Category Archives: City News

Ventura City Council selects Alex McIntyre as new city manager

McIntyre has been City Manager for the City of Menlo Park.

The Ventura City Council announced today that it has selected Alex McIntyre as the new City Manager of Ventura. McIntyre is scheduled to begin with the City in mid-November. He replaces Mark Watkins who left in December 2017 after five years in the City Manager position.

I believe Alex’s experience, enthusiasm and inclusive leadership style make him an ideal fit to be Ventura’s next City Manager,” said Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere.  “I know Alex is eager to begin his work here alongside Council, City staff and all of our residents for the betterment of our community.”

McIntyre served as the City Manager for the City of Menlo Park since 2012.  Prior to his position at Menlo Park, McIntyre served as Chief Assistant County Administrator with the County of Marin from 2006-2008, and before that was Town Manager of Tiburon from 2000-2006.  He also served as Town Manager of Portola Valley from 1997-2000.

McIntyre holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine.

In accordance with the City Charter, the City Manager is appointed by the City Council as the administrative head of the City government.

City of Ventura improves safety and access at Five Points

City of Ventura Bicycle Master Plan identified the redesign as an opportunity to improve bicyclists’ access.

New signalized crossings, traffic striping, and pedestrian-activated flashing beacon crossings have been installed at the Five Points intersection in Midtown to improve safety and access through this intersection located at Thompson Boulevard, Main Street and Telegraph Road. Drivers are advised to take proper safety precautions, yield to pedestrians and bicyclists in the right-of-way and share the traffic lanes in a safe and cohesive manner.

The Five Points intersection improvement project includes the installation of new access curb ramps, sidewalk and passageways through medians, traffic signage and striping, and concrete median islands.  New bike boxes (bright-green box on the road with a white bicycle symbol inside) have been installed on the eastbound and westbound lanes of Main Street at the intersection. As a reminder, drivers should stop behind the white stop line (behind the green box) when the traffic signal is yellow or red; do not stop on top of the bike box. When the traffic light turns green, drivers and cyclists move through the intersection with cyclists going first. Bicyclists should enter the bike box from the green bike lane.

Two new pedestrian-activated flashing beacon crossings have been installed on the eastbound lanes of Thompson Boulevard; at Frances Street, and on the south side of the intersection. Motorists are required to stop for pedestrians however pedestrians should make sure cars are stopped before they begin to cross the street.  These improvements are important to increase motorists’ awareness of pedestrians and bicyclists at intersections especially at multi-lane crossings such as Thompson Boulevard.

The City of Ventura Bicycle Master Plan identified the redesign of the Five Points intersection as an opportunity to improve pedestrian and bicyclists’ access and safety. Last year the City of Ventura was named a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

City Council approves plan for year-round shelter

by Richard Lieberman

The Ventura City Council at a recent Monday evening session has approved a plan to join the city of Oxnard for an up-to-six-month “pilot shelter” instead of the traditional foul weather seasonal homeless shelter.

According to the proposed plan, the new 24-hour homeless shelter will offer services to the homeless such as employment help, housing assistance, mental health and substance abuse issues among the homeless population. The proposal will use the Oxnard Armory, owned buy the city of Oxnard to house the proposed year-round shelter.

The city of Oxnard, Ventura and the county would each pay $185,000, with the funding share to possibly be proportioned based on the actual use of the shelter by Ventura and Oxnard persons experiencing homelessness, the staff report states.

Both cities would be using the shelter until they open permanent ones. Oxnard is looking for a site to put a permanent shelter in its community, while Ventura is working on a plan to lease the first floor of a Ventura County building located on Knoll Drive in Ventura.

The Knoll Drive location needs many improvements including sprinklers, bathrooms, showers, and asbestos abatement among just a few. The city is also seeking an operator and has already conducted three interviews of potential operators. The site could potentially be up and running by next winter. Costs are estimated to be in the $2 million for the proposed improvements and $1.2 million to run each year. Half that amount would be the city’s share. “Significant concerns were expressed regarding existing safety concerns and that the shelter will worsen this already challenging environment,” the staff report says in part.

There were also concerns expressed about property values.

Another option would be a shelter that would open just when the weather reaches a certain temperature or rain is predicted at a certain level. Based on the past two years, such a shelter would open approximately 22 days from December through March and cost $15,000 to $20,000.

A location has yet to be identified, but city staff and the Ventura Social Services Task Force identified several faith-based organizations willing to volunteer once a site has been determined. The city already has the cots and linens to use in a temporary space.

