Category Archives: City News

Strong Thomas Fire recovery efforts in the City of Ventura

New homes will soon start replacing the lost ones.

The City of Ventura has issued the first full-home Thomas Fire rebuild permits to property owners who lost their homes in the fire last December. The City of Ventura Community Development Department worked closely with the homeowners and architects to issue building permits.

The Ventura City Council took several steps early on to help residents rebuild homes on fire-damaged properties by instituting a streamlined and expedited approach. After the Thomas Fire, policy changes were made to accelerate the recovery process such as a allowing homeowners to maintain their legal nonconforming status and instituting a 14-business day turnaround for permit plan check(normally at least 6-weeks). To help review rebuilding permits, the City contracted with outside firms to support the workload and ensure Thomas Fire rebuilding applications are given priority.

“We have made rapid progress,” said Mayor Neal Andrews. “It’s been just five months since the Thomas Fire and we will continue to work diligently and support the needs of our residents to reinvest in their properties.”

Additionally, the City established a Thomas Fire Rebuild office to expeditiously serve residents and improve the workflow. “It’s been a tremendous team effort,” said Community Development Director Jeffrey Lambert. “Collaborating with local architects early on and working with departments citywide has been the key to our success.”

In the City of Ventura, the Thomas Fire destroyed 524 homes and damaged approximately 168 homes.

City staff has held more than 125 one-on-one meetings with homeowners and design professionals.

Ventura Water making waves

Susan Rungren began her career with the City of Ventura in 1999.

Ventura Water has announced that Susan Rungren has been selected as the Assistant General Manager for the City’s water and wastewater utility. Rungren will fill a key management position that supports the City Council’s priority of maintaining a sustainable environment by diversifying and protecting Ventura’s local water resources.

In her new role, Mrs. Rungren will shepherd key future water supply projects such as the State Water Interconnection Project and the VenturaWaterPure project that will maximize the reuse of recycled water. She will work closely with Ventura Water, the Public Works Department, as well as stakeholders and community organizations to meet long term water supply demands.

Mrs. Rungren began her career with the City of Ventura in 1999 as the Utilities Engineer for the City’s Water and Wastewater Divisions and has served as the Water Resource Manager for the last seven years. She is a licensed Professional Engineer with professional affiliations including the Association of California Water Agencies of Ventura County and the Association of California Water Agencies. Rungren has a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Oregon State University.

Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere said, “Expanding local water supplies, and improving water quality are key ingredients to diversify and protect Ventura’s 100% local water resources. We are pleased to have Susan’s water industry expertise and experience as we look to create and build a more sustainable water future for Ventura.”

Ventura Water was awarded the statewide winner of the Community Engagement and Outreach Project of the Year by the California Water Environment Association (CWEA) for educating local youth about water sustainability. The winning program is in collaboration with the MERITO® Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to providing meaningful watershed experiences to multicultural youth.

The program has provided an opportunity for more than 500 local youth to learn about the value of water through hands-on water quality testing and field data collection at Ventura’s wild life ponds. Additionally, Ventura Water hosted a water conservation challenge for participating elementary schools wherein students were tasked to develop a water conservation plan.

The MERITO® program strives to connect the classroom experience with field interaction for students to better understand the relationship of water treatment technologies and the role that it plays in preserving the environment. Since 2005, MERITO® has reached over 10 million people through ocean conservation outreach projects, immersed over 15,000 students on earth and ocean science and issues, and has raised the capacity of more than 300 teachers and 100 Marine Protected Areas practitioners in the areas of ocean science and resource protection.

“Students learn water quality sampling and testing techniques, how wastewater is treated and purified to near drinking water quality standards, and about future plans to implement a new potable reuse facility. It gives students a new appreciation for what most people take for granted,” said Kevin Brown, Ventura Water General Manager.

Field trips to the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility helped students to explore a wide range of environmental issues and water infrastructure. “In this type of an atmosphere, students can establish connections between fresh water and ocean water, as well as ascertain the water conservation issues particular to their local watersheds. They also learn about stewardship and how water quality plays into the health and sustainability of our environment,” said Rocio Lozano-Knowlton, Executive Director and Founder of MERITO® Foundation.

