April 17, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is one in a series on the Nov. 8 general election. For more coverage, visit vcstar.com/news/elections.
Nine candidates are running for three open seats on the Oxnard City Council in November.
The highest vote-getter each in District 1, 2 and 5 races will serve a four-year term.
Bert E. Perello, who has represented District 1 since 2013, will defend his seat against Christopher P. Arevalo, Eduardo Q. Huerta and Douglas Dean Partello. The district represents northwest Oxnard.
In District 2, Gabe Teran, who won his seat in a special election, will go head-to-head against Tai Hartley for a full, four-year term on the council. The district covers the northcentral part of the city.
Incumbent Gabriela Basua, who has served on the council since 2018, will contend with Armando Piña and Lawrence Paul Stein for the seat in District 5, which represents southeast Oxnard. 
The Star asked each candidate questions inspired by feedback from the public. Below are their responses in their own words, which have been edited for clarity and space.
Age: 62 
Occupation: Retired healthcare executive
Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting, master’s degree in business.
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
The city of Oxnard has a comprehensive plan in place to address the issue of affordable housing. The city offers a homebuyer assistance program, which offers up to $57,000 for low and moderate-income residents and subject to funding availability. All programs are subject to debt ratios for qualifying. Generally, the ratio is a limit of 38% debt to overall income to qualify.
Oxnard has also established ordinances to ensure that 10% of any newly developed housing is available under the city of Oxnard Inclusionary Housing Program. Currently, there are 560 low-income and affordable and restricted units throughout the city. 
I believe that the city housing plan is fair and inclusionary. As your elected representative, I will work to ensure that our city takes advantage of every county, state and federal grant program available to address affordable housing in our city.
Homelessness is an issue throughout California. Currently, there is funding for mental health and housing for those deemed in need. The issue is that many of these folks do not want to be housed. In addition, drug use and family abandonment are also contributors to a number of homeless. Violent crimes related to the lack of clear reasoning and control is a focal point. The city of Oxnard and the county healthcare agency have partnered in support of providing care and services for those in need.
Homelessness and the issue of disturbances in our neighborhoods is a problem in almost every neighborhood throughout the city.  As your elected representative, I will continue to support the city’s established plan and work with county and state leadership to ensure we have the resources for social work, psychiatric services and continue the study of modified policing of homeless folks in your neighborhoods.
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county? 
In an economy that has been affected in many ways by the worldwide COVID pandemic, many high-paying jobs, whether in the tech sectors or others, can and are being performed remotely.  At this time, I believe that winning a high-paying job is based on education, skill and experience. The city of Oxnard has always been the beneficiary of relationships with the military and related bases here in our county. These bases create opportunities to partner with tech and aerospace companies servicing the bases. These relationships afford those willing to obtain degrees in science and engineering opportunities at high-paying jobs.  
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area? 
As a water supplier, our city has developed a robust water acquisition, storage and distribution plan (2020 Urban Water Management Plan). The city currently draws water from the Oxnard Ground Basin Wells, Calleguas Municipal Water District and the United Water Conservation District. In addition, our city has also developed an advanced water purification facility to recycle water for irrigation and other uses. Our city leadership currently participates in water planning at the city, county and state levels. As your elected representative, I would continue participation in the local area and state committees related to water management. 
Age: 41
Occupation: Consultant, humanitarian 
Education: Junior high school
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
Finding the root of what caused the homeless crisis in our county is my priority. After a long battle in advocating for better health services, housing for the homeless and affected families, I plan to get involved with selective nonprofits currently assisting the county in the current homeless and housing programs and build better structure around these projects. I’ll work with businesses affected by our homeless crisis and case managers finding temporary housing. Treatment through shelters can really help with living and job placement opportunities in connection with the state under the Community Assistance Recovery & Empowerment Act. 
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county? 
