In Brief

Building a more affordable house

Camarillo Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), whose past projects have included housing for migrant farm workers, is near completion on Hacienda Guadalupe. The condominium development will increase the number of affordable housing units in Ventura County and deed restrictions insure that affordable homes will stay affordable. Limits placed on the re-sale price of each unit will stay in effect for 45 years after the date of initial purchase.

The 26-unit condo community includes two-story, three- and four-bedroom homes and is located in Oxnard’s Meta Street District.

Eligible families must be in an annual income bracket of $45,000-$68,000, placing them at 80% of the area median income (AMI), as per local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines. That means that a family of four must have a household income of no more than approximately $68,560; a family of five no more than $74,080 and a family of six, no more than $79520, according to the CEDC. They also stated that down payments are around $2,400.

The net cost of a three bedroom Hacienda Guadalupe home is $208,769, and for a four-bedroom home, $223,769. In Ventura County, this is now considered within the range of affordable housing.

“Typically, what before was considered affordable in this area has become less affordable for the average person,” says CEDC communications manager Jennifer Koch.

Homes are built in craftsman style and all include porches. The 1,275- to 1,593-square-foot units and are arranged in configurations of two, three, four project block or as individual homes, many of which are situated around the perimeter of a communal courtyard.

As with a typical condominium community, a homeowner’s association governs land use and decorating restrictions. Owners must pay a monthly fee for common area maintenance.

Last October, interested families were invited to a “housing lottery” at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Koch reports that some units are still available.

Not on our backroads

Concerned by what they see as the misuse of local highways and national forest roads, citizens on the Stop the Trucks Committee of Ojai (STCO) have planned a May 15 town hall-style meeting. The event should bring together interested parties to discuss the traffic-related issues on the roads surrounding Ojai.

The STCO object to the Ozena Gravel Mine’s application for a trucking permit extension that would allow more daily gravel hauls. The group is also concerned about the economic, environmental and safety impact of having Ozena’s gravel trucks on local roads for 30 more years. STCO invites members and the public to discuss this and the issue of Santa Barbara County-based Diamond Gravel Mine’s use of Ventura County roads as trucking routes.

STCO member Therese Hartmann takes issue with the fact that no official environmental impact report has been conducted regarding the potential damage that increased truck traffic may have on air quality.

“People are really upset because, even for the truck drivers, it’s totally unsafe for them. That road is just not meant to take those big huge trucks, it was built in the ‘50s,” said Hartmann.

She also explained that Highway 33 is one of the primary trucking routes that “runs through national forest. Instead of an industrial zone made for trucks, we want to preserve it for the original intention: public use, accessing national forest. It runs past Nordhoff High School, past Ojai Hospital, Villanova [Prepatory School], Miramonte Elementary. We’d like to get it closed down completely. We do not believe trucks should be using that route.”

Scheduled meeting speakers include Supervisor Steve Bennett, Ojai Mayor Carol Smith, Ojai Chamber CEO Scott Eicher, Ojai Unified School District Supervisor Tim Baird and Forest Watch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper.

Nava fits the bill

What do out-of-state disaster assistance measures, healthful school lunches and reformed delivery of absentee ballots have in common? They are all issues that are addressed in a lineup of bills authored by assemblymember Pedro Nava, and they all are relevant to Ventura County residents. Each passed through specialized state committees this week.

Assembly Bill 1564 would lengthen the Emergency Management Compact, which allows neighboring states to share resources and assistance with California in the event of a major natural or man made disaster. AB 1564 will extend the compact through 2012, allowing California to supplement inadequate resources in the event of an emergency. The bill will be presented to the California Assembly floor for consideration.

Assembly Bill 967 deals with the possibility of including fresh, locally grown farm produce into public school lunches. Nava believes this will benefit both the nutrition of school children and help the state’s agricultural industry flourish. AB 967 will be considered by the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee.

Assembly Bill 1167 would overhaul the absentee ballot system throughout the state. It will address complaints that problems with correct postage have hindered state elections. Nava hopes that a more standard process of ballot collection will prevent any voting irregularities.

In Brief

Accelerated learning

A new education program is giving both Ventura County high school students and teachers an opportunity to learn a variety of scientific disciplines by interacting and experimenting with marine life at a collegiate level.

After two years of development, the Coastal Marine Biolab is preparing to welcome its first group of students in June. The program, based at Ventura Harbor, places participants in a real 24-hour laboratory environment for nine days and allows them to conduct research projects like actual working scientists. It is hands-on, but not in the old way, with simple tide pools and touch-tanks, said educator director Theresa Gilly.

“That kind of science is boring for kids,” she said. “They’re doing real science.”

The program is intended to be fully integrated, mixing elements of physics, math and English. Scientists will work side-by-side with educators, and the program meets state education requirements, said Zoe Taylor, president of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, which co-sponsored the April 17 press conference in which the program was introduced to the community.

Although marine organisms are used as test subjects, the program is not just about marine biology, Gilly said. For instance, in a unit about bioluminescence, the protein which causes certain jellyfish to produce light is injected into other organisms, tricking the creatures into producing the same kind of protein. It teaches students about bioluminescence, said Ralph Imondi, scientific co-director of Biolab — and gives them the thrill of making an organism glow.

