Carr Drive at 8 p.m. is hushed like a midnight lullaby and still as the trigger finger of a sharpshooter on Prozac. Just like every other night, there’s one set of eyes or another surveying the surroundings, peeping out the comings and goings of strangers and strange cars, and neighbors who let neighbors know when things are looking fishy.
As neighborhoods go, Carr Drive is about as neighborly as they come.
“I bought this house because of this street and because it’s a unique place to live,” said 30-year-old Los Angeles native (and former VC Reporter employee) Ionia Kershaw, who lives in a house she bought on Carr with her boyfriend, two dogs and two cats. “There are no cars lining this street and no traffic. It’s a peaceful, quiet life.”
Like Kershaw, many residents on Carr say they appreciate a unique, self-contained existence on one of very few double-sided cul-de-sacs in town, between fenced-off property adjacent to Ventura Avenue on one end and a round lump of hillside on the other.
Though an impending development, called the Westside Villas, has yet to become a major blip on the radar screen of city planners, residents are readying themselves for a battle designed to protect the little oasis from change.
Proposed by the Camarillo-based developer Central Coast Investors for the chunk of land at the corner of Ventura Avenue and Leighton Drive, the back side of Westside Villas would butt up against one sleepy end of Carr. The proposed three-story complex of 58 condominiums, with some mixed-use commercial space along Ventura Avenue, would also border existing commercial buildings that sit alongside Lewis Road and Ventura Avenue.
Much of the ground floor would be taken up by parking — and that’s where the trouble begins, with cars on Carr Drive.
Central Coast Investors, representatives of which have made a handful of well-received appearances at the Westside Community Council — a group comprised of residents and representatives from West Ventura, or “The Avenue” — have had two divergent proposals for the project drawn up.
One of the proposals, the one that residents prefer, includes a seven-foot wall that separates the development from Carr Drive and preserves the cul-de-sac’s seal. The other includes direct access from the development to Carr Drive, which would become a thoroughfare for the development.
“We don’t like to portray our neighborhood as being crime ridden, but where this neighborhood is not crime ridden is where there is no hit-and-run access,” said 47-year-old Hills Sutton, who has lived on Carr Drive with his wife since 1997. The couple has a 4-year-old daughter, Lillian.
Kershaw and Sutton said the neighborhood surrounding Carr, particularly on Lewis and Leighton, sees a lot of traffic from transient people and those who live at half-way houses. Sutton said he once broke up a drug deal on his street, after which he was nearly run over by a sports utility vehicle. He also said people often rifle through his recyclable refuse and that he worries about identity theft.
“We’re concerned about public safety,” Sutton said. “This will always be the most affordable area in Ventura and it will always be the place where they put the most dirty stuff. We don’t want to be the dumping ground.”
Still, Sutton said, the residents of Carr Drive are a tight-knit group and it’s a safe place to live. He just wants to make sure it stays that way. “Everyone knows each other and everyone knows the cars. We’re always watching out for each other. Always.”
Like the more popular option, the development option that includes Carr’s role as a thoroughfare pinpoints an alley between Carr and Ventura Avenue, which runs between Leighton and Lewis, as the only access point to the development’s parking area. Additional parking would very likely spill into Carr.
Ventura Planning Commissioner Michael Faulconer of Faulconer & Carawan Architects and Planners is an architect on the project. Faulconer said a second option, in addition to the option that includes the seven-foot wall, was drafted after the city adopted a new general plan last summer. The general plan calls for the opening of dead-end streets to allow for greater traffic access throughout the city.
“In the general plan, it asks that stubbed-end streets be connected where appropriate,” Faulconer said. “The key words are ‘when appropriate.’” Faulconer added that the project will be “in limbo” until the city allots units for construction on the west end of Ventura — and that there’s no telling when that will be.
Carr Drive resident Mark Gatanti, 46, agrees that the option that opens Carr up doesn’t jive with the scope of the city’s general plan. “It would be a loss of a unique neighborhood to traffic and cars,” he said. “Here, all they want to do is open up Carr Drive to an alleyway and that doesn’t mesh with the scope of the general plan.”
Joey Briglio, assistant planner in charge of the Westside Villas Project, said the Westside Community Council is the most active neighborhood council in the city. “The residents say the project’s fine as long as there’s a seven-foot wall,” Briglio said. “They liked the stubbed-in streets. It’s unique because it’s one of the only double stubbed streets in the area.”
Joanne Zivich, 50, lives in her family home on Carr Drive, where she was reared. She wants to see the street remain the same. “Carr Drive is an anomaly on Ventura Avenue,” she said. “It’s like an oasis here. We sound sort of snooty about it — but I think we’re really lucky.”