Building more affordable housing is the best way for companies and small businesses that depend on their local infrastructure to secure the cost of living needed for employers to offer employees a good salary wage. Being a more resourceful economy with more to offer with high-paying jobs can attract people to Ventura County as a place to live and raise a family or even retire in a good infrastructure surrounded by agriculture and coastal communities. Finding solutions to keep existing jobs in other sectors open the workforce industry securing a stronger and better economy in Ventura County. The recently passed rent-control ordinance advocated by Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, or CAUSE, secured housing for our essential and farm working families and community during the pandemic.
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area? 
First, I would review future and existing projects already required to be provided by water suppliers to local planning agencies for certain projects doing the best in conserving our agriculture. I’d make sure that our residents are not paying extra on their water bill due to bad infrastructure from the past two administrations. 
Age: 62
Occupation: Retired respiratory care practitioner 
Education: Associate’s degree in science in respiratory therapy
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
The city’s current approach to homelessness merely feeds the homeless industrial complex, funneling millions of dollars to entities whose survival depends on perpetuating homelessness, rather than on actually achieving improved outcomes for the homeless people.
We need to stop wasting resources playing whack-a-mole. The city spent $790,000 to evict about 75 persons from the Halaco encampment, only to have some of them return. We need a tiny home village, administered by a local nonprofit, not a $40 million homeless industry “Navigation Center,” with dormitory-style accommodations. Working directly with homeless individuals, I know the autonomy of a tiny home village is more appealing to them, and they’d be less likely to instead sleep in a bush, an alley or on an abandoned toxic site like Halaco or in front of businesses and in parks.
We need a safe sleep program for those who live in their vehicles. Once there is a location to offer them, we can expand our public overnight camping restrictions beyond just four areas, and the police can act to remove them from public spaces, where now we experience human excrement, trash and needles on the sidewalks.
Many causes of high housing prices are the result of social engineering mandates, which come from the state level. They also create perverse incentives for inadequate parking, which destroys quality of life. They result in the city approving housing developments immediately next to the airport, which was previously considered too unsafe for housing. The city hires legislative lobbyists, but we don’t use them to oppose these mandates and advocate for better policies. Subsidizing housing only lowers the cost for some, but shifts those costs to make housing more expensive for everyone else. Rent control can do more harm by reducing the number of rental options available.
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county?
Business owners just want to know they can open a business and start generating revenue. Oftentimes, city hall itself is the biggest obstacle to that. When Amazon wanted to open a warehouse here, the city was being so unreasonable that Amazon nearly walked away. It was only after a local online news journal embarrassed the city by publishing some of their communications with Amazon’s agents, that the city changed their ways, and now we have a lot of new jobs in Oxnard. The city praised itself for what was shameful treatment of a company that wanted to offer jobs.
Our city has a terrible reputation for prohibiting business through its permitting process. It was so bad that residents adopted a ballot measure in 2020 called Permit Simplicity, modeled after programs elsewhere. It appears that the city is slow-walking implementation of it. On City Council, I will be diligent to see that the will of the voters is implemented. I have spoken with many frustrated business owners going through the permit process in Oxnard.
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area?
The allocation of water for cities is negotiated and mandated by entities other than the City Council like the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management, and two external suppliers. Oxnard has a seat at the table, but our representatives must be assertive in representing the needs of our residents, not just being a wallflower, while others make plans for us. The shortcut method of restricting how many times per week and for how long a sprinkler can run does not even directly impact how much water can be used.
These mandates are attempts to treat the symptoms, rather than the cause. Our legislative lobbyists need to be directed to advocate that the state prioritize options for more water storage in the California State Water Project, as one of our water sources. The state must stop putting other wasteful spending priorities about water infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the city itself has not been diligent about maintaining sprinklers on its own property, and we often see gushing fountains from unrepaired city sprinklers, wasting far more water than our residents do, and the city is often slow to remedy it when reported.
Years of neglect, poor spending priorities and short-sighted visions have consequences. Saving a few pennies now can be very costly in the long run. Indirect potable reuse has promise in adding to the supply, independent on external sources. But, we need more investments in this option. We do not have adequate water storage now. Rather than expensive pools, we should invest here.
