“It’s going to make living here a hell,” said Amrit Patel during the public comments section of the Sept. 18 Camarillo Planning Commission Public Hearing on the Conejo Creek Specific Plan.
Patel was just one of more than 200 people who attended, packing the Council chambers beyond capacity in hopes of speaking out regarding the plan’s draft environmental impact report (EIR). Those who didn’t fit were able to view the proceedings on televisions stationed within the lobby and some stood outside the entrance to City Hall.
Dennis Hardgrave of Development Planning Services, the specific plan’s applicant, also addressed the commission. “This is a very long-term project that seeks to address long-term city needs.” He added that the project was within the city’s Urban Growth Boundary.
But what, exactly, are these needs?
The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), under California State Housing Law, sets local goals for housing to accommodate projected future growth. As stated in Camarillo’s 2012 General Plan Annual Report, the RHNA mandates that Camarillo must plan for approximately 2,224 additional dwellings over the next nine years.
In response, the Conejo Creek Specific Plan proposes the development of 2,500 residential units, 40 acres of additional, nonresidential space, and more than 220 acres of parkland and open space. This is envisioned as a series of pedestrian-oriented residential neighborhoods nestled against existing and planned commercial areas, a plan that is aimed at reducing dependence on automobiles within those neighborhoods. The proposed development is to take place over 20 years, far longer than the timetable given by the RHNA.
On its website, Camarillo Sustainable Growth, a local organization that opposes the Conjeo Creek Specific Plan, asserts that Camarillo does not need such a magnitude of additional residential units. With the housing projects already approved by the City Council, like the Springville and Fairfield development project, the city is looking at 2,087 of the 2,224 housing units, and will be shy less than 150 units of the RHNA quota.
There are also several adverse impacts of the plan that are designated as Class I, or “significant and unavoidable,” by the EIR.
Among them are a drastic change in visual character, an increase in traffic-generated noise, and the permanent loss of more than 600 acres of agricultural lands. It also notes that the Specific Plan is inconsistent with current General Plan guidelines regarding agricultural and community design.
“Many of us who call Camarillo home are concerned about this plan — one that could drastically change our quality of life,” said Dr. Joe Halcomb, a 22-year-resident and Camarillo Sustainable Growth board member. Halcomb charged the EIR with being deeply flawed and inadequate. “The plan presents too many flaws to the skeptical eye to risk the permanent loss of prime farmland and the unique gateway to our city.”
A continuance of the hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.