Getting projects done in Ventura County, for the most part, seems to be an arduous task. Locals often fight against urban sprawl, including having put their votes where their mouths are with land-use-restriction ordinances such as SOAR, Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resources, passed by voters in 1995. While Oxnard sees much more growth than most cities, its neighbors, both Camarillo and Ventura, well, move at a snail’s pace. In the city of Camarillo, however, it would seem, it’s either very limited growth or growth to the extreme. Enter the proposed Conejo Creek development, an 895-acre mixed-use project at the base of the Conejo grade at Highway 101 and Pleasant Valley Road.
Originally proposed by farmland owners in 2007, the approval process has been relatively slow. For good reason, though, given that the build out would include 2,500 housing units, 218 acres of recreation and open space, 17 acres of institutional uses, 100 acres of industrial space and 54 acres of office and commercial space. The construction’s estimated completion date is 10 to 20 years, with no definite timeline at this point. When looking at approving this project, which many Camarillo residents have been outspoken against, there are some things to consider. First, population growth.
When reviewing Camarillo’s historical development, 2,500 residential units is a huge number, comparatively speaking. Examining Camarillo’s organic growth without any similar developments, the population grew 13.2 percent from 2000 to 2010 — from 57,593 to 65,201. If typical housing provides for an average of three people per unit, then this particular development could almost double Camarillo’s growth rate in the next 10 years, should the project be completed in that time. Hundreds of residents who have been watching this proposed project move slowly through City Hall for the last seven years, with the most movement occurring in the last two years, aren’t thrilled with that idea. In fact, they are totally opposed to it. When looking at the reality of the situation, according to City Manager Bruce Feng, the city of Camarillo has only built two houses in the last four years. A couple of thousand in as little as 10 years seems extraordinary.
On Sept. 10, the Camarillo City Council will consider referral for a general plan amendment to rezone the property from agriculture to residential/industrial/commercial. The City Council will have three options: Continue with the current proposal process, stop it or revise the amendment. By the looks of it, however, according to news reports, the City Council will most likely stop it, basically putting the brakes on the project as it is planned right now. While we would like to see more study and more answers regarding the impacts laid out in the environmental impact report, it seems this project is just too big for its own good.
That isn’t to say, that a project for this particular site should be off the table. It’s been a tough process, with impacts addressed in the report that just can’t be mitigated. We feel Camarillo can, at some point, grow, but it has to be done in a manner similar to how it has grown in the recent past. Camarillo residents, commuters on Highway 101, finite water sources, various impacts on the quality of life should all be of the utmost importance when considering another plan, lest it be a waste of time that locals will reject. Some growth is an inevitable outcome, but it has to be smart. This plan is too large and therefore it is not.