Where our city leadership often fails is in the financial stewardship. The plan for our water recycling facility has changed numerous times over several years, experimenting on the dime of taxpayers, and it gave free water to the golf course, which causes higher rates for residents.
Age: 71
Occupation: City councilmember; retired postal worker
Education: Ventura College graduate
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
Oxnard has done more than others in the county to provide additional housing and to aggressively tackle homelessness. Over the last state mandated housing cycle, 4,925 housing units were built in Oxnard. In the new cycle, we are slated for 8,549 units. Compare those numbers to the rest of Ventura County.
But California’s housing crisis cannot be solved by one city. What is needed to address the housing crisis is 1.) that other California cities, especially the tonier ones, must allow for more multifamily and affordable housing to be built; 2.) in Oxnard we need to accept more density and build vertically because we are out of land; 3.) the state needs to release its affordable housing funding faster. The federal government needs to recalculate its affordable housing funding formulas to serve more people in need.
We have a year-round shelter with 110 beds. We broke ground on a new Homeless Solutions Center that will not only replace the 110 bed shelter but also have 56 permanent supportive housing units and clinical and administrative offices. We have one Project Homekey hotel homeless housing project with 70 rooms, and we will apply for another one soon. We have implemented a street outreach program along with police liaison officers and backpack medicine services to proactively engage our homeless population.
Like the housing crisis, California’s homeless crisis cannot be solved by any one city on its own. Most importantly, cities do not, and cannot, provide public health services, such as medical, mental health or drug rehabilitation. Those services are only provided by the state via the county. Yet they are necessary in order to help individuals and families transition away from homelessness. Finally, the state also needs to release its homeless funding faster to help cities advance homeless housing efforts.
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county? 
Oxnard has good, as well as, high-paying jobs. Our challenge is that the majority of our adult working population have low education attainment: no more than high school. Focusing on landing new high-paying jobs would not benefit the majority of our working families. Oxnard needs to focus on helping our residents become more employable, so they can compete for jobs that pay a living wage with health benefits. The council is supporting our city manager’s efforts to fight for more resources at Oxnard College, so the college can expand its offerings and provide the added training and education our families desperately need. This needs to be our priority right now. In time, having a better trained and educated populace will attract more high-paying jobs.
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area? 
I proudly served on the county’s Groundwater Management Agency Board for the last three years, and strongly believe that we must have a regional, collaborative and fair process to plan for the county’s water future. We need to mediate for a better balance between agricultural needs and those of residents and businesses. We are seeing this dilemma being played out along the Colorado River, and we must heed their lessons. Next, we need to focus on getting the ability to purchase surplus state water whenever it’s available and place that water into our local, depleted underground aquifers; we must also get ourselves into the position to negotiate fair prices for that water.
Finally, Oxnard is fortunate in that we have already invested in a modern water recycling facility that can produce extremely clean drinking water. However, current state law does not allow that water to be used in our homes. We continue to work with our state representatives to get new legislation to recognize that this extremely clean water can be used in our homes safely. This change in state regulation will go a long way for Oxnard’s water supply.
Age: 42
Occupation: Community volunteer; Chair of the Oxnard Inter-Neighborhood Council Organization
Education: High school diploma
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
Both require a variety of solutions. Affordability can be obtained by building more high-density dwellings, converting commercial to artist’s lofts, allowing accessory dwelling units and there has always been talk about tiny home villages. Now is the time to make it work. Focus less on new development that is unaffordable for the general population since these high-end homes are driving people from outside the city to migrate here because it’s affordable to them. Source more funding for grants and expand eligibility for low-income homeowners. It would also help if Oxnard was more business friendly to invite more employers to the area that can pay a prevailing wage.