The city has also adopted a “declaration of shelter crisis,” which paves the way to get money through the state’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program. The county will receive nearly $4.9 million to distribute early next month. Oxnard, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Simi Valley and the county have already approved the declaration staff reports indicate.

The council also approved a new two-year contract with members of the Service Employees International Union. The contract gives the group a raise of just over 5 percent and a one-time payment of $500 instead of retroactive pay. The previous contract expired on June 30th.

The new contract runs from July 1st, 2018 to June 30th, 2020, and cost is estimated at $1.3 million.

The two-year cost for all labor groups approved so far is $3.8 million. This figure does not include members of the city’s fire two fire unions which have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract.

New meters will automatically relay customer’s water usage

Ventura Water implements meter upgrade project.

Ventura Water will start upgrading manually-read meters with new meters that will automatically relay customer’s water usage to the City’s water billing system through a secured network. The project began on October 1, 2018 and will replace water meters for approximately 32,000 Ventura Water customers over a 3-year period.

The new meters will allow customers to track daily water use and be notified of leaks with Home Connect, a new online water tracker.  “Ventura Water relies heavily on accurate and timely data,” said Ventura Water General Manager Kevin Brown. “The meter upgrade project will modernize our system and equip both customers and staff to better manage our water resources through real time water usage data and greatly improved leak detection.”

Customers will receive a notification in the mail 1-2 weeks prior to their scheduled upgrade. The City’s contractor, Professional Meters Inc. (PMI), will be installing the new water meters. Customers do not have to be at home for the replacement to occur.  Once the exchange is complete, customers will receive a door hanger detailing the work performed and additional contact information.

The City asks that customers provide easy access to their water meters by making sure the meters are not blocked by bushes, vines, equipment, or other materials that would prevent PMI personnel from replacing the meter. Meter boxes are typically located near the sidewalk. Customers with a meter behind a locked gate or a meter that is otherwise inaccessible should call PMI at 1-866-965-0657 to schedule an appointment for the new meter installation.

PMI installers will have easily identifiable uniforms and their vehicles will have identifying logos.  If an installer cannot show you an identification badge, or if you have a concern about the identification, please call the PMI call center at 1-866-270-9629 or Ventura Water Customer Care at (805) 667-6500.

For information on Ventura Water’s Meter Upgrade Project and updates visit www.venturawater.net.

YOUR VOTE COUNTS

by Antoinette Mann – City Clerk, City of Ventura

As the election official for the City of San Buenaventura, I want to remind you that voting is one of the most fundamental rights of democracy. Your vote is your voice, so get out and vote on November 6, 2018!

The City of Ventura will hold its first district-based city council elections on November 6th, for Districts 1, 4, 5 and 6. Voters in Districts 2, 3 and 7, are not voting for a city councilmember this election year, however all registered voters will vote on federal, state and other local items. Even if you do not live in a district that is voting for a councilmember, do your part and participate because elected officials in other positions, as well as ballot measures and propositions, affect our community and YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

Voters can save postage by dropping-off Vote-by-Mail ballots at the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, Room 204, or at the Ventura County Government Center Administration Building, including their 24-hour drive-up ballot box. You can also drop off Vote-by-Mail ballots at any polling place on November 6. If you are mailing your completed ballot, ensure it is postmarked no later than November 6 (Election Day) and add the correct amount of postage. The last day to request your Vote-by-Mail ballot is October 22 for the November 6th election … so don’t delay!

Unsure of your polling place location? Your polling place location is printed on the back cover of your voter guide. Please note that polling locations adjust periodically. If texting is your preferred means of communication, text “Ventura County” to 28683 to verify that you are a registered voter and to find your polling place. If you’re not registered to vote, you can easily register right from your cell phone via the Ventura County Elections Division website.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. and will stay open later than 8 p.m. if you are already in line so that you can VOTE. Stop by the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall to receive a “I VOTED” sticker to wear on Election Day! The City of Ventura City Clerk’s staff can be reached at (805) 658-4787 to assist with any of your election questions. Remember, YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

City Council meeting addresses Thomas Fire rebuilding issues, and three new proposals

by Richard Lieberman

The Ventura City Council after returning from a brief summer break, held a five-hour meeting to address proposed new development changes to rules regulating Thomas Fire rebuilding efforts, and a contract to extend outside legal services with two city employee unions.

Community Development Director Jeff Lambert discussed three new project proposals that came in between May and July, part of his quarterly status reports on major developments.

One proposal involves demolition of a two-story house at 1010 Cachuma Ave. on the city’s east end. Proposed is a 30-unit multi-family housing unit with 76 parking spaces.

