Home Foreclosure and Buyer Advice at Workshop


Home Foreclosure and Buyer Advice at Workshop

Open to the public and free of charge, “HOME Clinic” provided legal advice, personal counseling and workshops for people struggling to keep their homes.

In the recession and continuous roller-coaster ride of the housing market in the past years, people may have to scramble through red tape, frauds and high interest rates when trying to buy a new home.
Families in crisis fighting a foreclosure can face obstacles from all sides as they struggle to keep their home and maintain a quality of life.

This is where the Housing Opportunities Collaborative can help make sense of it all, offering free services from volunteers and agencies throughout San Diego County.

A nonprofit that networks with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the collaborative supports all aspects of housing rights and consolidates many partners to create a public service, providing counseling and workshops free to the public.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Lemon Grove Branch Library, lawyers, HUD-approved housing counselors, banks and the entire network of the collaborative gave four hours of presentations and personal counseling to more than 100 people.

The workshop, called the HOME Clinic, included help with loan modifications and advice for first-time home buyers, assistance for those dealing with foreclosures, and bankruptcy law workshops.

The office of Congresswoman Susan Davis, representative of California’s 53rd District, the San Diego County Library and the Legal Aid Society of San Diego Pro Bono Program were also part of the event. Davis said there is no question that home ownership is part of the “American Dream.”

“In many ways we had a period of time when housing was fairly accessible for people,” Davis said. “But now in addition to the fact that people are having a difficult time living in homes they have been living in for some time, we also know that it is making it more difficult for other people to come into the housing market.”

Davis said the rules are more stringent now, creating problems in terms of people’s ability to even sell their home and make this housing market work better for everybody. She urged her constituents to never hesitate to call her office for assistance.

“That is what we are there for,” Davis said. “We certainly hope people are able to do that and today you really find there is information, resources and ideas out there that you have not had a chance to work with in the past.”

Virginia, who declined to state her last name, is a San Diego resident who said she came to see a housing counselor and get information on reverse mortgages.

“I am 60 years old and unemployed,” she said. “The counselor was very helpful to me in getting me the information I needed to know to begin making a decision.”

As she left the event, Carol Miklavic of San Diego said she was happy with the answers she’d received and called the clinic a total success.

“I felt like I had no one to talk to,” said Miklavic. “Everywhere else you go you have to fill out too many documents and disclose your life to a company or person you do not know. They were really helpful to me.”

Jaqueline Kniseley lives is South San Diego and came to the workshop to find out more about how to get a home.

“I found all of the information helpful,” Kniseley said. “I plan on going through the process. … I needed information and I am here getting what I need.”

Myrna Pascual, who works with field policy management for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is the founder of the Housing Opportunities Collaboration, said this community service program is free and all about the person in the sense of providing individual counseling.

“You don’t have to think anymore about what is out there that is applicable to you,” Pascual said. “We look at your individual story. We try to call in all of our area expertise. We give it to you, but it does come with a responsibility. You choose your own path.”

Pascual said each family is different, with different resources and different degrees of bravery, and both are a major part of the big picture. The collaborative has all of the resources to pull in for each individual, and the agencies in the network are all top-notch, she said.

“We have HUD-approved housing agencies, fair housing agencies if you have been scammed or discriminated [against] before, and if you have problems going through this process we can help you by going through them one at a time with you,” she said. “If you are here for loan modification or workout, or trying to save your house from being sold tomorrow, we have resources for that.”

Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor, president and executive director of the Housing Opportunities Collaborative, said Pascual began her work well ahead of the U.S. and California’s housing crisis.

“It took years of her work to get the organizations together, learn to trust each other and become the collaborative,” Pajanor said. “Two years down the road, foreclosure hit San Diego. We had no money. As a fledging organization, we had around $500 as a nonprofit. You can’t do anything with that kind of money.”

He said despite the challenges, Pascual’s vision for the first housing clinic became a reality in June 2007, serving nearly 150 families that day.

“We are here now and the program is still going strong,” Pajanor said.

“We have attorneys that charge $500 to $600 an hour here working pro bono, not to establish an attorney/client relationship.”

Regional Director Manny Aguilar of Money Management International said his company was asked not only to work with the organization, but also to really collaborate.

“And that is what it takes,” Aguilar said. “You see the attorneys here, nonprofit agencies, library, HUD and our congressional representative. These are free services for constituents, as citizens and taxpayers.”

Aguilar said so many organizations work in silos that many times they never talk to each other. He said the gathering of the collective brings all the resources needed in one place and best serves the community.

