month, depending on the size.

Social services will also be available at the site through partnerships with local agencies such as El Concilio and Clinicas del Camino Real, Barajas said.

"This is a victory not only for Cabrillo but for all farm workers in general," she said.

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