Project two would require a general plan amendment to change land just outside the city, but within Ventura City sphere of influence from agricultural to industrial. This change would bring the city’s zoning consistent with the county’s zoning on the property. Proposal is for a recreational vehicle storage facility.

Third project is a proposal to demolish part of an existing Jaguar and Land Rover dealership showroom at the Ventura Auto Center. Proposal calls for adding to the existing building, remodeling and landscaping.

All three proposals are in the planning process.

The council also is considering modifications to building rules that were adopted to help people who lost homes in the Thomas fire.

In April the council adopted and approved an ordinance that was designed to give people additional options to aid the rebuilding process. The passed ordinance was designed to give flexibility to homeowners in the process of rebuilding. Some perceived deficiencies were addressed by 15 homeowners addressing the council. One major issue is the allowance to rebuild a two-story house on what was before the Thomas Fire single story homes. The new process would not require homeowners to obtain a variance and Ventura Planning Commission review. Many of the 15 homeowners addressing the council were concerned about this ordinance. The homeowner’s concerns were largely based on possible loss of view, and some addressed the issue of privacy when an additional 15 feet of height on a stepped lot above theirs could potentially invade their privacy.

The council has proposed that any homeowners wishing to rebuild a one-story home into two stories will require 100% of neighbors to approve. “If the rebuilt property is determined to have no impact on views from an immediately adjacent property or the rebuild owner collects 100 percent support from adjacent property owners”, the proposed ordinance states.

Grade increase was another issue addressed by the council. The modified ordinance will allow for some flexibility in grade increase, based on director approval and without requiring a full variance.

Currently the city has issued 311 repair permits and 22 permits to rebuild. An additional 116 homes were in plan check, a step before building permits are issued according to the city.

The council voted to spend $70,000 total to help stalled negotiations between the city and the Service Employees International Union and the rank-and-file and management fire unions. Last April the city hired an outside legal firm for $45,000 but since negotiations have not concluded, the council voted to extend the contract for $25,000.

The city did reach agreement on the terms of a two-year contract with members of the city’s maintenance union. The contract gives raises just over 5 percent, the same raises police rank-and-file and management unions received.

The two-year cost of the raises for the three labor groups is just over $2.5 million, based on city staff reports.

City of Ventura files amended cross-complaint in Ventura River Litigation

The City of San Buenaventura (City) filed its amended cross-complaint in the Ventura River litigation brought by Santa Barbara Channelkeeper (Channelkeeper) against the City and the State Water Resources Control Board. The City did not start this case but it has no choice but to defend itself. The City’s filing brings into the litigation all water users in the Ventura River Watershed.

In the litigation, Channelkeeper singled out the City’s use of the Ventura River, even though there are many other water users in the Watershed. The California Court of Appeal agreed with the City in a ruling earlier this year that it could bring in other users given that Channelkeeper’s claims could impact the City’s long-held rights to Ventura River water.

The City is bringing in all water users in order to protect its water rights and to ensure that everyone is part of the solution in the event that cutbacks are needed for sensitive species and habitat. Legally, in order to determine water users’ respective rights, all users must be parties to the same lawsuit. For this reason, the City named many cross-defendants. This is not a step that was taken lightly and only because it is to protect the City’s ability to serve its community.

The City is committed to environmental sustainability and will continue being a good steward of its local water resources. The City believes that all water interests, City residents, other water users, and environmental needs, must cooperate and compromise in using and preserving this precious resource. The City wants to be pro-active and is working to develop solutions to the competing interests in the Ventura River Watershed. The City would prefer to resolve these issues without litigation, and recognizes that only by all interests working together can we resolve these critical challenges.

Background on the City of Ventura’s Ventura River water supply

One of Ventura’s key water supplies is provided from the Ventura River at Foster Park. Water from the Ventura River is diverted through the City’s Foster Park facilities and treated at the City’s Avenue Water Treatment Plant. The extraction facilities include a subsurface intake and three shallow wells within the Ventura River riparian corridor. The City has maintained water rights on the Ventura River for more than a century.

Ventura Rebuilds

The City streamlined the rebuilding process.

by City staff

Signs of rebuilding are popping up in the neighborhoods impacted by the Thomas Fire. As of September 4th, 32 Thomas Fire building permits have been issued with another wave coming as 131 homes are currently in plan check review awaiting approval.

In addition to the building permits, 311 repair permits have been issued as well as 199 temporary water permits. “We are spending quality time with residents and architects to quickly work through issues and ensure that their homes are approved with no extra time or costs,” said Community Development Director Jeffrey Lambert.

