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City of Oxnard Code Compliance Manager Roger Brooks updated the Oxnard City Council about cost abatement. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, June 6, 2019

By Chris Frost


Oxnard—The Oxnard City Council received its annual nuisance cost abatement report during its, June 4, meeting, which places the unpaid assessments into the Ventura County Property Tax Roll for collection.


The property owner does have the right to appeal, City of Oxnard Code Compliance Manager Roger Brooks said, but no appeal was received.


One abatement was conducted at the Halaco Superfund Site at 6200 Perkins Road, and the cost of the abatement, $324,385, was included in the report.


In the fall of 2017, Brooks said he came to the council to request funding to perform the abatement of the site, and they found a large homeless encampment that generated many calls for service to the Oxnard Police and Fire Departments.


“The property owners failed to respond to our notices to abate,” he said. “The city council authorized up to $400,000 to conduct the abatement, conducted in Jan. and Feb. of 2018. Numerous city departments, along with several contractors, worked together to conduct the abatement, and the special assessment request is to recover those costs.”


The multi-week effort resulted in removing 120 people, 10 cars, 14 recreational vehicles, three boats, 138 tires, 425 tons of trash, and 28 tons of green waste.


“On a positive note, extra efforts of code compliance staff have made this the third year in a row that city staff has not had to conduct any weed abatement on the 400-plus vacant properties where the owner has failed to do so by the yearly deadline,” he said. “We want to thank the property owners in the city for being cooperative in maintaining their properties.”


Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez asked Brooks if he’s received any communication from the property owner, and Brooks said no.


“We’ll fill out documents, send it to the county, and the cost is put on a special assessment for next year,” Brooks said.


The Halaco property remains in arrears on their property tax.


Councilman Bert Perello said the city is batting zero when it comes to collecting these abatements and the process is a “joke.”


“I’ve had people tell me this organization is in bankruptcy,” he said. “We had people come to this council when we cleaned the spot up representing a church, and they had leased this thing to a church, and they were collecting funds. There have been stories that said the church was charging people that were on the Halaco site, the homeless. We go through the gyrations of acting official, and they have no assets that we can grasp.”


Assistant City Manager Ashley Golden said the issue started in 2010, but the case is similar to all the other cases.


“This case is one case alone from 2018, and totals the $324,000, and is just from that one case we are putting on the tax rolls, to collect that money,” she said. “Although the property owner has not reached out to us, Candida, who represented the property owner  (before you arrived on council) have reached out to city staff and want to address some of the abatement costs and look to re-institute a new use on that site. We are in the discussion, but regardless, those abatement costs need to go on to the tax assessment roll.”


Perello noted the total cost for the site is approaching $500,000 total with the previous charges and he doesn’t want them to get away with anything.


“We are following the due process,” City Manager Alex Nguyen said. “We’re not letting anyone get away with it. The report is also payments that are in arrears, so this is going to be recorded against the property, as well.”


Councilman Bryan MacDonald said the property is close to being ready for a tax default sale, but the tax collector won’t engage that mechanism because it’s an EPA site.


“When I met with the EPA on my last trip to Washington D.C., they provided some information that said should the city assume ownership of that property through tax default, we would not assume the liability for the hazardous material or the waste site,” he said.


City Attorney Stephen Fischer said he had nothing to report about that issue yet, but noted it is a sensitive matter.


“We have utilized specialized outside council talking to the EPA and talking to state regulators as well about the liability issues associated with this property,” he said.

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