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Firm's parking proposal has county supervisors concerned

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Posted: Friday, October 29, 2004 10:00 pm

A proposal to designate all industrial warehouse sites in the unincorporated areas of the county for long-term recreational vehicle parking has supervisors concerned that it could open a Pandora's Box.

Panella Trucking of Stockton wants to open up the warehouse sites so farm labor truckers can have a place to stay during a 26-week period from June to November.

The idea was to have shower and restroom facilities for the farm labor truck drivers during the harvest season, said Mike Hakeem, attorney for the trucking outfit.

The Stockton trucking firm has about 26 to 30 farm labor drivers coming in from Mexico each season. All of them face the same problem, no inexpensive place to stay, fear of getting robbed or mugged and sleeping on the streets, Hakeem said.

"This made it difficult for them to get drivers who would stay for the season," Hakeem said.

Because truckers take jobs where they live, Hakeem said it's become increasingly difficult to find farm labor truckers who want to stay in Stockton or the county.

To remedy the problem, Panella Trucking set up some showers and restroom facilities for the mostly single truck drivers on its 26-acre site off Wilson Way in Stockton, Hakeem said.

The drivers come in with their RVs and use the Panella facilities for free, he said.

But supervisors aren't sure if they want to open all warehouse sites in the rural areas of the county for the same usage.

The problem is that there is no monitoring of the various sites, no way of knowing if families will be housed in the RVs or if rent will be charged, supervisors said.

"Will we have people living in substandard conditions for 26 weeks?" Supervisor Steve Gutierrez asked.

But Hakeem said the ordinance would be very specific in that only farm-related operators could operate such sites.

And he said, while the proposal now reads family housing, it could be changed to recreational vehicles only.

But Gutierrez questioned if changing the language would open up trailer parks in the unincorporated warehouse sites.

Under the proposal, warehouse sites from Lodi to Tracy could be used for long-term recreational parking for the farm laborers.

The farm laborers would bring in their own RVs and hook them up to existing facilities, Hakeem said. But he admitted that some of the RVs coming in might not be in the best operating condition.

"They would only be used for farm labor housing," he said. "It's not a nightly hotel."

But Supervisor Leroy Ornellas expressed concern that some RVs might be in substandard condition or unlicensed.

"Are these low-end RVs?" he asked. "The ordinance isn't really specific."

Even the definition of RVs had Supervisor Victor Mow concerned.

"What does that mean?" he asked. "Is it a pick up with a camper shell?"

Hakeem said instead of a permanent ordinance, the county could try the proposal for one year or do it on a permit case-by-case basis.

"This is a good thing," he said. "Panella isn't trying to take advantage of anyone."

Supervisors are expected to discuss the proposal on Nov. 19.

Contact reporter Les Mahler at lmahler@sjnsnews.com.

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