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Makeshift housing in Royal Oaks to be demolished, tenants face housing uncertainty

Royal Oaks, Calif. (KION-TV) Update May 17, 2023, at 10:02 a.m.- Monterey County has provided an update on a property in Royal Oaks that was illegally housing people in converted greenhouses.

The county now says the tenants must vacate all unpermitted units and be provided with two months of rental assistance at the market rate. Additionally, unpermitted units, utilities, grading and tree removal, will be demolished.

“There were a number of violations that were part of the administration citation that was issued on May, 10th and not just zoning but actually safe and health violations."

Thirdly, the county will calculate daily fines for however long people are housed in unpermitted units. More fines will apply if the permits are not applied for in a timely manner, said the county.

"The property owner as outlined by the administrative citation issued by our housing and community development code enforcement folks expressly says the owner is responsible for any remedy to the code violation," said Monterey County Communications Director Nicholas Pasculli.

The county has not announced a date for when demolition would begin.

The county said the unpermitted housing exposed tenants to sub-standard housing conditions. Including, "no heat, no smoke/carbon monoxide sensors, no windows, and no fire sprinklers, poor water quality, sewage discharged on the ground and mold."

The Monterey County District Attorney's Office said as of Wednesday no charges have been filed against property owner Nicolas Ruvalcaba. They said four investigators are assigned to the case and they have been in contact with 238 people.

“The District Attorney’s Office is investigating whether crimes may have occurred which require proof beyond a reasonable doubt and which may result in the filing of felony charges. Our investigation is not directed at code violations which are the purview of other county agencies. The District Attorney will have no further comment until charges are filed, if any.”

He was however cited by the county for 22 unpermitted greenhouse housing units and 39 unpermitted housing units at a second site, among other violations.

The county wanted to acknowledge the people who have been displaced during this investigation and released the following statement:

The County is actively collaborating with various community-based organizations, including the North
Monterey County Unified School District Family Resource Center and the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers, to provide viable housing alternatives for those who have been taken advantage of by the landlord. We understand the urgent need for safe and stable housing, and we are committed to exploring
every available option to address this critical issue.

The County of Monterey, Department of Social Services, is dedicated to the overall well-being of all
residents, especially those affected by this unfortunate situation. To ensure their needs are met promptly,
we have extended our services beyond regular business hours and on weekends. Our team stands ready to assist with public benefit programs, providing the necessary support and resources to help individuals and families regain stability and security.

We firmly believe in the importance of a compassionate and comprehensive response, and we are fully
committed to ensuring that those affected receive the assistance they require.

County of Monterey

The county however says they have a job to assure health and building standards are met.

On top of the demolition process, Monterey County tells KION they are working with North Monterey County Unified School District Castro Plaza Family Resource Center and tell us housing is limited and expensive. They are doing everything that they can to help the families affected with housing.

"We are working closely in close contact with county agencies, with communication to the families and resources that are available and it ranges right now in these need is housing resources," said the Assitance Superintendent of Student and Family Services, Noemy Loveless.

Monterey County fines property owner over $59,000 for makeshift housing in Royal Oaks

Update May 11, 2023, at 5:29 p.m.- We are showing you the inside of an illegal housing complex in Royal Oaks off of San Miguel Canyon Road. 

According to Monterey County, the makeshift housing was home to around 100 people, including children. The County added that the property owner has received "notices of violation from the
County's Housing and Community Development and Environmental Health Bureau for the
numerous health, safety, and building violations on the property."

Currently, the property owner has received a fee of $59,600 that will increase daily while violations remain on the property. The landlord will also have to provide assistance to the affected families by providing two months of relocation assistance at the fair market value for every family living in the 62 make-shift dwellings on the property, per Monterey County Code.

Farmworkers from Oaxaca find themselves having to relocate from the unpermitted housing and tell us they believe the property owner should help them with expenses. Yet another woman tells us the owner Nicolas Ruvalcaba has been very nice to her family and provided her with a place to live when she couldn't afford more. We asked how much they pay in rent.

"Well, he was charging us one thousand dollars. We don't know anything. We just arrived, and we didn't know what to expect. We just came to work and send money home to Mexico to my children," said a worker who did not want to be identified.

Photo sent to KION of the housing.

One woman says the families who live there have decided they are no longer paying any rent while they relocate. 

The property owners have declined an interview, and the county tells us they are connecting people to resources available. 

100 people, including children, discovered in North Monterey County living in makeshift housing

A large group of farmworkers and migrant families find themselves in a desperate search for housing after the illegal units they are living in were discovered by social workers in Monterey County on Friday. 

The makeshift housing was constructed inside a greenhouse located at a flower nursery owned by Ruvalcaba Nursery in Royal Oaks along San Miguel Canyon Road. People living in the housing said they were being charged anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 per month.

A woman, who cannot be named for her protection, tells KION. She's lived at the property since January of this year and pays $1,500 monthly in cash.

She has two children and fears they will be separated from her if she does not relocate immediately.

Social workers with CPS, she claims, arrived to warn them about the unsafe conditions. 

However, officials with Monterey County say CPS was only there to connect them with resources.

The county tells KION they have no intention to separate children from their families and that no warning or threat to remove children was issued. And that they have "no cause" to do so.

The property owner Nicolas Ruvalcaba tells KION he has done nothing more than try to help people, mainly all from a community in Oaxaca, find a place to live. 

In a statement from the county, they said the following:

The County of Monterey is aware of the unfortunate situation involving unpermitted
housing in northern Monterey County. We are currently working to provide
appropriate alternative services to the approximately 100 individuals affected,
including children. The unpermitted housing has serious implications for life, health
and safety and we are working with the property owner to address these concerns.

We take this matter seriously and are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being
of all residents in Monterey County. We are working diligently to pursue appropriate
means to assist those affected by these living conditions. For child welfare purposes,
our primary objective is to assist in providing access to eligible resources for which
residents may be able to apply.

Our goal is to prevent similar situations from happening in the future, and we remain
dedicated to upholding the law and protecting the rights of all residents in Monterey
County. We encourage anyone with information about any other inappropriate
housing situations to report it immediately.

County of Monterey

One woman we spoke with on the property, who did not want to identify herself, said that she understands that the housing is not legal. However, when she tried applying for apartments throughout Salinas, she was charged over $1,000 in rent on top of $50 in application fees per location.

She said the owner has always treated her respectfully and helped care for her children. She now finds herself without a home. With a lack of credit history or American documentation, she was left with few options, she said.

We checked, and the cheapest available location in Salinas is around $1,644 to $1,889 for a one to two-bedroom apartment in Salinas, according to

The County said it understands where people are coming from with the lack of options and taking any housing, but their job is to enforce health and safety regulations the greenhouse was not meeting.

The county said rules are there for a reason, and they are trying to prevent a tragedy like the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland that killed 36 people. The county said they have always supported farmworkers and low-income housing, but this is a case of enforcing rules and regulations that would apply to anyone, regardless of their immigration status.

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Veronica Macias

Veronica Macias is an evening anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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Ricardo Tovar

Assignment/ Web Manager for KION News Channel 5/46 and Telemundo 23


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