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Day Laborers Shift to a City-Funded Site

Thousand Oaks: Workers appreciate the amenities, including tables and a portable toilet. But neighbors express concerns.

June 25, 2002|ELENA GAONA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forced from another spot because of nuisance complaints, a group of day laborers gathered Monday at a new hiring site established by the city of Thousand Oaks.

The men placed two handwritten banners at the old location to remind contractors that they had moved a few blocks to the site along Royal Oaks Drive next to the Ventura Freeway.

"This is a nice place, and we won't have any more problems with the people in the houses [nearby]," said Florentino Perez, 20, who is often hired for construction work.

Compared to the corner where they congregated for more than 15 years at Fairview Road and Crescent Way--where leaning against a fence was as close to relaxing as one could come during the wait--the laborers said the new site offers a number of advantages.

Shaded by oaks, the site offers amenities such as picnic tables, a portable toilet and a circular drive so contractors can pick up workers safely away from the road.

If all goes well, contractors will adjust to the new location, said the laborers.

Skilled in such tasks as construction, carpentry, painting and gardening, the laborers may still be faced with challenges beyond just finding jobs, however.

Some residents near the new site are as concerned about seeing the laborers arrive as the residents at the old location were relieved to watch them leave.

"I'm not really in favor," of the relocation, said Barbara Dubose, who lives across the street from the new hiring site.

"Nobody asked us what we thought," she said.

In a divided vote, the City Council approved funding for the new hiring site in March after years of complaints from neighbors near the former location about the crowd of laborers.

Victor Manuel Villacorte, who lives at the corner where the former site was located, said initially he would cook breakfast for some of the hungry workers. But the group grew to become a nuisance, at times blocking traffic, drinking beer and tossing litter, he said.

City Councilwoman Linda Parks said the city's intent was to improve the situation for the neighborhood and for the laborers.

But the new site, which is also in a residential area, is not a much better solution, said Parks, who voted against it.

She said she supports the laborers' efforts to find work but would rather see them at a commercial location, possibly outside a home improvement store, such as Home Depot.

"It impacts residents across the street who want to feel safe ... and not have people who are essentially loitering when they're not working," Parks said.

Residents near the new site echoed those concerns.

Resident Michael Childers said there is no fountain at the new hiring site and worries the men could wander into private yards in search of water, he said.

Dubose said the laborers could get hurt because the new site is located next to a sharp curve where cars tend to speed.

"This is not really a good place for them," Dubose said.

So far, the laborers have not felt any resistance to their relocation, they said.

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