I have for the past several years questioned the validity of Camille Harris’ role in Midtown and her self-appointed “guardian of the view, “all ways”, as she puts it (see “Midtown article sparks strong reactions,” Power to Speak, 10/11/07). Further, “newcomer” is a relative term and one she uses loosely. I came to Ventura in 1967 and have built a home and a business here. I am a Midtown resident and yes, I’m a “New Urbanist,” both professionally and philosophically.
For the past four years I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the City of San Buenaventura’s Planning Commission and its Design Review Committee. Therefore it was inappropriate for me to respond to her frequent and lengthy views of her sense of Ventura’s “unique setting and scale,” despite those occasions when at a public hearing she would personally attack the integrity of both myself and William Growden, another architect who happened to be on the Planning Commission. Now, however, after her latest letter to the editor in your publication, I’ll make a stab at expressing my point of view, which coincidentally doesn’t come close to hers. But the last time I looked, I’m entitled as a Midtown resident and as a part of the community to share my opinions here, as she so frequently does wherever someone will print her views.
I’m tired of biting my tongue. I’d like to know who died and made her the appointed spokesperson for our neighborhood? She always uses the phrase “we” as if she speaks for the entire community; which she does not. The reader must use caution and discretion when reading the “gospel according to Camille.” Just yesterday, after leaving Vons on Thompson Boulevard, I was confronted by two of her “disciples” sitting outside the entry, where they were trying to get people to sign their petition, falsely claiming that “we need to stop the skyscrapers!” (three story structures are not skyscrapers) and “we must stop them from blocking our views of the ocean!” And here I thought it was the views of the hills they were trying to protect.
I am one of those, as an architect and business owner, who frequently deals with the real world issues of economic feasibility, cost of land, New Urbanist principles and the task of planning and designing for a vibrant community. I am frequently required to represent developers, be they local or from out of town. “Newcomers” or longtime residents, they buy property subject to the same rules as you and me. Land and construction costs are such that two-story structures are not feasible. This means that it does not make economic sense to clean up a blighted property and revitalize the neighborhood and be limited to two stories in height.
As a longtime resident of this area, I am not enchanted by Harris’ vision of “unique setting and scale” if it means being stuck with the run-down, blighted, under-utilized and frequently vacant properties along the Thompson Boulevard and Main Street corridors, but that will most likely occur if there is no incentive to redevelop those properties.
So neighbors, do you really want a 23-person committee, appointed by Camille and her group, now known as Ventura Citizens Organization for Responsible Development, to write an ordinance to create a “view corridor” and to have a two-year moratorium for new construction on structures taller than two stories? Please read the fine print. Recognize that this is a special interest group, verify the facts, recognize the scare tactics they use and be careful what you wish for …. n