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Council Kills Low-Income Housing Plan : * Moorpark: Residents cite concerns over density and crime in asking the City Council to turn down the 100-apartment complex.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A proposed low-income apartment development originally opposed by some Moorpark residents as a potential source of crime was killed by the Moorpark City Council early Thursday after another public protest that shifted the focus of criticism to population-density issues.

After about an hour of public testimony, the City Council voted unanimously a few minutes after midnight to turn down the proposed 100-unit apartment complex despite an initial recommendation from the city’s planning staff that the project be approved. The project was proposed for a site south of Los Angeles Avenue between Moorpark Avenue and Fremont Street.

City officials said a protest campaign by the site’s neighbors, who complained that the city is concentrating high-density and low-income housing downtown, turned the tide against the proposal.

There is “a disproportionate share of high-density and low-income units in one area,” said Councilman Scott Montgomery, who made the motion to deny the project.

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There was relatively little discussion between the council and the developer, Bibo Inc. of Camarillo, preceding the decision. Councilman Bernardo Perez abstained from the vote because of a possible conflict of interest.

The council turned down the development despite assurances by Bibo Inc. Vice President David Fukutomi that the company would meet all of the conditions suggested by the Planning Commission, including the addition of a swimming pool.

The Planning Commission had recommended denial of the proposal unless Bibo agreed to the conditions, but had said the project was in accord with current zoning and the city’s General Plan.

Fukutomi said that although other Bibo proposals for low-income housing have met opposition, this was the first time that one of the projects had been denied. Bibo has built three housing developments in Ventura County for low- and moderate-income residents, he said.

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The middle-class homeowners in Regal Park condominiums, which sit just west of the proposed development site, and in the single-family houses along Fremont Street have protested against the development since it came before the Planning Commission in July.

Their campaign included a petition with about 100 signatures, letters and phone calls to the council and protests at public hearings, Regal Park resident Susan Moody said. The group also hired an attorney, she said.

At the Planning Commission hearings, many of the protesters had said the low-income residents of the proposed project would bring drug-dealing and other crime to their neighborhood.

But, while the possibility of increased crime was again cited as a concern before the City Council Wednesday night, the 10 speakers among the 70 or so protesters at the hearing focused more on the density of the Bibo development.

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“I personally am not concerned with the fact that it’s low-income,” Regal Park resident Eugene O’Brien said. “The idea is the extreme density.”

O’Brien said he is concerned that the city is concentrating both its high-density and its low-income housing in the southeast corner of the city.

Just as the poorer parts of a town used to be called “the other side of the tracks,” the southeast corner of Moorpark is going to become “the other side of the ditch,” O’Brien said, referring to the Arroyo Simi flood channel that separates older neighborhoods from some of the newer, more expensive developments.

Regal Park, which has 120 condominiums, is bordered on the west by Moorpark’s largest apartment complex, Le Club. Thirty-seven of Le Club’s 370 apartments are reserved for low-income residents.

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About a mile east of Regal Park is Villa Campesina, a tract of single-family houses for low-income residents. Near that is the site where Westland Co. will build 391 houses and apartments, including some units for low-income homeowners.

Regal Park residents said crime, along with traffic and parking problems, already has increased significantly since Le Club was built in 1988.

An architect for Bibo, which has worked for about three years to fashion a low-income development for the Moorpark site, told the council that the company’s project would be less dense than most market-rate apartment complexes.

The complex’s two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments “were not designed or downsized as moderate-income housing,” architect Marc Fidler said.

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The two-bedroom apartments would have had an area of 990 square feet, he said. Le Club’s two-bedroom apartments have 820 square feet, a rental agent there said.

The protesters said they were concerned that the density and low-income nature of the project would lower their property values.

“All of you have property that has appreciated, and we were hoping for the same chance,” Fremont Street homeowner Teresa Schmidt told the council.

The Regal Park condominiums sell for about $125,000 to $150,000, resident Debbie Menard said. Based on the county’s current median income, rents on the Bibo apartments would have ranged between $423 and $726 a month. The maximum eligible household income for the project would have ranged from $16,940 to $29,040.

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Fukutomi said a study, ordered by former Gov. George Deukmejian, of how low-income housing affects neighboring property values found that there was a negative effect in only one of the cases examined.

Perez excused himself from the hearing because he is a board member of Cabrillo Economic Development Corp., which was at one time involved in the Bibo project.


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