Sentinel Article [ Posted: 07/29/2012 01:30:49 AM PDT REPRINT ]
As We See It: Give day worker center a chance
Give it a chance.
Opponents, mostly neighborhood residents, of an employment center for day laborers in Live Oak have been adamant in saying the center is in the wrong place and that it will create a host of problems.
Now the center, to be located on Seventh Avenue between Soquel Avenue and Capitola Road, has cleared a major hurdle, getting unanimous approval last week from the county Planning Commission. While neighbors can appeal the decision to the county Board of Supervisors, it’s highly unlikely that will change the decision since Live Oak Supervisor John Leopold supports the center.
Backers — including area nonprofits, anti-poverty and immigration-rights groups, even organized labor — hope the center can be open by mid-October.
This is one of those long-discussed proposals that people, not wanting to appear anti-Latino, usually say they support in concept, just not at the proposed location.
And certainly, in this case, there could be other locations possibly more suitable than Seventh Avenue. But none of those are proposed — and no other potential sites have what this one offers: a building owned by the Catholic Diocese of Monterey. The diocese, and Bishop Richard Garcia, not only have agreed to let the center be operated out of the building, but Garcia has given vocal support to the proposal, writing how it will help day laborers find work “to obtain food, shelter, clothes, medical care and education … fundamental human rights.”
And approval does not mean that neighbors will no longer be able to discuss how the center is complying with and enforcing the guidelines and rules to be put in place. Center officials, for instance, have to report back to the county in four months with detailed information about use of the facility.
As for the residential character of the neighborhood, the proposed day labor center will be on a site zoned for public facilities, in an area that includes the county animal shelter, a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall and Holy Cross Cemetery.
As for the center attracting large numbers of people cruising by in cars, either looking for work or workers, the best estimate is it will generate about 40 car trips a day. This is based on surveying the actual numbers of day laborers found outside construction- or home improvement-related businesses seeking work. These numbers have ranged from 200 when the economy is struggling to 400. Supporters believe the center will generate about 30 job matches a day for workers who follow the rules and help maintain the facility.
Neighbors also are worried that the center will bring in undesirable people or an increase in crime. But the program is set up to ensure that those workers who come to the center — most job matches will be by phone — will be required to wait inside the facility or in a fenced side yard. If people seeking work violate center rules, they can be barred from using the placement facility in the future.
For all that, we don’t expect neighbors to host a welcoming party for the day labor center. They’ll be waiting to see if backers live up to their promises.
Fair enough. We expect the center, and the Community Action Board which proposed the facility, to put aside past differences with residents and work closely with them. It will be important to listen with an open mind to any problems and to open the center’s doors so that neighbors can see for themselves that providing a safe place for working people to find employment is the right thing to do.