Public speaker tells Council that housing in-lieu fees are still a hot topic
Published:  April 14, 2017

About $7 million in potential development in-lieu fees have not been forgotten, the City Council learned at the April 3 meeting when the subject of funds awarded to the Santa Paula Housing Authority years ago was addressed by a public speaker.

Laura Flores Espinosa, the city’s former Vice Mayor, said during public comment that various groups are still waiting to hear about the allocation of funds that occurred in June 2014, a move made by the prior City Council. The only member of the then-council still seated, Martin Hernandez, had objected to the allocation of funds based on the appearance of fast-tracking the fees to the housing authority, especially as the council had just received a copy of the agency’s short letter seeking same. Other housing agencies had not been notified of an application process and at least one organization had formally queried the city about the future allocation for several years.

The projected close to $7 million in lieu fees would be generated in increments by Limoneira Co. as it builds its planned 1,500 residential development, now known as the Harvest at Limoneira. The payment of the fees to the city — in lieu of Limoneira building state mandated low- to very-low income housing — will be done gradually as units are completed.

Infrastructure construction has begun at the site, which is expected to hold houses starting in 2018. 

Although Hernandez had asked at the June 2014 that the issue be brought back as an agenda item and various representatives of housing groups have appeared before the council asking about the allocation, it has never formally returned to the council.

At the April 3 meeting Espinosa said several groups, including LULAC, Santa Paula Together, Latino Town Hall, Santa Clara Valley Democratic and local clergy are still following the item, including discussions with City Manager Jaime Fontes about the in-lieu fees being returned to the council.

“We’ve been watching every meeting and hope the council would give direction to the city manager…our concern is with Mr. Fontes,” pending departure April 13, “then we would have to reeducate the new city manager, bring the person up to speed — it’s a complicated issue. And before you know it there would be council elections,” and the topic could continue to be overlooked.

“It is a hot top,” said Espinosa, “it continues to be a hot topic in the community, so please at your earliest convenience,” agenize the in-lieu fee issue for council discussion.

At the time the Santa Paula Housing Authority was awarded the funds they said they would follow the then-council’s directive to use it to create housing for seniors, veterans and the homeless, but no housing allocations for farmworkers. 

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