Growth (Housing, Transportation, and Jobs)
–Let’s Hit Pause and Reset
The days of massive, sprawling housing and retail developments are in the past.
Growth is out of control. The current incumbents have presided over an unprecedented wave of growth. We need to hit “pause” on growth, and shift to “reset” to bring our city into a new era where we focus on quality of life and the environment. This is one of the most important things a City Council can collectively do.
It is said so often that we don’t want to become the San Fernando Valley. My focus is not on what we DON’T want to become, but what type of city we DO want to be.
Hitting pause and reset on new development will require input from the public. The public should have full transparency on projects in the pipeline, which are past the point where they can legally be stopped. The aggregate impacts on traffic and transportation, water and services, school class size, population should be available to citizens online from the City in an easy-to-understand format. The public should understand how much undeveloped land remains that could potentially be developed, and be able to clearly understand city and county SOAR boundaries.
Two years back, we all rejected the Conejo Creek project that would have brought 2500 new housing units to the green farmland at the base of the Conejo grade.
Nonetheless, there are seven housing projects underway today that will bring 3,700 new residents to our city by 2020. That is a five percent increase in our population in a short time, which will bring more traffic, more requirements for water, services, and schooling. While this growth was happening, we failed to keep pace with our city’s need for workforce housing so that our millennials can afford to live in the city where they have grown up, businesses can attract the workforce we need, and our seniors can afford to remain in the city that has been their home. This kind of lopsided growth cannot continue.
Thinking about growth for the future requires not thinking about impacts in silos, but in a holistic way. Currently, Ventura County has one of the highest commuter quotients in the state. According to an Economic Development Corporation of Ventura County report from 2015, 175,000 Ventura County residents a day commute to jobs outside the county. Unless those commuters can work where they live or use public transportation, we will have a hard time getting a handle on traffic. Linkage with transportation, jobs, and recreation are some of the smart growth principles I support.
I would work to introduce a resolution to enact a 180-day moratorium on new housing development while we produce a study of these impacts, and likely in-fill areas with remaining undeveloped land parcels within the city.
During this moratorium, we can think carefully, in consultation with members of the public, about principles for going forward. Workforce housing within existing lots of no more than thirty units could be exempt. Housing moratoriums are not new, and have been enacted in Colorado, Washington, and Florida.
79 New Oil and Gas Wells along Sturgis Road
I oppose this project, which is in neighboring Oxnard on Sturgis Road near Camarillo Airport. The original permit was granted in 1955, issued with no expiration date, and no limit to the number of wells. This was prior to the passing of the California Environmental Quality Act so no modern environmental review of impacts to the water, air and traffic was conducted at the time. Now, using a high temperature cyclic steam process that was not envisioned at the time when the permit was granted, these new wells would be drilled on farmland through five different aquifer levels in order to reach underlying tar sands. Yes, tar sands that require toxic and destructive extraction techniques like the ones in Canada. The bitumen tar sands oil is so thick it will need to be mixed with lighter crude to pump into trucks – 400 per month – for transport of the tar sands and the wastewater. Do residents of Spanish Hills really want to look over gas flare and oil wells? Does the public living in Springville and Spanish Hills not have the right to know the full environmental and health impacts on our community?
So far, this issue has received insufficient public attention because it is being handled at the level of the Ventura Planning Director for “ministerial zoning clearance.” It deserves the light of day and Board of Supervisor consideration.
Although this project is not under Camarillo’s jurisdiction, it obviously impacts our community. As a community, we should just say “No.” We should express our opinion, and be alert to what we can do in Camarillo to oppose this project. For example, even though the Camarillo City Council had no official voice when the SLO County Planning Commission was considering a refinery application to extend its rail line so it could import crude oil by train a couple of years back, Camarillo joined other cities in Ventura County in sending letters opposing the project and expressing concern about trains carrying oil passing through Camarillo to SLO County.