“We can name marine organisms until the cows come home … but the real educational value of this program is in going a step beyond and saying, ‘Here’s a cool marine organism, but here’s some interesting relationships between this organism and cutting-edge areas of science,’ ” said Imodi.

Breaking the chains

The Ojai City Council will consider a temporary moratorium on issuing zoning clearances and building and development permits for all retail and restaurant chains looking to establish themselves in the city.

Should the interim ordinance pass via a 4-5 vote at a public hearing to be held at Ojai City Hall on May 1, it would give the council 45 days to consider a more permanent ordinance against formula businesses, said Paulette Whiting, assistant to the city manager.

“Unfortunately, people believed for some time, apparently, that there were regulations against chain stores,” she said. “In reality, since we are a city with only 4.2 square miles and buildings of not great size, we [just] did not attract a lot of chain stores except those that service our community,” such as banks and gas stations.

The urge for a moratorium sprung up after a Subway recently opened up in place of a long-standing independent sandwich shop that had gone out of business. Some residents presumed the city was willingly opening the door for such companies, but Whiting said the city cannot regulate if a chain store wants to move in on a piece of property it has leased.

“Citizens inquired about what to do to keep the city from looking like every other city,” she said.

At a special meeting on April 10, the council considered an “urgent moratorium,” but, with Councilmember Sue Horgan absent, could not get enough votes to secure its passage.

At the May 1 meeting, all council members are expected to attend.

Planning ahead

The city of Oxnard is beginning its push toward a revised 2020 General Plan.

On May 1, a meeting regarding a required citywide environmental impact report (EIR) will be held at city hall. There, residents will be invited to address the city council about any environmental topics pertaining to the forthcoming General Plan update they wish to be included in the EIR.

As per California law, the planning division has already sent letters to various state agencies asking for input. The recipients have 30 days to respond. Thus far, only the Native American Commission has sent a response, asking the city to be aware of native burial grounds — something it planned to include in the EIR anyway, said Chris Williamson, senior planner.

“A lot are just formalities,” he said, regarding the letters.

In light of the recent local debate about liquefied natural gas, Williamson said he would expect there to be some discussion about the future use of the local coastline for industrial purposes.

“In the long distant future, do we still want two power plants on the coast?” he said. “The general feeling is people are not happy having things stuck on our coast because it attracts things like LNG.”

After May 5, the EIR will start to be compiled by the Environmental Science Association, a consulting firm hired by the city. A draft is expected to be released to the public around September, the same time the draft of the new General Plan is hoped to finished, Williamson said.

In Brief

AIDS support gets local

Ventura County AIDS Walk for Life has hosted its annual event for the past 15 years. On the eve of the 16th walk, local activist Joe Summers decided to expand his individual effort by asking the coworkers who had previously sponsored him to join him. Now, 16 people from both the Ventura and Oxnard locations of Capriccio restaurant, where Summers works, have agreed to walk on the restaurant’s team.

“Each year I’ve raised about $500,” Summers said. “This year our team goal is $5,000.”

The cause is close to Summers’ heart, with proceeds going to the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance.

“It benefits a weekly food pantry that feeds over 200 families effected by HIV and AIDS,” Summers said. “There’s emergency funding assistance, legal assistance, crisis intervention, free HIV and AIDS testing, education and counseling. It’s the largest individually funded program in Ventura County for HIV and AIDS that’s not a state or federal program.”

In addition, Capriccio decided to increase its support for the walk by devoting two nights to the event. On Wednesday, May 2, their Oxnard location will donate 20 percent of proceeds to VC AIDS Walk for Life.

Road closures

A five-year effort to improve the stretch of 101 from Vineyard Avenue to Johnson Drive continues in earnest, with significant road closures slated to take place to allow construction through April 13. The northbound Ventura Freeway will be closed each night until early Saturday, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The stretch from Vineyard Avenue to Victoria Avenue will be closed during the same nights and hours. Additionally, Sunday, April 15 through Tuesday, April 17, the Vineyard to Victoria stretch will be closed from 10pm to 5am.

The ongoing changes involve electrical improvement and sign placement along these routes. In all cases, detours will be indicated by signs.

Grants for local schools

This week, in a far-reaching announcement, State School Superintendent Jack O’Connell announced that 408 low-performing schools in the state would receive over $100 million in grant aid through the High Priority Schools Grant Program. HPSGP provides resources for public schools with below-average performance rates.

Of this funding, $2.8 million will go to Ventura County schools, including Piru Elementary in Fillmore, Mar Vista Elementary in Ocean View, McKinna, Sierra Linda and Lemonwood elementary schools in Oxnard, Hueneme High in Oxnard, Rio Real Elementary in El Rio and Glen City and Grace S. Thille elementary schools in Santa Paula.

This funding breaks down to around $400 per year for each student in participating schools. As O’Connell explained, such funding will enable schools to respond to poor performance, and allow districts to improve troubling education statistics. In addition, students will be given more resources.