When it comes to homelessness there is not one easy fix, and we need a multitude of solutions to address different situations. There are various reasons why a person is experiencing homelessness, lack or loss of income, mental health challenges and/or drug addiction. Once a person’s situation is addressed, they need to be matched with the right resources. Some people may only need assistance for a short period of time and others may need to be in a long-term program. We need to me mindful of transitional housing for people that are not yet ready to mingle with the general population until their mental health and drug addiction challenges are under control. More areas need to be identified that will allow long term parking for those that have a place to stay and sleep, but not allowed to park recreational vehicles in public places.
When it comes to vagrancy, we should be working with county leaders to identify placement for lawless people that is away from the general population yet offer safe housing where they are not a danger to themselves or others and will not impact the quality of life for those around them.
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county? 
This goes hand in hand with affordable housing. Oxnard is notorious for not being business friendly and dragging its feet with the permitting process. Given that there are so many obstacles a business has to overcome, we need to ensure we are able to offer a sustainable workforce to keep businesses viable in the Oxnard. Once a business is set to operate, they need security that Oxnard can provide to its reliable and committed workers. We should be working with local colleges, trades, labor unions, vocational schools and increase apprentice programs. Oxnard also needs to ensure we have adequate housing to keep workers here, so they don’t head off to other cities that do have well paying jobs and affordable housing.
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area? 
This issue goes beyond the city level. With the state-mandated housing requirement, we need to look at multiple sources to ensure we have an adequate supply for our population, both residents and the agricultural community. This entails working with many different agencies and government officials at the county and state level. We need to be onboard working together in addition to continue to promote ways to conserve. The city of Oxnard needs to continuously promote ways to educate and conserve as well as develop more ways to use reclaimed water. 
Age: 39
Occupation: City councilmember, health educator 
Education: Master’s degree in management and leadership; bachelor’s degree in information technology; associate’s degree in addictive disorder studies.
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
Housing affordability and homelessness are very much intertwined.
Many may get a particular mental image when they think about people experiencing homelessness. Often they picture a person living in public spaces, maybe with possible mental health and substance use issues. While these situations certainly exist, the very visible element of homelessness is only the tip of a very large iceberg. The many people experiencing homelessness that we “don’t” see are individuals and families who are underpaid, underemployed or under-resourced. They go to daily jobs, send their kids to school, but just don’t make enough to maintain a permanent shelter of their own. So they live in vehicles, sleep on couches or garages, or move from hotel to hotel. The increase of those experiencing homelessness directly intersects with Ventura County’s housing crisis.
Thus, the primary idea is to address both items by addressing the shortage in our overall housing stock. With demand for housing far outweighing supply, we need to stay on pace to increase our housing units. When supply meets demand, the overall cost should decrease.
A second parallel idea that is already underway is evaluating and updating Oxnard’s affordable housing inclusionary policy, which requires a minimum percentage of affordable units with every development. This policy ensures that our affordable housing stock also grows and will mitigate gentrification while fostering communities of diverse incomes and demographics.
For the many visibly unhoused people who struggle with substance-use disorders or mental health challenges, the city will need to continue in partnership with the County of Ventura to provide appropriate-level behavioral health services. Prior to her passing, Supervisor Carmen Ramirez and I were working on how we could collaboratively enhance these services to best serve not only our unhoused population, but all Oxnard residents in need of these services. 
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county?
Looking specifically at Oxnard and our working class demographics, I believe that bringing in higher-paying jobs is actually secondary to filling many of our local businesses’ vacant, good paying jobs and filling those vacancies with current city residents. By increasing the skill sets and buying power of our already established residents, they are not only putting themselves in a better financial position, but they also inject their now-larger discretionary spending into the local economy.
This is a major reason that I am so supportive of the Oxnard Employee Pipeline, which is a partnership between the city of Oxnard, Oxnard College and the West Ventura County Business Alliance, formerly known as the Chamber of Commerce. This program has Oxnard residents attend a short series of classes at Oxnard College that are intended to sharpen their hard and soft job skills and increase their job marketability. At the end of these courses, participants are guaranteed an interview with Oxnard-based businesses that have themselves been challenged in finding local hires to fill their position vacancies.
