www.montereycountyweekly.com february 29-march 6, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13 The first time Rick Antle, CEO of Tanimura & Antle, met Mike Avila, owner of Avila Construction Company, Antle had a serious question: “Did I call the right guy?” It was April 2015, after T&A plowed $100,000 worth of crops back into the ground due to a lack of workers. Convinced the company would have to invest in housing in order to remain successful, Antle wanted a contractor who could build a large apartment complex for approximately 800 workers and he wanted it done in a year, an unheard-of accomplishment. Avila remembers asking Antle multiple questions before he could answer. Did T&A have the land? Yes, they owned a business park in Spreckels. Was there water? Yes, they own Spreckels’ water system. What about sewer? Antle thought they had access, he’d have to check. “In that conversation I said, ‘I think I can do it, but I need a land use attorney,’” Avila says. T&A’s vice president and general counsel, Wesley Van Camp, was at the ready. The $17 million project proceeded at “breakneck” speed, Avila says, despite objections by neighbors who predicted workers living at Spreckels Crossing would bring drugs, prostitution, traffic and other ills. The project featuring 800 beds was passed unanimously by both the Monterey County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors within five months of the meeting between Avila and Antle. Workers began moving in on April 15, 2016, a year after their meeting. Avila says he and his team were there the day the buses rolled in carrying workers from Yuma, Arizona. T&A employees left towels, washcloths and made sure there were sets of dishes in the cupboards. People just off the buses were calling their families saying, “You won’t believe this,” Avila remembers. “It is a real impact on these people and our whole group realized what had been accomplished through Rick’s decision.” Antle died just two years later after a brief battle with cancer at the age of 61. The predictions by neighbors never came to pass. Avila remembers overhearing some men from Spreckels at the gym he works out in Salinas expressing their concerns about negative impacts once Spreckels Crossing was open. He introduced himself and told them workers had already moved in. “They didn’t even know it was built,” Avila says. “There was no impact on Spreckels.” Since then Avila Construction has built over 4,100 seasonal farmworker housing beds in Monterey County for ag companies that are paying for the properties, with no government money. Another 224 beds have been constructed by other companies since, for a total of more than 4,370. It doesn’t take care of the entire problem of providing housing for seasonal workers, but it’s notable for what has been accomplished. Avila ticks off positive impacts: Ag company owners report higher productivity among satisfied workers with a safe place to live; some homes previously used for seasonal workers are now in the mainstream rental market, relieving pressure on housing; low-cost motels previously full from March through November are now available when people without homes need an inexpensive place to stay. “The other thing I don’t think folks realize is it takes a ton of traffic off the road,” he says. “The people that live in these places seldom, if ever, drive a car to the field. The bus takes them.” Every bus is 20 cars off the road, according to the construction company’s traffic studies. More seasonal farmworker housing is on its way. A 360-bed project on Susan Street in Pajaro is nearing completion, with another 250-bed project proposed next door, scheduled for consideration by the county Planning Commission on April 10. A 360-bed project in unincorporated Monterey County adjacent to the City of Salinas was approved by the commission last month. Avila says after 26 years with the company started by his brother Steve, he’s in a position to choose whatever kind of work he wants to do. Building seasonal farmworker housing is what he chooses. “The goal is to spread the housing out from King City to Hollister to Santa Cruz,” he says. “We’ve got good coverage in Salinas Valley, but we have more to do.” Clearly, Rick Antle called the right guy. Pam Marino is a staff writer at the Weekly. Reach her at pam@mcweekly.com Ripple Effect Building farmworker housing was and is the right thing to do. By Pam Marino Bully Pulpit…Squid does not take kindly to bullies, but Squid is never surprised when they do their bullying anonymously—that’s often how they roll. Such was the case with a letter—sent via snail mail—that an East Garrison resident received recently. Presumably, it was from someone who lives there and was unhappy about that person’s comments in a Feb. 22 cover story in the Weekly about residents’ complaints over what they view as an authoritarian homeowner’s association with a management company they feel like is spying on them, or at least doing the bidding of the HOA board. The person who received the letter was an on-the-record, named source for that cover story. Many other residents Squid’s colleague spoke to for the story would not go on the record, expressing fear of retaliation. Turns out, those concerns were legit: When the previously on-the-record source in question shared the letter with Squid’s colleague, they indicated they wanted to remain anonymous, at least for now. When Squid’s colleague saw the letter, he understood the concern, despite the return address on the envelope that reads: “Your Friends, East Garrison.” The typed letter begins, “We are writing to let you know that your neighbors hate you…The depths of your stupidity never cease to amaze. The fact that you are also an ugly pig only makes things worse. You look like some type of hunchback bug or beetle…Fuck off you loud mouth useless piece of shit skank. Cheers, Your neighbors who despise you.” Squid omitted even more offensive lines from the letter, believing the above is enough for one to get the gist. But that’s not the only East Garrison news that’s popped up since the story came out. Cindy May, who also went on record for the recent story, sold her East Garrison home earlier this month—she closed escrow Feb. 9. A few days ago she received an unexpected thing in the mail: a bill for her HOA dues for a house she no longer owns. Baffled, she called her title company that handled escrow, and was assured that her HOA dues—along with dues owed by the new owners—were paid and sent to the HOA’s management company. But, she was told, the checks had not yet been cashed after two weeks. Furthermore, she says she hadn’t told anyone in the HOA, or her title company, her new address. So May is wondering how and why the HOA’s management company managed to both track her down, but also not cash the checks? She took to the East Garrison NextDoor page to ask how this could have happened, and to let her former neighbors know, but the post was taken down a day later by one of the page’s administrators. Squid thinks it’s generally good when neighbors look out for neighbors, but a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” approach? That’s Orwellian. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. “It takes a ton of traffic off the road.” Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com