Category Archives: City News

City of Ventura Deputy Public Works Director Mary Joyce Ivers assumes Presidency of APWA

Mary Joyce Ivers has been involved in public works for over 27 years.

On August 31, City of Ventura officials joined Deputy Public Works Director Mary Joyce Ivers in a virtual ceremony as she was sworn in as the President of the American Public Works Association (APWA). Affirmed by APWA’s more than 30,000 members, President Ivers will lead the organization for the 2020-2021 term.

“We are thrilled to have a President with one of the most impressive resumes in the industry,” said APWA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Scott Grayson, CAE. “As a key figure in APWA’s leadership, we will benefit from her vision, influence and creativity to successfully connect with and support our membership and communicate APWA’s Public Policy Priorities to Capitol Hill.”

Mary Joyce Ivers has been involved in public works for over 27 years. In 2019, she was promoted to Deputy Director overseeing operational activities for the City’s Public Works Department, which oversees a $100 million budget with a team of 91 employees. Prior to her current role, she spent 17 years as the City’s Fleet and Facilities Manager, where she was inducted into the 2018 Public Fleet Hall of Fame and recognized as the 2017 National Government Fleet Manager of the Year.

“Mary Joyce is a longtime Ventura resident who cares deeply for our community and has a career-long history of service excellence, innovation, and integrity,” said Ventura City Manager Alex D. McIntyre. “We are thrilled to have an enthusiastic, forward-thinking leader like Mary Joyce not only serve our City but represent Ventura on a national level. She will lead APWA to new levels of distinction.”

The City’s Public Works mission is to provide innovative solutions for Ventura’s infrastructure and environment. The City’s 2020-2026 Adopted Capital Improvement Plan contains 140 capital improvement projects totaling $700 million. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the department continues to deliver $57 million worth of projects this fiscal year.

To learn more about the City of Ventura’s award-winning Public Works Department, visit our website at www.cityofventura.ca.gov/PublicWorks.

Public invited to join the Ventura Census Chalkathon

Calling all local artists and families. With the deadline to complete the 2020 Census quickly approaching on September 30th, the City of Ventura is hosting a two-week Census Chalkathon to spread the word about the importance of completing the Census.

Now through September 30th, community members of all ages are invited to create sidewalk art promoting Census participation. All art pieces should include “2020census.gov” “#2020CensusVTA” and “Everyone Counts!” or “Todos Contamos!”

“Now more than ever, we need to encourage every household and business to complete the 2020 Census. It’s important that everyone is counted,” said Ventura City Manager, Alex D. McIntyre. “Participating in the Census means Ventura receives funding to support our schools, roads, health care, and other services for the next 10 years.”

Here are some guidelines for participating community members:

Safety is key. Please wear a mask when outdoors and maintain safe distancing from others.

Minors must acquire permission from their parents before chalking on personal and public spaces. Families are encouraged to chalk together. If access to public spaces (sidewalk, driveways, walls, etc.) is limited or unsafe, consider using liquid chalk markers to create art on windows, cars, or on butcher paper at home.

To be entered into a prize drawing, email photos and contact information to PIO@cityofventura.ca.gov by Wednesday, September 30, 2020. Three winners will be selected and notified by email. The winners will also be featured in the Ventura Breeze.

The Census is a 9-question survey that is confidential, easy to complete, and available in 13 languages. The 2020 Census can be completed online at www.mycensus.gov or by phone at (844) 330-2020 or by mail.

To learn more about the 2020 Census in Ventura, visit www.Census.Ventura.org.

The City of Ventura and the City of Ojai enter cooperative letter agreement related to the Ventura River Lawsuit

The City of Ventura and the City of Ojai have entered into a cooperative letter agreement regarding the Ventura River lawsuit. The agreement confirms that the City of Ventura is not seeking attorneys’ fees from individuals or businesses in the case, including those who received notice packets.

Officials from the cities met last month to discuss the matter. Officials with the City of Ojai shared that they were continuing to hear concerns from their residents that the City of Ventura might seek costly attorneys’ fees from them in the lawsuit. Ojai officials requested that Ventura enter into a letter agreement confirming Ventura is not seeking attorneys’ fees to ease these concerns. Ventura officials appreciated the suggestion, and both entities worked with their legal counsel to have it arranged.

City of Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere signed the letter agreement after the Ventura City Council voted in closed session on Tuesday, September 8, to authorize the letter agreement, confirming that the City of Ventura will not pursue attorneys’ fees from individuals or business named or noticed in the case.

“Ventura is pleased to fulfill this request from its colleagues in Ojai, and we thank them for approaching us with this proposed solution to help address some concerns in our communities,” said LaVere. “We hope this agreement demonstrates that we are committed to developing cooperative solutions for the Ventura River Watershed.”