Another key strategy is to continue to tap into our local trades and skilled labor opportunities which can provide many workers with important skills, good jobs and fair wages and benefits.  
While we could certainly just court more big box retailers and bring in lower-wage jobs, this does not necessarily increase an employee’s long term buying power or job marketability; conversely, bringing in high-paying jobs that don’t match the typical skills expertise of our current residents forces companies to hire from outside the area, which may lead down a path of community gentrification, where existing residents, often in lower-income communities or communities of color, may slowly be priced out of their community, as a higher-income demographic moves in to fill the higher-paying job openings. 
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area? 
The city of Oxnard has actually positioned itself well by investing in our Advanced Water Purification Facility in South Oxnard. This system takes treated wastewater from our treatment facility across the street and produces ultra-pure water that can be used in place of potable water for agricultural or landscaping irrigation. 
Beyond that however, we are currently in the process of establishing and certifying our aquifer storage and recovery well system. This system will allow us to inject the processed water from the purification facility into the well, where it will be retained for a period of time before being tested for water quality. When this analysis shows the standards are met for potable water, this can now be blended with our drinking water supply and reduce our heavy reliance on imported water. 
Our wastewater system has the potential to build long-term sustainability into our drinking water system. Additionally, the wastewater facility and the purification facility have immense potential to grow in capacity, meaning the systems would not be overwhelmed by future developments. We could also possibly take in and process wastewater from our neighboring communities, and provide even larger quantities of our own ultra-pure, drinkable water. Given these major possibilities, and with access to water and water prices likely to be a major issue this decade, we need to stay the course with this facility and program, as it will place Oxnard in an incredible position in the coming years.
Age: 44
Occupation: City councilmember, director of housing and facilities maintenance
Education: Bachelor’s degree in organizational management
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
I plan to address housing affordability and homelessness by continuing to support city staff in their federal and state funding efforts. I would like to see a homeless navigation center in the south end of Oxnard. This will allow us to have services for our most vulnerable population. As a city, we need to get creative and bring much needed housing affordability to our Oxnard residents. We can achieve this in forms of additional tax incentives, priority in plan check and additional density bonuses.
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county? 
To attract more high-paying jobs to the county, Oxnard needs to ensure that our city’s rules and regulations are adequate for businesses coming into our community. Conducting business in our city should be an effortless process from start to finish. This will make businesses feel welcomed and valued in our community. I believe that a city with a business friendly environment will attract high-paying jobs.
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area? 
With the limited amount of water in California we must get creative and utilize the resources we currently have to supply adequate water to our area. We must continue to invest in our Advance Water Purification Facility. This three-step multi barrier process produces ultra-pure water that can meet the needs of our community. We must expand the recycled water program beyond its current use to bring adequate water to our city.
Age: 22
Occupation: Sentencing specialist, community service coordinator
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science-public service, with a Spanish minor
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
Affordable housing and homelessness are essential priorities needed in the city of Oxnard. Our city, particularly the south end of Oxnard, has seen a growth in homelessness. This is why it is important we address this issue. 
Three ideas I have to address these issues are focusing on moving street homeless individuals into permanent supportive housing, reducing administrative and regulatory barriers for building and supporting innovation in developments. By focusing on these three goals, we will not only create solutions but create an equitable society. 
My plan for moving the street homeless into permanent housing begins by partnering with government-funded and nonprofit organizations that will help and support these individuals living with serious or chronic health problems, mental illnesses and substance abuse receive direct treatment and support to improve their lives. Doing so will help establish them into working members of our community. 
Reducing the administrative and regulatory barriers for buildings will create more opportunity and revenue for the city. Simply eliminating particular zoning in lands from only being single-family homes to bigger projects will open the opportunity to more affordable housing and establishments that can house our community, including some of the homeless population. 