“We provide bankruptcy counseling, foreclosure prevention and debt management plans to help people in paying back their debts,” said Aguilar. “We can help people save money, get better interest negotiations. The key is that we can get people back on their feet again.”

Aguilar said the workshop helps people in the frontline of buying a home and teaches them how to shop for loans, lenders, homes and interview a real estate agent.

“They are 70 percent more likely to keep their home by coming to this workshop,” he said.

Money Management is open for calls 24/7 because, “sometimes you just cannot sleep when faced with these problems,” he said.

San Diego County Library Director Jose Aponte said he became involved in the cooperative effort three years ago when his sister called from Florida telling him she was unemployed and losing her house.

“This is the real story of what we live through here in California,” Aponte said. “One in seven homes is in foreclosure.”

He said he was upset and had to find a way to help not only his sister, but also all those struggling in the community. He said libraries are “supposed to be the mortar that pulls communities together.”

“My sister is a good woman that has worked her entire life to have that home,” said Aponte. “She has never been out of work. I said to my sister, get to the library, go online and engage yourself with the process,” Aponte said. “We [the library] are here for you today, and we are here for you as you work through the changes.”

Sergio Quero, housing counselor and volunteer from Community Housing Works, said he helps families and homeowners in distress and looks for solutions for problems with modifications, foreclosures, loans, and short sales.

“It just depends on the homeowner’s financial situation and the difficulties they have,” said Quero.

In his third year of volunteering, he said his job is to explain options, provide resources, advocate and assist homeowners in dealing with banks.

“We explain the programs that are out there and assist the homeowner throughout the process,” said Quero. “More than anything, the families that have come to the home clinics, I think they feel to a certain degree safe—in the sense that they are speaking to somebody who is unbiased.”

He said there is no catch to the free service the collaborative offers to the public.

“In our situation, whether it is a modification, a short sale or even if their best case is to walk out of the house and let the house go into foreclosure, we are giving them strictly unbiased information based on their particular circumstances,” Quero said, “not based on someone’s intentions on someone selling them a service or a product.”


City Adds $4.2 Million to Sand Replenishment Project


City Adds $4.2 Million to Sand Replenishment Project

In a maneuvering of funds, City Council boosts next spring’s sand replenishment project with more than 500,000 cubic yards of additional sand.

Imperial Beach is looking at a lot more sand next spring.

A federally funded sand replenishment project scheduled to be administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard last fall was put on hold due to a lack of federal funding.

As a result, City Council requested a transfer of $4.2 million from the California Coastal Commission’s Beach Sand Replenishment/Mitigation Fund to the SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) sand replenishment project to take place in spring 2012.

The city received an amendment contract approving transfer of the California Department of Boating and Waterways funds August 1.

“It is a sizeable amount of additional sand,” said Community Development Department director Greg Wade. There is no point in moving forward with the federally funded project without financing and that the project is at a standstill, he said.

Hurricane replenishment on the East Coast and the current state of the nation’s economy have created a continuous struggle in getting federal sand replenishment funds.

“Congress made a basic mandate that no more new construction project will be funded through the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers. We have not been able to get over the additional hurdle that the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee placed a moratorium on all earmarks for the next two fiscal years.”

Transfer of the money to the SANDAG Regional Beach Sand Project II is expected to provide between 120,000 and 650,000 cubic yards of sand.

Mayor Pro Temp Brian Bilbray said Congress voted to try to defund all sand replenishment projects.

“Luckily it was turned down,” Bilbray said. “But it is the way things are starting to roll. It seems that they are getting tired of funding all of the East Coast replenishment projects. I believe 70 percent goes to hurricane ridden areas.”

Wade said RBSP II has two alternatives. In 2001, SANDAG introduced a regional beach sand project where the city received 120,000 cubic yards of sand. SANDAG is the lead agency on this.

Now, providing up to 650,000 cubic yards of sand, this larger project will extend 5,650 feet in length from north of Dahlia Avenue, nearly to the end of Seacoast Drive at a width of 260 feet.

“The borrow site for this project would be again the Mission Beach site,” Wade said. “Sand from Mission Beach has two benefits. Coarser grained sand when placed with finer grained sand, it tends to stay on the beach better. The color of the sand makes it easier to monitor the erosion process. For these reasons, city staff, the council and the Tidelands Advisory Committee prefer the use of this kind of sand for the project.”

The Port Districts Capital Development Program has $1 million for Imperial Beach sand replenishment budgeted. Wade said this is another potential source for funds and the city requested that these Port funds be used for the city’s approximate $735,000 local share for the $4.2 million. Between the city and the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency, $218,940 is paid for or authorized for RBSP II.

Councilmember Lorie Bragg said she supported staff recommendations on this project.

