Apparent illegal hillside grading project in Ventura causes a ruckus
New road off Mint Lane in Ventura not in line with hillside preservation ordinance
By Michael Sullivan 02/28/2013
The Ventura hillside off Mint Lane now has a major gash running around the hill — akin to a large scar after major surgery — after a local property owner and attorney, Peter Goldenring, hired workers to drive industrial earth movers up the lane and cut a “jeep” road into the hill on Friday, Feb. 22. Local neighbors, who were not given advanced notice of the grading, were shocked to see the work under way, finding pockmarks in the road from the movers and a freshly cut road in the hillside. Some homeowners also claim the work caused property damage due to movement of the heavy equipment. The new road on the hillside can be seen from Downtown Ventura and Seaward Avenue.
“We are really upset about what was done,” said Diane Underhill, president of Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation. “I am amazed that this went forward the way it did— when the neighbors couldn’t do anything.”
Goldenring, who owns three parcels at the top of the hill, had gone to the city last summer about work he planned to do at the site, which included doing a soil assessment, according to Jeffrey Lambert, Ventura’s community development director. In order to do that assessment, Goldenring needed to transport rigs that would drill into the earth as required by standard building codes to get a proper sample for the assessment. The road was created as a geo access in order to get rigs to the site to do the assessment. While standard California building code allows for such projects to occur without a permit, Lambert said the road doesn’t follow the basic rules of Ventura’s hillside ordinance.
“The reality is, the city of Ventura adopted a hillside preservation ordinance; it’s all about preserving the hillside and minimizing the impact, that’s what the ordinance is all about,” Lambert said.
The road ranges from eight feet to 12 feet in width and, at some points, cuts into the hillside up to about 12 feet. Though the ordinance doesn’t exactly specify the width and depth requirements — Lambert said that in line with the ordinance the range is estimated around eight feet in width and four feet in depth — the new access road doesn’t comply with a 2 to 1 slope ratio,
“We saw a half to 1 slope,” said Lambert, noting that ratio is about the stability of the hillside.
Rick Ray, a Hollywood filmmaker and resident of Mint Lane, documented the work that day and posted it online. It can be found here: http://vimeo.com/60622135. Ray said he and his neighbors will meet on Friday to discuss what their options are with the city.
“We will come up with recommendations and continue to pressure the city and the county to try to restore this,” Ray said. “They need to take some action against the perpetrators. Paying a fine — anyone can do that. Something more substantial needs to happen to prevent this [happening again].”