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By Chris Frost
Tri County Sentry
Oxnard-- The story about affordable housing in the City of Oxnard picks up with City Manager Alex Nguyen pointing out there were promises made by past management.
The council, Tuesday, October 5, approved the sale of Oxnard Community Development Commission Successor Agency-owned property located on Sixth and Seventh streets to the Oxnard Housing Authority.
The hearing drew controversy because many community members preferred a park instead of housing, and council members felt blindsided about promises made about a park.
Nguyen said management could not make promises and bind the city.
"It shouldn't happen, it can't happen, and under my administration, it won't happen," he said. "If anyone tells you a prior manager made a promise, if it is true, it was inappropriate."
He said when looking at the city's situation, it faces a struggle between two significant needs.
"What makes it worse is the state is the one that has the big stick over this," Nguyen said. "If it were only up to us, we would have had a lot more room to maneuver."
He asked if parcel four is as big as the other two parcels combined.
"If that's the case, is it not possible for the council to give us direction and proceed with that as a park," he said.
Assistant City Manager Ashley Golden said the size of the lots is about the same.
"The intent of the Parks Commission was to take the remainder of that block," she said. "Those two parcels are the ones held by the successor agency. One lot is privately held, and the other is owned by the city."
Nguyen asked if housing is possible on lot four.
"Our recommendation back to the council back in November was that it was not well suited for affordable housing," Golden said. "The density and perspective indicated that we would be surplusing that."
Nguyen said the area had been an ongoing saga for many years.
"If a prior council did not make a commitment, this council should have the freedom to do as it sees appropriate," he said. "I want to find a way for the council to make a decision that they can all be happy with, versus feeling like they were blindsided or trapped into a corner by staff."
Councilman Bert Perello said the motion as it stands is a report presentation on median parks versus singling out one parcel over another.
"My concern is that we are going to use (parcels) five and six or one and four; that's not what the staff recommendation was," he said.
Nguyen said he understood but noted that it wasn't the staff's decision.
"I want to make sure we have a good decision-making process here, and apparently, we have failed at that with how we presented this," he said. "I'm trying to salvage this, so you're comfortable with whatever decision you wind up with."
Golden said the city can study the two potential layouts.
"It's still subject to the Surplus Land Act, and it still surplus to the disposition process with the successor agency, which requires the oversight board. It's possible to study, but we are not the ultimate decision body on some of these items."
Todd Mooney from the Successor Agency said if the property were declared as surplus, it would be offered through the regular surplus land act process.
"The successor agency would make the decision about who they want to sell the property to," he said. "That would be subject to review by the oversight board and its findings."
Councilwoman Gabriela Basua thanked Nguyen for trying to salvage the item.
"Based on the surplus land act, there's no way that we can say as a council that it will be a park," he said. "It will go through an RFP (Requests for Proposals) that will be the process, and people will come in and say what they would want to do with the property. Low-income housing would probably be a preference. I would hate to sit here today and say, let's look at making this a park when in reality, it probably will not happen."