Cultural Grant Funding and sailing?

Applications and guidelines are now available online for the City of Ventura 2018-19 Cultural Grant Funding Program. The grant program is awarded annually to support Ventura-based cultural non-profits. These funds are unrestricted and may be used for organizational support, programming, and services. The application and guidelines are available online at www.cityofventura.ca.gov/grants; applications must be received by Friday, June 29, 2018, at 5 pm.

Grants will range in size from $1,000-$20,000 and will be awarded on a competitive basis with a total of $90,000 available to grant. For more information, visit the Cultural Grant Funding website or contact Kathryn Dippong Lawson at 658-4720 or kdippong@cityofventura.ca.gov.

Did you know that there is a City of Ventura Parks and Recreation sailing center that teaches residents to sail, kayak and paddleboard and provides seasonal camps for younger residents? Join the staff of the Leo Robbins Community Sailing Center at an Open House and Safe Boating Event on Sat., May 26 from 12-3 pm at Marina Park, 2950 Pierpont Blvd.

Take a free sailboat or kayak ride, and learn more about summer programs! This event is open to the public, and no experience is necessary. For more information visit the Leo Robbins Community Sailing Center website.

Street Fair staff is looking for volunteers

Volunteers are the heart of our community, and the 4th of July Street Fair staff is always thankful for the help. The Street Fair staff is currently looking for volunteers to assist with the duties listed below for this annual event. All volunteer positions receive community hour credits if required. The deadline to volunteer is June 14.

Volunteer opportunities for the 4th of July Street Fair:

Poster distribution throughout Ventura and surrounding cities. Began June 1; this schedule can be flexible.

Street Fair booth marking on Main St., Thursday, June 28 6:15-8 am.

Assist Traffic Control on July 4, 6:30-10 am, will help vendors find their location and ensure proper booth set up. All volunteers for this assignment must be over 16 unless volunteering with an adult.

Assist Traffic Control on July 4, 4-6:30 pm, will assist with vendor traffic control as they exit. All volunteers for this assignment must be over 16 unless volunteering with an adult.

Information booth on July 4, 8-11 am, 11 am-2 pm or 2-5 pm; these shifts will answer questions, assist with decoration placement and take down. You can volunteer for all three shifts if you would like, breaks will be provided.

For more information contact Michelle Godoy-Morales at 654-7749 or mgodoy@cityofventura.ca.gov.

Cultural Grant Funding and sailing?

Applications and guidelines are now available online for the City of Ventura 2018-19 Cultural Grant Funding Program. The grant program is awarded annually to support Ventura-based cultural non-profits. These funds are unrestricted and may be used for organizational support, programming, and services. The application and guidelines are available online at www.cityofventura.ca.gov/grants; applications must be received by Friday, June 29, 2018, at 5 pm.

Grants will range in size from $1,000-$20,000 and will be awarded on a competitive basis with a total of $90,000 available to grant. For more information, visit the Cultural Grant Funding website or contact Kathryn Dippong Lawson at 658-4720 or kdippong@cityofventura.ca.gov.

Did you know that there is a City of Ventura Parks and Recreation sailing center that teaches residents to sail, kayak and paddleboard and provides seasonal camps for younger residents? Join the staff of the Leo Robbins Community Sailing Center at an Open House and Safe Boating Event on Sat., May 26 from 12-3 pm at Marina Park, 2950 Pierpont Blvd.

Take a free sailboat or kayak ride, and learn more about summer programs! This event is open to the public, and no experience is necessary. For more information visit the Leo Robbins Community Sailing Center website.

Ventura Water’s General Manager Kevin Brown

Brown had been on the job only 2 months when the Thomas Fires erupted.

by Jennifer Tipton

Before becoming Ventura Water’s General Manager, Kevin Brown, now a retired Navy Captain, worked in the Pentagon as chairman of the Strategic Laydown Assessment for the Chief of Naval Operations, a nine-billion-dollar annual program.