“We hope this agreement will provide some relief for our residents,” said Ojai Mayor Johnny Johnston. “This is a good example of cities working collaboratively for common sense solutions.” Councilmember William Weirick added, “We’re pleased the City of Ventura was willing to address our concerns on this aspect of the lawsuit. We look forward to further collaborative efforts towards resolution.”

The signed letter agreement will be posted on the City of Ventura’s website dedicated exclusively to this issue, www.venturariver.com, and at the City of Ojai website, www.ojaicity.org.

Cheryl Heitmann to not seek re-election

“For the past 9 years it has been my honor to serve as a member of the Ventura City Council, including 2 years as Mayor. These 9 years have been filled with good times, joyful times, frustrating times and memorable times. These past few months of a forced slower pace have given me more time for reflection and soul searching and I have decided not to seek re-election. Ventura is a beautiful city with a rich history, incredible residents and strong sense of community.”

“As many of you know, I also served for 8 years as a trustee on the Ventura County Community College Board so I have had the privilege of serving in pubic office for 17 years. I have learned so much and have always tried my best to govern for the greater good. During the next few months I will continue to represent you with the same energy and commitment that has guided my public service. I sincerely appreciate all of you who have supported and counseled me during these 17 years and I know that we will continue to work together in the future. These years of public service have been some of the best years of my life. What a journey!”

Cheryl Heitmann

City of Ventura’s upcoming capital improvement projects

This summer, the City of Ventura’s Public Works department is gearing up for a series of capital improvement projects designed to improve and maintain the City’s infrastructure. This includes repair and improvement efforts for City streets, sidewalks, sewers, storm drains, water, and wastewater services.

Street resurfacing projects planned throughout the City include Ralston Street from Portola Road to Victoria Avenue; Victoria Avenue from Telephone Road to Highway 126; Walker Street and Moon Drive from Dowell Drive to Victoria Avenue; Johnson Drive from Bristol Road to Telephone Road; and Telephone Road from Victoria Avenue to Kimball Road. For a map of recent and upcoming projects, visit the City’s website.

All street and sidewalk repair projects will include accessibility enhancements, focusing on sidewalk replacements in the City’s eastside communities, and continuing with the second phase of pedestrian improvements from the westside to midtown in the City’s downtown and wellness districts.

Upcoming planned water and drainage projects consist of waterline replacements in the Pierpont community, completion of two water well installations near Ventura Boulevard and Hill Road, and drainage improvements near Hall Canyon.

“The City is committed to delivering high-quality infrastructure services and programs that promote active and healthy communities,” said City Public Works Director Phil Nelson. “The City can maintain local streets and complete repair projects more quickly thanks to additional funding provided by SB-1 and Measure O; and without these voter-driven initiatives, this would not be possible.”

The City of Ventura thanks community members in advance for their patience and cooperation during the completion of these projects. Due to the nature of various construction work and to ensure public safety, lane closures will be in effect around the project areas. Message boards will be posted in each direction to inform motorists and residents of upcoming lane closures. Residents are asked to reduce their speed in construction zones.

The City’s Public Works Department conducts a citywide effort to identify the most critical infrastructure priorities over the next six years and establishes a two-year work plan that is updated annually. This strategic planning framework is approved by the Ventura City Council each year by April 1.

For more information, please visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/construction.

Serra on the move

On July 23, the statue was removed and taken to a temporary location.

The Ventura City Council voted unanimously 6-0 (with Mayor LaVere recusing himself) to remove the Father Serra statue in front of City Hall and temporarily have it stored. It most likely will eventually be moved to the courtyard at the Mission San Buenaventura. The City Council also approved the removal of the wooden statue of Father Serra from inside City Hall and asked that it be moved into storage until an appropriate site for it is selected.

Some historians blame Father Serra for what they say were his efforts to do away with Native American culture in California and for the deaths of thousands of indigenous people.

Mission San Buenaventura, founded by Serra in 1782 as the last of his nine missions, has been named a minor basilica by Pope Francis. It becomes the first church in the Catholic archdiocese to claim that distinction and the seventh in California.

Councilmember Jim Friedman told the Breeze “Rather than look at it emotionally, I looked at it pragmatically. In the last month, California had three Serra statues ripped off their podiums and destroyed. It was clear to me that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when ours would be destroyed as well. Unless we were willing to spend hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars a year to protect the statue, a good compromise was to relocate it to the mission. That way, people who appreciate the statue can enjoy it for many years to come. Those who do not, would now have it out of prominent public view. This isn’t giving in to threats. We are simply getting ahead of the situation in an effort to secure the safety of our statue. It’s not a perfect solution, but one that provides a sensible compromise.”