“I think that your creative attempt at realignment of funds on what we can get is appropriate,” she said. “I think it is the only prudent and resourceful way to go and the only way to go to get a result.”

The cost for all 650,000 cubic yards, just for the sand, is approximately $6.4 million. With the 10 percent contingency construction management, construction survey inspection and annual monitoring the cost is $7.6 million. Construction timeline estimated for the larger project is 70 days around the clock sand placement. “These construction hours may necessitate issuance of a noise variance.”

City Manager Gary Brown said what hit him the most is the contrast with the large Army Corp project that may never happen to what RBSP II will deliver next year.

“It is a top-notch project for the city,” Brown said.

What Are the Top 10 Events in Imperial Beach History? Write Them in Stone


What Are the Top 10 Events in Imperial Beach History? Write Them in Stone

Considered to be IB’s main park, plans for an “Imperial Beach History Walk” are a bit closer to becoming a reality but are not yet set in stone.

Strolling through the winding walkways of Veteran’s Park, people may soon be able to read engraved tidbits of city history under their feet.

Originally approved in 2006 for four freestanding information signs, council modified the concept to include eight to 10 concrete bands to the Veteran Park History Walk Design in Veterans Park in March.

Staff returned to council Aug. 3 to present information the History Walk may include.

City Manager Hank Levien originally presented this concept to council after seeing the idea in action at a park in Denver, Colorado. The History Walk could be less expensive and last longer than freestanding signs, Levien said.

With a $20,000 budget, council voted to give staff the go-ahead to look for bids for construction of the concrete bands.

Levien said he wanted input from council if these examples “capture the history you would like to see or if there are other historical events in our region that are more appropriate.”

Imperial Beach History Walk

1300-1769-Imperial Beach Part-Time Home of Kumeyaay Indians

1769-Riveria/Crespi Expedition-1st Europeans in Imperial Beach

1848-U.S./Mexican War-Imperial Beach become U.S. Territory

1887-Imperial Beach becomes summer retreat for Imperial Valley residents

1909/1960/1988-Imperial Beach Piers Constructed/Reconstructed

1909-1910-First Sidewalks Built

1917-Aviation Field (Ream Field), Established

1956-July 18th-City Incorporated

1982-Tijuana Estuary Preserve Established

1999-Opening of Mel Portwood Pier Plaza

Councilwoman Bragg said Levien did a great job with no additional input from Councilmembers, but said she would like to see more recent events in stone as well.

“I would like to include something from this century,” Bragg said. “And that would be when we buried the time capsule. I know our city clerk has the exact coordinates of where this one is buried.”

Bragg said in her opinion, deleting when Imperial Beach became a territory and replacing it with the time capsule was her choice. She said staff should look within city limits to find a company who can create the slabs.

Councilman Jim King said it is very difficult to get good stamped images with concrete and proposed having the slabs manufactured by a company that make tombstones due to their longevity and clarity of text and images.

“You could get some nice stone, very durable and the engraving will last forever,” King said. “It could be an alternative to look at in looking at costs.”

This is agenda item 6.5 in the attached Aug. 3 City Council agenda packet.


Buy Old Street Signs, New Skate Park Rules and Code Enforcement at Wednesday’s City Council Meeting


Public Works Department Director Hank Levien shows council new Woody Logo concept for the major fare ways in Imperial Beach.


Buy Old Street Signs, New Skate Park Rules and Code Enforcement at Wednesday’s City Council Meeting

City Council will be asked to approve abatement on five properties with active code enforcement violations, more sand for the beach next summer and a possible glitch in the city’s recent union agreement at this week’s City Council meeting.

How long have you lived on your street? With new larger street signs with the Woody Logo street up on the major fare ways of Imperial Beach, the city is looking to recoup some of the money spent for this restoration and beautification project.

At the recommendation of Councilwoman Lorie Bragg, the city is looking at the possibility of selling the old street signs to local residents that are interested for $25 each on a first-come, first-save basis.

This is agenda item 2.3.

The City Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

The Imperial Beach Sports Park and Recreation Center’s Skate Park is back on the agenda with an ordinance to amend municipal code changing hours of operation from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or dusk and closing at 8:00 p.m. or dusk during Daylight Savings Time. Changes will also allow the use of razor scooters in the park. With the recent approval of fencing Skate Park, the city hopes to curtail the noise and disturbance level to adjacent neighborhoods and decrease the number of visits paid to the park by the Sheriff’s Department. The fiscal impact estimated for the rules change is $450 for updated signage.

This is agenda item 3.1.