Individual meetings are vital to promoting clear communication between the City, the resident and the architect. In fact, the Planning Division has held more than 250 appointments with Thomas Fire rebuild applicants and continues to provide personalized assistance throughout the process.

Given the large-scale devastation created by the Thomas Fire, the City streamlined the rebuilding process by adopting an ordinance intended to facilitate expedited redesign, repair, and replacement of structures within the proposed Thomas Fire Rebuild Overlay Zone that were damaged or demolished by the Thomas Fire.

In February, the Ventura City Council adopted an Emergency Ordinance to expedite the review and first plan check of Thomas Fire building permit applications within fourteen business days (the turn-around time is currently taking ten business days). The City Council also approved more than $1M in contract services to retain architects, civil engineers and other professionals to provide this important service.

Helping those affected with the rebuilding process is a top priority for the City of Ventura. The Community Development Department is working diligently with parcel owners to build as safely, and quickly as possible. Property owners, with their design team, are encouraged to call (805) 677-3901 to make a Plan Check Submittal Pre-screen appointment with officials in the Building and Safety Division. For more information visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/thomasfirerebuild.

How can I prepare for an emergency?

Fire Chief David Endaya, Assistant Fire Chief Matt Brock, and Fire staff at Station 1 during the official launch of Medic Engine 7 (ME7).

Emergencies can happen anywhere at any time, and the time to be ready is now. This September, in celebration of National Preparedness Month, the Ventura Fire Department is asking you to recommit to being prepared for a crisis.

Planning ahead can help you and your family stay safe during a natural disaster or emergency. You should have an emergency kit ready and stocked with enough water, food, and medication for you, your family, and pets for at least 72 hours. Your kit should also include items such as a first-aid kit, tools and supplies, hand-crank or battery operated radio, sanitation items, clothing, and any other unique needs. It’s also a good idea to keep a backpack or plastic tote with basic items at work and in your car in the event that there is a disruption in your ability to commute home.

During a disaster, you may receive critical information from VC Alert, the notification system used to deliver messages to your landline telephone number in the event of an emergency. Ensure that you and your loved ones stay informed and connected by registering to receive alerts on your cell and work phone, email, text, fax or instant messaging. Residents should not rely solely on this system, but should also follow instructions from public safety officials, and seek information from official sources such as details posted on city, county and government websites.

You and your family also need an emergency communications plan in place so that you know how to contact each other and where you will meet if you are not together when emergency strikes. Our dependency on technology has grown to the point that many of us can’t recite our kids’ or partners’ phone numbers. Take the time to think about which phone numbers you need to know (including an out-of-area contact as local phone lines may be jammed) and carry these contacts in your wallet or backpack. Remember, when cell networks are inundated, it will be easier to communicate by text message rather than a voice call.

Part of being prepared for a disaster also includes safeguarding important financial, legal, and insurance documents. Securing these items now will ensure that you can focus on safety, and not worry about searching for documents at the last minute. Learn your area’s evacuation route before an alert is issued and be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.

Chances are that after a large-scale disaster, a bystander or neighbor will be the first one to help you until emergency workers arrive. When we are prepared to help ourselves and our neighbors, we also increase our community’s disaster recovery success. I am proud to say that during the Thomas Fire, Ventura residents were and continue to be a powerful example of neighbor helping neighbor.

Emergency preparedness is a joint effort between citizens, businesses and city government, and we look forward to working with you to keep you and your family safe.

Register for VC Alert at www.readyventuracounty.org/vc-alert/, and visit Readyventuracounty.org to learn how to prepare for a disaster.

City of Ventura appoints interim City Manager

The Ventura City Council has selected retired City Manager Don Penman to serve on an interim basis as Ventura’s city manager. Penman retired in 2011 from the City of Arcadia after serving for 13 years. Since retirement, Penman served as interim city manager for Azusa, Covina, San Fernando and Temple City.

“I look forward to serving the public in Ventura and working with the City Council and staff in moving the city forward,” said Don Penman.

Mr. Penman will work in a limited term appointment while the recruitment process for a permanent city manager is completed.  City Manager Mark Watkins held the position until December 2017 when he retired, and Assistant City Manager Dan Paranick served as interim city manager until August 24, 2018, when he resigned to accept other employment. An interim city manager is needed to complete objectives established by city council.

Mr. Penman will serve for six months or until the new city manager assumes the position. There are no proposed benefits for Mr. Penman in accordance with CalPERS requirements.