MONTEREY (California) HERALD

August 30, 2017

 

Second farmworker housing complex backed by local ag employer approved

By Jim Johnson

 

Salinas, CA --- Another Salinas Valley agricultural employer’s farmworker housing project has been given the go-ahead, and there may be more already being planned.

On Wednesday, the county Planning Commission unanimously approved a 75-unit, 600-bed complex dubbed the Casa Boronda agricultural employee housing project and backed by local produce industry leaders the Nunes family on Madison Lane in the community of Boronda just outside Salinas city limits.

It is the second farmworker housing complex backed by a local ag employer for its own workforce in recent years, followjng the Tanimura and Antle complex in Spreckels. The project drew strong support from Salinas city officials, led by Mayor Joe Gunter and Councilwoman Gloria De La Rosa, as well as Landwatch, the affordable housing developer Community Housing Improvement and Systems Planning Association or CHISPA, the Monterey County Farm Bureau, and the Grower-Shipper Association.

Gunter praised the proposal as a way to continue efforts to deal with drastically overcrowded farmworker housing conditions in the Salinas Valley, and said it shows “how we treat our farmworkers.”

“The city totally supports this,” he said, noting that other similar employer-backed housing projects are in the works including one just north of Chualar that could include as many as 1,000 beds. “If we can get other employers to do this, we’ll be doing good.”

Applicant’s spokesman Mike Cling said the project was “modeled after” the T&A complex and even used the same development team, including architect Paul Davis.

Designed primarily for visiting H-2A visa farmworkers, but also open to domestic employees, the housing project will primarily be used during the harvest season from April to November. It includes six, two-story apartment buildings with up to eight residents per unit on a four-acre site that also includes two recreation rooms, a manager’s unit, laundry facilities, a basketball and volleyball court, and a sports and recreation fields.

While bus transportation will be provided to and from work sites, the project review acknowledged there will be additional traffic impacts to the community and is requiring frontage improvements along both Boronda Road and Madison Lane, as well as drainage upgrades.

A handful of neighbors spoke in opposition to the project on Wednesday, citing the number of vehicles already parked along the roadways in the neighborhood, many of them associated with auto body repair and paint shops in the area, including a glut of abandoned vehicles.

Cling said the project backers would commit to helping do what they could to alleviate the issue, though he said there’s no current plan for doing so.

The project was previously proposed for Potter Road before being moved to the current site.