Old Courthouse and Fire House
Old Town is the natural heart of our city and should be its premier entertainment destination. It should be linked to CSUCI by robust transportation and a bicycle/walking trail so students can enjoy its restaurants, coffee bars, and chic watering holes. Old Town should be open after 9:00 pm. Seniors in Leisure Village and Alta Vista should similarly enjoy public transport access to Old Town, and EV and handicapped parking should be more plentiful. It should be a destination for parents to bring their children, and could use an anchor attraction like a splash pool, an ice skating rink, bicycle rental. Bringing all generations of Camarillans will be key to stimulating the Old Town economy.
A teardown is the only likely way forward. A desirable and central Old Town location is much more likely to attract users once it is a cleared site. Moreover, there is also the issue that the land is currently required to be used for a government purpose. We need clarification on whether this includes public-private partnerships, where the PVSD property line lies, and whether it could be re-zoned if a really attractive proposal emerged. I’ve worked in very challenging environments abroad, so I am not deterred by bureaucratic regulations.
I have heard from members of the tech start-up community and they are looking at the courthouse as a site for an “innovation village.” If feasible with zoning regulations, they would support a small mixed use residential village that includes a technology incubator geared toward young adults, entrepreneurs, and young families. Perhaps CSUCI would like to have a window in Camarillo, which could also house an expanded tourism center.
I would also support razing the Old Fire Station if the deal with St. Mary Magdalen and the Archdiocese falls through. I honor Chief Putnam and the fire station’s contribution to our city’s history, but the fire house looks to me like a WWII temporary building. A small monument to the fire house, or display in a historical museum can recognize that history. The site could be part of an expanded park and include attractions like a seasonal splash pad as others have mentioned or a specialized playground for autistic or developmentally delayed children. Due to issues with parking in Old Town and vehicle access issues from the freeway, I am hesitant to support a retail-based development in that location.
Neither the Courthouse nor the Fire House are national trust historic grade buildings worthy of preservation. If the teardown cost is reasonable, we should bite the bullet, pick up the pace and focus our city’s attention on this problem presenting clean development packages to would-be users and start reaching out to attract the kind of users that will help boost and revive Old Town’s role as our city’s heart. Consultation with residents and merchants in Old Town must be part of the process. No doubt, a process of listening to stakeholders in the area will yield some great ideas!
If everybody were George Washington, we would not need term limits. Our founding fathers wanted elected representatives, but it was not their intention to create a replacement for a permanent British ruling aristocracy.
I respect and honor the contributions of our public servants who have served our community. Hopefully, voters will choose candidates whose ability and experience match the requirements of the job, and who are ready to do the job on the first day.
Voting to elect non-incumbents in this election achieves the result of term limits without having to wait for the results of this election concerning the two term-limit proposals to kick in.
I also I support term limits because I believe it is equally important to bring in new perspectives and ideas and not become stale in our approach. In Camarillo, name recognition, and natural but clubby long-term relationships between Council members and people in the city comfortable with the status quo have made it hard over the years for challengers to make much of an impression in elections. Term limits serve as a powerful tool to promote new leadership.
In this election, I will cast my vote for Measure E. Measure E breaks the strength of incumbency by ensuring new candidates get an opportunity to run successfully. At the same time, it gives the voters the opportunity to re-elect, after a time-out, extraordinary former council members who have made contributions valued by the community.
Better, Honest, and Efficient Government
In today’s world, we are getting accustomed to buying laundry detergent, arranging car service, and ordering food on our mobile devices. However, there’s a growing disconnect on how we’re getting government services and all other services in our daily lives. Angus wants to bring innovation into government where making an appointment for an inspection is no different than ordering your coffee on the Starbucks app. He believes that residents should be online instead in line. Overseas, we have been telling other countries for years that implementing EGov systems is good for transparency and limits irregularities.
I believe Camarillo would benefit from more social media presence and streaming meetings live. With more and more people cutting cable, less residents have access to local government channels.