Councilmember Christy Weir went on “As a City Council member representing this community, my goals in supporting the relocation of the Father Serra statue to the Mission Basilica San Buenaventura are to:”

“Honor the Chumash, whose home this has been for over 12,000 years, by determining a more fitting place for the statue.”

“Honor the Catholics and others who revere Serra by caring for his statue in a safe location where his significance will be 100% celebrated.”

“Honor the craftspeople and artists who created the work of art, by acknowledging their talents and contributions.”

“Each community has times when it’s important to consider the symbols and monuments  we celebrate. These changes need to be made through collaboration and deliberation, not resorting to vandalism, to ensure that the decision is thoughtful and durable. Even if we don’t find a statue objectionable, respect for our original inhabitants should inspire us to consider those who do. We received thousands of heartfelt communications about this decision, sharing their opinions and personal connections to Ventura, as well as diverse historical perspectives. My understanding of the Chumash and Mission periods has grown, and I am grateful to live in a community that cares so deeply about our heritage.”

The wood statue of Father Serra, on display in the City Hall atrium will also be relocated.

Regarding the move Ventura City Manager, Alex D. McIntyre stated “In recent weeks, the City of Ventura received thousands of emails, phone calls, and public comments (equally divided) about the Father Junipero Serra statue. Last night, the City Council reached a peaceful resolution to remove and relocate two Serra statues.”

“When a group of people has suffered trauma, we all need to step up and do something to heal that. The actions the Council took are a step forward as we stand in solidarity with our Chumash community. As we relocate the statues, we hope to provide healing time for our City and find a more suitable place for the Father Serra statues to be protected and preserved,”

Funding will help Ventura mitigate natural disasters

The City of Ventura, a participant in the Institute for Local Government and Strategic Growth Council’s BOOST pilot program, has been selected to receive a Proposition 84 Wildfire Resiliency and Recovery Planning Grant for nearly $200,000. The city recently experienced a wildfire threat from the Thomas Fire, which caused more than $2.2 billion in damage. The Prop 84 grant will ensure the city is better equipped to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and be able to address the increasing wildfire threats brought on by climate change.

The BOOST pilot program was jointly developed by the Institute for Local Government (ILG) and the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) to help local governments address California’s climate change and equity goals. As part of the program, ILG has been able to support participating cities and regions with capacity building and technical assistance support with a number of activities related to climate action and sustainability. Funding from the Prop 84 grant will allow Ventura to create a Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) that the city will develop in conjunction with its General Plan Update.

“This grant will help our local government leaders build on lessons learned from the Thomas Fire and engage our community in a meaningful way,” said Joe Yahner. “We are thankful to our partners, CAUSE, the Housing Authority for the City of San Buenaventura, and the Institute for Local Government, for helping support our small, dedicated team navigate the grant application process. Without their support we would not have been able to compete for these critical funds.”

The CARP will build on lessons learned from the Thomas Fire and focus on innovative and comprehensive planning and preparation efforts to enable the city to better protect its residents, infrastructure, and economy.

“The Institute for Local Government is proud of the BOOST program and is so excited to see our technical assistance and capacity building partnership deliver results for the City of Ventura,” said Erica L. Manuel, CEO and Executive Director of ILG. “We have seen firsthand the devastating effects wildfire and other climate events can have on California’s communities and we commend Ventura’s efforts to become a more resilient community. This funding will help ensure that the City of Ventura is more prepared and able to recover from future wildfire events.”

The Institute for Local Government (ILG) is the non-profit training and education affiliate of the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties and the California Special Districts Association, which represent 1000s of local agencies across the state. ILG helps local government leaders navigate the constantly changing landscape of their jobs by offering training, technical assistance, written resources and facilitation services specifically designed for local agencies. From leadership to public engagement to housing and workforce, ILG helps local leaders address a wide range of complex issues. Visit www.ca-ilg.org to find out more.

The BOOST pilot program is a partnership between the Institute for Local Government and the California Strategic Growth Council (SCG) to help local governments across the state address climate change and equity goals. The BOOST Pilot Program helps communities: Build awareness of funding opportunities to address climate action; Organize projects to be best positioned to meet its goals; Optimize existing resources and build more capacity; Strengthen relationships with key stakeholders and identify new opportunities for regional engagement and collaboration; and Transform their approach to addressing climate action. SGC supports BOOST with funds from California Climate Investments – Cap-and-Trade dollars at work. Find out more at www.ca-ilg.org/BOOST.

Ventura named a bicycle-friendly city by PeopleForBikes

We’ve seen many community members rediscover a joy for cycling.

The City of Ventura was honored as a top bicycle-friendly city by PeopleForBikes for its commitment to develop and improve bicycling while encouraging healthier and more sustainable transportation choices.

