Developers of Shopping at the Rose in Oxnard are gearing up to throw a cocktail party fund-raiser tonight to celebrate the near-completion of the shopping center.
But residents near the complex, built on a former strawberry field at Rose Avenue and Gonzales Road, are concerned that a wall constructed by developers to separate them from the mall is not sufficient to keep out noise and crime.
Residents of the Rio Lindo neighborhood say that crime and graffiti have increased since the center was constructed, and they fear that two incidents earlier this week will become commonplace once stores open later this month.
On Monday, burglars broke into a house near the wall, and police told the residents that the thieves probably jumped over the wall and then used it to hide from view after the crime.
On Wednesday, officers from the Immigration and Naturalization Service chased two undocumented men who were working as landscapers at the complex over the wall and through the neighborhood.
Eleanor Branthoover, president of the Rio Lindo Neighborhood Council, said residents want the 6-foot-high concrete wall increased to 8 feet.
"It's just not going to do us any good the way it is now," she said. "It's a question of safety."
But Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez said a majority of the Rio Lindo residents would have to petition to change city permits before the height of the wall could be increased.
"You can't just go and tell a developer who's followed all the rules to change everything around unless you have some very good reasons," Lopez said.
The complex is expected to generate more than $2 million a year in sales tax revenue for the city and create as many as 1,500 jobs. It will be anchored by a Wal-Mart store and Sam's Club.
The center will also house a Vons, Sportmart, Comp USA, House of Fabrics and McDonald's, said Kevin Bernzott, who heads the McGaelic Group, the Oxnard-based company developing the center.
Bernzott said he has worked hard to accommodate the Rio Lindo residents.
"I've met with them several times and I'll meet with them again," Bernzott said. "We definitely want to work with the community."
In an effort to forge good community relations, Bernzott said, his group is footing the bill for tonight's party.
The proceeds will be split between the Oxnard Boys & Girls Club, Clinicas del Camino Real and a gang alternatives program run by the Oxnard Police Department, Bernzott said.
"We want this to be a nice event," Bernzott said. "We're sparing no expense."
Wednesday morning, workers were unloading trucks full of heat lamps, folding tables and chairs for the event, which will be held in the mall's parking lot.
If all the trees and twinkling lights show up, by Thursday at 4:30 when the party begins, "the lot will be transformed into a Parisian night," Bernzott said.
The $50-a-head party will feature mariachi and Dixieland bands, and dance music played by a local deejay. A Bill Clinton impersonator will be on hand to have his picture taken with party-goers.
The menu, prepared by a chef from Santa Barbara, includes cheese tortellini with marinara glaze, mushrooms stuffed with chorizo, and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
For more information about tonight's fund-raiser at Shopping at the Rose, or to buy tickets, call 656-9440.