Operations Manager Steve Smullen, with the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) presents an update to council on the operation activities of its treatment plant and its bi-national collaboration with Mexico.

This is Agenda Item 6.1.

Council will be asked to approve city expenses detailed in the warrant register which includes $328,430.73 in accounts payable and $191,062.07 for payroll period ending 07/28/2011 for a total $519,492.80.

This is Agenda Item 2.2.

Imperial Beach’s Community Development Department  and its Code Compliance Division, is requesting a resolution to allow the abatement of weeds, brush, rubbish and refuge upon or in front of five properties in the city. Drafted by Community Development Director Greg Wade and Code Enforcement Officer David Garcias city staff deems these properties “to be a public nuisance and dangerous to the public health and safety.” The resolution includes a public hearing process for objections at the Sept. 7 City Council meeting.

If the city cleans the properties, owners are responsible for all cost and “the City Council may also assess and lien properties for the cost incurred by the responsible agency in enforcing abatement upon the parcels, including investigation, boundary determination, measurement, clerical and other related costs.”

The five properties and owners in violation are:

•    715 Holly Avenue, Carmela Lombardi-Munizza (Imperial Beach)
•    822 Georgia Street, Juan M Moreno (San Diego)
•    642 Corvina Street, Ercilia H. Munoz (Chula Vista)
•    1106 7th Street, Jeffrey and Lupita Pernas (Bonita)
•    855 Encina Avenue/902 9th Street Don Mueller (El Cajon)

This is agenda item 6.2.

Part of a recent agreement with city workers is the ability for part-time employees represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is the ability to leave Social Security for an alternative retirement plan with Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS).
80 percent of the city’s part-time employees voted for this alternative retirement plan. A recent proposed legislation, AB 1248, by Assemblymember Ben Hueso does not permit this alternative. The city’s stance is that part-time employees cannot afford to participate in both PARS and Social Security. Mayor Jim Janney said as much in a letter that will be sent to Hueso and Senator Juan Vargas if ratified by council Wednesday.

This is agenda item 2.5.

The federally funded sand replenishment project between the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard (Army Corps Silver Strand Shoreline Beach Replenishment Project) is on hold due to a lack of federal funding. City staff is asking for authorization to execute an amended agreement between the city and the California Department of Boating and Waterways to reallocate $4.2 million of funds to the SANDAG Regional Beach Sand Project II (RSBP II) scheduled for April 2012. This would enlarge RBSP II Project, now set to provide up to 650,000 cubic yards of sand and extend the distance of the project area just north of Dahlia Avenue to the end of South Seacoast Drive at a width of 260 feet.

The city received and amendment contract August 1 authorizing reallocation of the money from the Army Corps project to the RBSP II Project if appropriation of federal funds for the Army Corps project by October 1, 2011.

Reallocation of this money would cover the city’s 15 percent local share (approximately $735,000) with the remaining amount providing the additional sand to the project. City staff seeks adoption of a resolution to authorize and ratify this agreement.

This is agenda item 2.4.

Veterans Park Tot-lot needs refurbishing of its ADA complaint rubberized surface. After advertised open bids, city staff recommends rejection of the lowest bidder Play Smart Surfacing, Inc. as “nonresponsible.” After deliberation between staff and Play Smart Resurfacing city staff found that the company previously never performed this type of work and received its license two day priors to submitting its bid. Play Smart has the opportunity to plead its case before council on Wednesday.

This is agenda item 6.3.

Continuing with the tot-lot, staff recommends T.J. Janca Construction complete the project at a bid price of $34,900. This company provided a responsive bid and has 15 years of experience with this type of project. With sufficient funds, city staff recommends funding for this project to come from the Risk Management Account to the nature of this project related to public safety. Fiscal impact estimates at $40,000.

This is agenda item 6.4.


Protecting the Grunion

At high tide, during a full moon on Imperial Beach, a band of mates go to the local grunion run. A first time for myself, I went expecting nothing and hoping to just see one.

A first grunion came and a child went to catch it and his father told him, “No. Let it go back, it is just a scout.” Then I was told if the scout doesn’t go back, the grunion will not come.

I’ve heard of beaches swarmed with grunion, and as much as I would love to see that, I have a fond memory of a game of hide and seek with these small blue and green fish that mate in a spectacular fashion. For a couple of hours at high tide we ran around like kids, screaming with excitement with each grunion we found and amazed at the tenacity of this tiny fish. And found ourselves cheering females back in the ocean before they were caught.

Imperial Beach City Employees Agree to Cuts in Benefits, Firefighters Negotiations Continue


Imperial Beach Community Development Department Director Greg Wade


Imperial Beach City Employees Agree to Cuts in Benefits, Firefighters Negotiations Continue

An agreement between the city and city employees saves thousands of dollars, while keeping people employed and the city running.