To receive funding, schools and districts must work collaboratively to develop plans for improvement, which must then be approved by the State Board of Education.

The grant program also ensures that participating schools will be under closer scrutiny: Positive growth according to the Academic Performance Index (API) must be demonstrated.

Oral exams

Along with vaccines against measles and mumps, children will have to have a dental check-up by May 31 during their first year at a public school.

With the passage of Assembly Bill 1433, Governor Schwarzenegger ensured that children in kindergarten or first grade will be required to meet with a dentist at least once and be screened for signs of tooth decay or poor oral health.

The California Dental Association estimates that half of all uninsured children in California are eligible for government insurance like Medi-Cal. It is their hope that such a stipulation for public school students will bring greater awareness to the issue of dental health.

Although AB 1433 promotes and encourages early dental care, it is not an entirely binding measure. Parents are given the option to complete a form that would waive their children from such a requirement.

Just say no to lead

Linking lead ammunition use with California condor deaths, Assemblymember Pedro Nava drafted the Ridley Tree Condor Preservation Act to ban the use of such materials in the hunting of large game in areas frequented by the bird. The bill, known as Assembly Bill 821, was passed on April 10 with an eight to five vote.

To make the transition to non-lead bullets smooth, AB 821 makes provisions so that hunters may obtain alternative ammunition at a reduced charge or at no cost.

The bill is slated for review by the State Appropriations Committee.

In Brief

Ventura Chamber climbs onboard LNG

After a presentation late last month by representatives of BHP Billiton, the Ventura Chamber of Commerce’s Business Advocacy Round Table (the chamber’s governmental affairs committee) voted to endorse the floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility that is proposed for construction off the coast of Oxnard.

“The chamber about a year or so ago went on record of supporting the concept of LNG,” said Zoe Taylor, president of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce.

“The primary reason is that the chamber as a business organization is concerned about the increasing price [of energy] and we need to expand the state supply of natural gas with reliable energy sources. We also appreciate the efforts the company has made to make the port safe, environmentally sound and geographically located away from population centers.”

Although the proposed LNG facility has come under intense scrutiny and criticism from environmental groups and much of the local population, Taylor defended the controversial structure by saying that BHP Billiton recognized the project’s value in “pollution reduction and mitigation.”

“As we’ve been hearing, with the superior court pushing that we need to have cleaner air and all of this, I think over the years we’re going to have to be more aggressive in bringing cleaner energy sources to the state and the nation.”

Kathi Hann, BHP Billiton’s environmental advisor, noted that the Ventura Chamber’s decision puts them in league with the Moorpark, Oxnard and Simi Valley chambers.

“The very important thing here is — with the coal and oil and nuclear energy being decreased — to fill the energy gap so business can continue to operate,” said Taylor. “We felt this was a bridge fuel that can create cleaner energy while our state transitions to reliable energy sources.”

VIP vehicles

Volunteers in policing are an integral part of community safety, according to Police Services Officer Tracey Coert, who characterized the volunteer policing as a “patrol program.”

“The main goal is to free up patrol officers so they have more proactive patrol time, can respond to calls for service,” Coert said. “Volunteers go out in the field; they can take crime reports and suspect info. They can do things like traffic control, patrols in the downtown area, the mall, areas that may be recently hit with crime sprees, and then they check on things like schools after hours, places deemed as critical infrastructure in the city. “

Volunteers must complete 10 weeks in a training academy and patrol 16 hours a month to be considered active volunteers, and recruiting participants was no problem. Properly equipping them was.

“We have three vehicles,” Coert explained, “but our program started growing so much we didn’t have enough cars; we don’t have our own budget that we can consistently draw from.”

After being approached by volunteers, Tony Fiore, vice president and general manager of Vista Honda in Ventura offered to donate a Dodge Caravan valued at $12,000. After a coat of white paint and the addition of a side logo, the van was ready for patrol.

The VIP program has been in existence in Ventura since 2005.

Bibliophiles of Camarillo unite!

The new Camarillo library held a grand re-opening on March 31 that relied heavily on a pirate fair theme. This, reported managing librarian Sandy Banks, had much to do with the children’s area, and its “sunken pirate ship,” a large structure to attract younger patrons and encourage them to spend an hour or several in the new community center.

The library’s overhaul saw an expansion from 16,500 square feet to 65,000 square feet.

With the artful eye of James Mardini and CWA Architects, and the creative flair of Scenario Design, the library boasts an indoor playground and a young adult’s “Gaudi”-style reading area, featuring mosaic columns.

Upstairs, adults might find refuge around a Bas-relief fireplace, featuring images from the St. Mary Magdalene chapel in Camarillo.

According to Banks, Camarillo has set its sights on a new library since 1988, and the Library Bond Act of 2000 enabled libraries to apply more roundly for funding. June of 2002 saw Camarillo Library applying for funding, which was approved in December of that year with the agreement that the state would pay 65 percent of construction costs, with the city meeting 35 percent. Ground was broken in April 2005, and construction took nearly two years.

Although Banks estimated that the library hosted over 4,000 visitors on its first day, there was another method for measuring the site’s success.

“Opening day, we checked out 3,266 books,” Banks said.






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