Nursery fences lowered


Star Nursery's experiment with fencing out the valley's day laborers has ended, at least for now.

The nursery has removed chain-link fences it installed in October around six of its eight valley locations, saying it would have been too expensive to make them permanent.

"It was a tough decision, but it came down to economics," said Pat Chapin, an attorney for Star Nursery.

The nursery decided to put up fences to keep day laborers off its properties. Customers had complained they were being harassed by the dozens of men who gather by the nurseries each day in search of work, Chapin said. The men also trampled landscaping and left litter and waste behind, he said.

"They were standing in the parking lot, destroying property. If a car slowed down, they would converge on it."

Chapin said the nursery received mostly positive feedback from customers who said they felt more comfortable when the fences went up. But the nurseries were cited by the city and county for putting up the temporary fences without a permit. The owner was given until Jan. 6 to either remove them or apply for a permit for permanent fencing.

Chapin estimated that fencing would cost at least $200,000.

"Things have gotten worse financially in this city, and money is too tight," he said. "We're trying to keep people employed."

The nurseries may consider installing permanent fencing in the future if the economy improves, he said.

Several dozen men were gathered Friday morning along the sidewalks near Star Nursery on Eastern Avenue near the Las Vegas Beltway.

Most declined to speak to the Review-Journal. But two men said the fences made no difference. Neither man would provide his full name.

They said most day laborers respect the nursery's property and don't stray off the public sidewalk. They also denied harassing customers.

"We don't want trouble. We just want to work," Gabriel, 34, said in Spanish.

Albeiro, 42, said a couple of trouble-makers had given all the men a bad rap.

He insisted most day laborers don't leave behind trash and are respectful to customers.

"They are the exception," he said of the troublemakers.

But some customers say the men make them uncomfortable.

"I try to avoid that corner," said Jan George, who lives close to the Star Nursery on Charleston Boulevard at Cimarron Road. "They'll ask for rides, say, 'Can you give me a lift?' It's annoying."

George said she isn't "opposed to people looking for work if they need it." But "it doesn't look nice in a residential community to see 30 guys standing out on a street corner."

"I don't know what the solution is," she said. "It would be nice if there was some location they could go to for temporary work."

The Casual Labor Office near downtown Las Vegas helps connect day workers with businesses and individuals seeking temporary help. But many day laborers don't know about the office at 1001 A St., near Washington Avenue.

The office also asks workers whether they are U.S. citizens. If the answer is no, workers are asked to show their authorization to work in the United States. Such requirements may disqualify many of the mostly Hispanic day laborers lining streets near nurseries and home improvement stores each morning.

Chapin said the fence experiment drew a lot of unexpected attention to the nurseries.

"News outlets from here to L.A. were calling," he said. "There was huge interest from regular citizens, politicians, everyone. Overall, we handled it pretty well. We have no regrets about doing it."

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

 

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