The city of Imperial Beach entered into a two-year agreement with its employees represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 221 at their Aug. 3 City Council meeting.

City Manager Gary Brown said the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) saves the city $70,000 during its term and if conditions are kept in the future could save $1 million in the next five years.

Mayor Jim Janney said compared to benefits and compensations received by employees at other state municipalities, Imperial Beach stepped up to the plate in hard financial times.

“The fact that the folks who work here realize that we are strapped for money,” Janney said. “I think they have stepped up and probably done far more than what every other city seems to be beating their chest with what they’ve done.”

Janney said it was not just the signed agreements that make the city employees stand out from the rest, but the little things employees always do in putting the health of the city first.

“Our folks have been doing it for a while and they will continually do it. I think they really care about Imperial Beach and they want us to keep going,” he said.

No updates or information was provided in current negotiations between the city of Imperial Beach and the Imperial Beach Firefighters Association who receive large pension benefits.

Addressed in the MOU are stipends, retirement and health benefits, vacation, sick leave and holidays for 48 city employees. There are no cost of living or salary adjustments during the term of the MOU.

Tom Clark, the city’s Public Safety Department director and fire chief said current full-time non-safety employees immediately begin to pay the full eight percent of annual pay into their retirement plan. With the current MOU it is an additional six percent of their salary.

Based on the employee’s salary (a 26 payroll period) the city will pay a stipend worth three percent of their salary.

Employee’s pay will be reduced by two percent each pay period with this MOU and stipends will help off-set the burden of taking on greater cost in retirement and health costs.

“It is important to understand that this is a benefit that is not PERSable (whether or not the wages count towards our salary for purposes of calculating retirement),” Clark said. “It is a one-time pot of money to help offset the immediate decrease in employee paychecks.”

Additional terms in the MOU include the establishment of an Insurance Committee to review health issues and insurance options, clarification of “Hours of Work” and “Holiday and Vacation Benefits,” and an agreement that” no strikes, sympathy strikes, slowdowns, sickouts on concerted stoppage of work” during the term of the MOU.

Retroactive to July 1, 2011, full-time miscellaneous employees receive a three percent stipend and a second 2.5 percent stipend on July 1, 2012.

Full-time lifeguards will receive a 5.5 percent stipend and a 9.5 percent stipend in 2012.

All employees hired after July 1, 2011 and part-time employees receive no stipends in this agreement.

Miscellaneous employees hired prior to the MOU pay the entire employee portion of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) contribution. Lifeguards will gradually shift into full payment of retirement contributions, paying 4.5 percent in 2011 and the entire portion effective July 1, 2012.

CalPERS formula for miscellaneous employees is two percent at age 60 and two percent at age 50 for lifeguard employees using the average of the employee’s highest three-year salary. All employees hired after July 1, 2011 will pay the entire employee portion of CalPERS contribution.

For hires prior to July 1, the city will pay $30 towards an employee’s health insurance coverage and other benefits with an additional $30 increase in 2012.

Current employees that elect non-coverage under the city’s health plan can cash out a maximum of $795 per month, taxable income and effective January 2012 a maximum of $400.

Employees hired after July 1 may cash out a maximum of $150 per month. All employees electing non-coverage under the city’s health plan must provide proof of current medical and dental insurance.

An accrual of sick leave for employees cap wil be reduced from 1000 to 800 hours.

Employees hired before the MOU will receive payment for accrued sick leave more than 800 hours, with no more cash payments for sick leave accrual more than 800 hours. New employees are unable to receive cash payment or compensation for accrued sick leave.

Issuance of uniforms and a $250 yearly stipend for cleaning and maintenance in the agreement give fire inspectors three pairs of pants, shirts and one jacket.

In a two-year MOU between the city’s department heads, mid-management, confidential employees and the lifeguard captain agreed to similar terms.

With the exception of the lifeguard captain that pays 4.5 percent of the employee portion of CalPERS contribution, all other department heads, mid-management and confidential employees will pay the full employee portion effective July 1, 2011.

CalPERS formulas are set for new department heads, mid-management and confidential employees hired after the effective date and will pay entire employee retirement contributions and unable to convert sick leave to service credit.

A 5.5 percent stipend is slated for the lifeguard captain with all others receiving a three percent stipend effective July 1, 2011. The city increases its cost towards health insurance by $30 in 2011.

This does not include the head the Imperial Beach Fire Department and Public Safety Department director, as the city continues to negotiate terms with the Imperial Beach Firefighters Association.


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