[Hpn] CARLSBAD, CA - Council considers park as temporary shelter for farm workers - Union Tribune - December 4, 2003

HC Covington HC Covington" <hcc@icanamerica.org
Thu, 4 Dec 2003 21:02:48 -0500


Carlsbad council considers park as temporary shelter
for farm workers

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By Elena Gaona - Union Tribune - December 4, 2003

CARLSBAD – Dragged into the project by community activists,
the city is considering a public park as the site of a
temporary shelter for homeless migrant farm workers.

City Council members this week asked supporters about the
city's liability and cost for a shelter for farm workers at
Veterans Memorial Park.

Although council members were adamant that they prefer the
shelter be built on private property, some said yesterday
that they would consider the park site if it won't add costs
to Carlsbad, which has suffered from state budget cuts.

City leaders said they would not dip into general funds to
build or operate the shelter but are exploring the
consequences of using city land for it.

The shift in position among council members, who had planned
for the city to have a passive role in making the shelter a
reality, encourages those who say the city has gone too long
without a solution for its hundreds of homeless farm workers.

"We're very hopeful," said Carlsbad attorney Mike
Wischkaemper, who leads a coalition of about 30 city
residents and business and civic leaders with hundreds of
supporters, who asked the City Council to consider the park
site.

City Attorney Ron Ball and other legal consultants will
brief the council on liabilities when the conversation on
the shelter continues Tuesday.

Council members generally agree that the city's role is not
that of housing developer.

Other homeless people in the city also need help, and the
city is not building a shelter for them, Mayor Bud Lewis
said.

But with farm workers' makeshift camps torn down by the city
each winter, the need for housing for the farm workers
became very visible last year.

Finding a place for a new shelter has been elusive, however,
and Veterans Memorial Park was among eight sites recently
rejected by a task force.

Carlsbad purchased the park in the
early 1980s and does not plan to develop it for about seven
more years, city officials said.

Farm worker housing supporters said the spot is perfect for
a temporary shelter because the park is secluded among
canyons, near farming fields, away from houses, city-owned
and not developed.

City leaders say farm worker housing will not be needed in
seven to 10 years because local farms will give way to
development.

If the council approves the plan next week, the nonprofit
developer Community Housing Works of Escondido will apply
for $1.2 million in grants from the California Rural
Communities Assistance Corp. to build a 128-bed shelter on
the city property.

But Councilman Matt Hall said the city could face a
multimillion-dollar liability if the project is built at the
park.

Since the shelter would be removed in a few years, the
city might have to pay anyone living there for removing them
from their homes, according to state and federal laws. Those
costs could climb to more than $5 million, council members
said.

Council members also fear that even if the shelter is built
by someone else, the city might end up paying some operating
costs, and that is unacceptable, Councilman Mark Packard
said.

But proponents of the city park site argue that the
shelter is possible if Carlsbad's leaders and residents work
together. Wischkaemper said his coalition, which includes
attorneys and advocates, hopes to gain conditional approval
for the park site Tuesday.

"There's no guarantee this project is going to work,"
Wischkaemper said. "But we have to give it our best
effort."

Elena Gaona: (760) 476-8239; elena.gaona@uniontrib.com
source page: http://tinyurl.com/xsxu
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