The PlacesForBikes program ranks cities by scoring metrics such as bicycle ridership, safety, and how well the bicycle network serves all communities. This distinction recognizes the City’s commitment to creating transportation and recreational resources that benefit residents of all ages and abilities while encouraging healthier and more sustainable transit choices.

The pandemic has had an undeniable impact on bicycling. Data from bicycle counters around the City recorded a 56% increase in bicycle trips over the same period just last year. Local bicycle shops in Ventura report skyrocketing sales as more residents seek opportunities to ride their bikes. Some of our economically vulnerable citizens, who do not own a vehicle, now look to alternative public transit options by turning to the bicycle for their commute while local families are going on rides to get out of the house for fresh air and exercise.

Under the direction of the City’s adopted General Plan in 2005, all transportation designs, including street resurfacing projects, aim to expand opportunities to reinforce our bicycle infrastructure for the health and safety of historically underserved sections of Ventura.

City Council will require masks

Father Serra was wearing a face mask before it was the law.

On a 4-3 vote the City Council will require masks to be worn inside businesses and government offices, on public transit and in most indoor venues that are open to the public. This order will go into effect once the City Council approves the final ordinance which will be considered at a future meeting.

The city manager will need to draft an emergency ordinance to lay out the details of the new order. It will be modeled on a similar order in Santa Barbara.

Councilmember Erik Nasarenko stated “masks have become such a common feature that I don’t even think people question it anymore. Ultimately it’s not about discomfort or inconvenience, it’s about doing whatever we can in whatever way possible to limit the spread of a highly infectious and deadly disease and if that means wearing a face covering, I think we should do it.”

Nasarenko, along with Councilmembers Cheryl Heitmann, Sofia Rubalcava and Christy Weir voted in support of the order. Mayor Matt LaVere, Lorrie Brown and Jim Friedman voted no.

Brown and Friedman voted no because they question the city’s ability to enforce the use of face coverings in businesses.

Police Chief Darin Schindler said enforcement of the policy would not be a priority for the department.

“I would obviously put communication in front of enforcement. I just don’t think it’s a viable option right now to expect us to contact people for purposes of enforcing them wearing a mask. It’s going to put our officers in a difficult situation especially with the current climate surrounding the use of police authority right now.”

Violations of the mask order would be handled through the city’s emergency action citation process, the same way that violations of other pandemic-related health orders are handled. Ventura plans to focus on education to try to obtain voluntary compliance from the public. But if that doesn’t work, a written warning may be issued, followed by an administrative citation.

So, basically this is just symbolic.

City of Ventura eases restrictions at local parks and beaches

On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, the Ventura City Council unanimously voted to ease limited closure restrictions of Ventura’s beaches and parks. The City’s decision provides access to its parks, beaches, the Promenade, Pier, public restrooms, and select parking lots.

For the last several weeks Ventura’s parks and beaches have been open for active recreational use, such as walking, jogging, swimming, and surfing. Beginning on May 29, these areas will open for passive use, such as sitting and sunbathing as long as the public maintains a safe physical distance of six feet and avoids congregating in large groups outside of their immediate household. Group activities such as volleyball, football, soccer, and other contact sports are not allowed.

Bathrooms and parking lots will also gradually re-open at parks and beaches throughout the City, starting with the Harbor Boulevard parking structure at the Pier. Public bathrooms will be cleaned daily with high touch surfaces properly disinfected regularly.

“As we move forward on a path to reopening safely, the City Council approved easing restrictions for our parks and beaches based on public health guidance and in support of our partnering public agencies at the State and County of Ventura,” commented Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere. “Now, open space guidelines at all parks and beaches throughout the area will share a common education message and encourage the same guidelines to be followed.”

Sidewalks, walking paths, trails, and tracks within all public parks continue to remain open for active recreational use, including walking, hiking, jogging, running, or biking. Please follow public health guidance in the “Stay Well at Home” order, set by the Ventura County Health Officer.

Playgrounds, pools, courts, indoor facilities like museums and visitor centers, and sports and recreational fields will remain closed until further notice. If a park or beach becomes overcrowded or difficult for safe social distancing to be observed, the Ventura Police Department may order the area to be closed.

“The City wants to provide an opportunity for our residents to recreate responsibly this summer while supporting our local business community as they reopen throughout Ventura,” said City Manager Alex McIntyre. “The gradual reopening of city parks and beaches is another positive step forward as we work together to reopen gradually, cautiously, and successfully with community members, businesses, and government agencies.”

City signs will be posted to remind the public to continue to practice physical distance of six feet or more and abide by the County’s “Stay Well at Home” order to limit the risk of exposure to the virus.

For the latest updates on impacts to the City of Ventura, visit www.CityofVentura.ca.gov/COVID19. For public health information and updates happening in Ventura County, visit www.VCEmergency.com.