Finally, focusing on supporting the developmental innovation of our city is important. The reduction of both time and cost for many of these projects is crucial, which is why contributing new technologies needs to be an option. Working together with companies to establish a cost-effective plan is important. This might include looking into off-site framing of projects and local organization partnerships. Although there is no simple way to end homelessness or the affordability problems in our city, with a little innovation and focused solutions Oxnard will continue to be the hidden gem of Southern California. 
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county? 
It is important that our youth and community want to come back to work and serve in our county. In order to do so, we need our county to have high-paying jobs available that will help us build a robust and growing county. 
One way in which we can attract high-paying jobs and establishments is to diversify our economy and focus on innovative ways to attract business into our city. Highlighting our county and city’s ability to continue being a public and private investment for commercial and business opportunities is what will continue to attract higher jobs.
Our county has the necessary amenities, culture, location and opportunity for growth. Attracting ourselves to these big businesses and developments that will continue to bring higher-paying jobs should be our innovative approach. This means working with the governing officials to create an incentivized program, doing so will make us a top location choice for business attractiveness. 
Attracting higher-paying jobs also means focusing on our local businesses and providing the necessary resources to grow and give back to our community through employment and revenue opportunities. Working on strategies and proposals to ensure our mutual benefits with economic growth are essential to create opportunity and equity in the city and county. 
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area? 
With the continuous California droughts, and their impacts on Southern California, it is important we continue to support local water expansion for supply. In particular, I plan to continue to advocate for ensuring adequate water supplies in our city are available. 
Continuing to support the expansion of water infrastructure and the Aquifer Storage Recovery Project through the support of the Environmental Protection Agency and the City Council. By expanding the recycled water in our city and our community, we ensure water security. It is imperative we continue to fund and advocate for reliable projects and establish a program to guarantee accessible water for our community.
Focusing on current and future resources that will help our community should be our No. 1 priority. Continuing our focus on the current water wells and ensuring they are in inadequate condition in our groundwater aquifer is important. Our water demands continue to grow in our developing community, which is why we need to maximize its availability. While advocating for continuous support in care of our water systems and its availability, it is also important to promote water conservation.
Continuing to ensure that our city water is used efficiently is important; this may include continuing the City Council’s water conservation restrictions. Conservation is the beginning of focusing on our city water projects along with continuous support of new innovative initiatives to keep our wells running and expanding. 
Age: 68
Occupation: Businessman, accountant, consulting cost analyst, former computer programmer, former tax preparer
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration
What three ideas do you have to address housing affordability and homelessness?
A.) The city needs to open and operate a facility to house 200 to 300 people who have mental health and drug-abuse issues. The facility could be opened at a building such as the old Levitz building on Oxnard Boulevard.
B.) Many homeless people do not want to live in a homeless shelter due to the risks to their personal safety they face from others in the shelter as well as the lack of privacy. Same sex shelters and family shelters should be separated.
C.) The best opportunity would be city-owned housing where a portion of the rent would be set aside for down payment for a future payment of that unit.
What do you intend to do to attract more high-paying jobs to the county? 
One major issue is the under education of our youth. For example, I was told that the graduation rate of students of Oxnard Union High School District is less than that 60%, while many of the schools in the Oxnard Elementary School District have test scores below average.  As an elected official, the only action I could do is not approve any housing projects until the performance of Oxnard school districts improve. The school districts in Camarillo and Ventura have high performing schools.
What are your plans to supply adequate water to our area?
As I have been discussing at City Council meetings for over eight years that the Advance Storage and Recover Wells used to store and pump out three skids, or 21,000 acre feet, that was recommended by staff and approved by the City Council in 2010 need to be finished. As of September, the wells still have not passed the state water tests. The recovery and blending of the water would provide enough water for over 42,000 residential units.
Brian J. Varela covers Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Camarillo. He can be reached at brian.varela@vcstar.com or 805-477-8014. You can also find him on Twitter @BrianVarela805.


About Author

Leave a Reply