What’s the best way to spend a Saturday morning? For a bus full of Ventura officials, it was an all day trip through housing developments in Oxnard and Camarillo, as well as its own backyard.
The entire Ventura city council, as well as members of its planning commission, design review committee, historic preservation committee and staffers from key departments hopped on board a charter ride June 2 to take part in a comparative development projects tour. Although the public was also invited on the tour, only city watchdog Carroll Dean Williams took the trip.
With a number of housing developments slated throughout Ventura for approval and others generating tremendous controversy or attention throughout the city, the trip was planned designed to explore how different projects built in the region are coming together and whether or not there are examples officials could take heed of while they consider future developments.
Led by City Manager Rick Cole and Assistant Community Development Director Kaizer Rangwala and organized by City Engineer Rick Raives, much of a tour was a discussion of whether or not various projects met the New Urbanist ideals driving much of Ventura’s future planning or how those projects differed from that philosophy.
Attendees visited eight separate developments. After a short walk through and drive around the controversial Citrus Walk Project on Ventura’s east end, they were quickly whisked by new Salvation army apartments in that area and on through Saticoy’s Chapel Lane Project.
Crossing the Santa Clara River into Oxnard, the tour stopped at Oxnard’s massive Riverpark Project before continuing to the oceanside Seabridge development near that city’s shoreline. From Seabridge, the tour headed to the University Glen development at California State University, Channel Islands and, after lunch on campus, on to Camarillo’s Village at the Park.
At Citrus Walk, Riverpark, and Seabridge, representatives from the development companies behind the projects and planners from Oxnard, Camarillo and CSUCI extolled their virtues, only to be peppered with questions from the tour’s participants. They asked to know about draining, street widths, access points for pedestrians and emergency vehicles, connectivity to retail, porch sizes, authenticity and numerous other details.
Although the presence of a quorum of each board meant that the tour was an official government meeting, no decisions were made on future policy. However, there is a possibility of future tours similar to the comparative development tour. Some possibilities include tours of mixed use developments, explorations of commercial sites, and visits to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties to see examples of infill development.