With an annual revenue of around $94 miilion, Ventura Water brought in Brown specifically for his strategic planning experience for infrastructure. He had been on the job only 2 short months when the Thomas Fires erupted.

On that fateful night, December 4th, 2017, Brown was at City Hall with most of the city staff for the initiation of Mayor Neal Andrews. “We were getting ready to celebrate our new mayor when phones started blowing up”, said Brown. Grabbed to the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) he was still so new to the job, he was just happy to be told we had one! In the Navy, they would routinely practice drills, but according to Brown, “for a city that had not had to do this for a very long time, the response was tremendous, all of the city came together quickly and that was impressive!”.

I asked, “are you aware some have asked where was the water when we needed it most? Do you feel we had enough water to combat the Thomas Fires?”

Brown assured me that there was ample water supply, “more than enough with what was brought in from Lake Casitas”. I then asked if there was a problem with the fire hydrants and he responded, “no, however, there were large water tanks we just couldn’t get to because they were surrounded by fire”.

He spoke of drought and disaster resiliency, “we’re constantly analyzing the system to see where it can be improved, such as, how homes are built and the utility systems – do they need to be changed? The Oxnard City Water Services has over 400,000 customers, they are worried about being cut off by a seismic event, we’re all looking at that”.

There are four water basins we draw from here in Ventura and four different organizations that oversee those basins, “it’s complicated”, said Brown.

According to Craig Jones with Ventura Water, the basins and the organizations that oversee them are:

  • Mound Basin – Mound Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency
  • Oxnard Plain – Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency
  • Upper Ventura River – Upper Ventura River Groundwater Sustainability Agency
  • Santa Paula – Santa Paula Basin Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)

“Since 1971, Ventura has been paying for state water but never got it, because there’s no connecting pipeline”, said Brown, “this should be completed by 2022 – 2023”.

I discovered that what we’ve been paying for is the right to state water and we pay roughly $1 million per year; water delivery fees will be an extra cost once the pipeline is complete.

In Fall 2018 – Fall 2021, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) will be in place. Ventura Water will be replacing all manually read meters with automatic meters that relay readings remotely. The expected results are improved accuracy in readings and customer service, advanced leak detection and notification capabilities, the ability for customers to actively manage their water usage and enhanced water quality protection and conservation. Ventura Water is excited to implement this new technology.

Lastly, I asked Brown, “if you knew what was coming (Thomas Fires) would you have taken the position as General Manager with Ventura Water?” He sat back and chuckled, “oh boy… knowing then what I know today … yes, I would. It’s in my heart as an engineer and there’s so much going on here from water allocations to all the innovations, it’s just exciting each day to come to work!”

Ventura Water will be looking at revenue and rate structure changes starting winter 2018.

Corporate Games closing ceremonies and competition

Representing Taradyne Co of Ventura , “The Bucket Brigade” filled and hauled countless buckets of water from the shore while others shaped the sand. Photos by Bernie Goldstein

Thousands of employees from 80 Ventura and Santa Barbara County companies have been battling it out for the last six-weeks in the 29th Annual City of Ventura Corporate Games! The end of this business-to-business team sports competition took place on Saturday, May 5 at the Corporate Games Closing Ceremonies held at Harbor Cove Beach in Ventura.

In the last two events local companies faced off in the “Ventura’s Beauty” Sand Sculpturing Contest and Tug-O-War competition to end the competition and to win the overall and team unity trophies in their respective divisions in this final day of competition.

For more information on the Corporate Games, visit www.venturacorporategames.org.

It’s time to take a peek at summer!

The City of Ventura Parks and Recreation will be hosting a free Open House at Barranca Vista Park on Saturday, May 12 from 1-5 pm. This event will be your opportunity to interact with staff and preview the summer camps being offered this year. Stage entertainment featuring Elaine’s Polynesian Dancers, Cassie’s Pop Dancers, Line Dancing with Jackie, Rock & Roll High Camp alumni band “The Antidote,” and JAB, as well as, cheer and gymnastics demos will be performing during the event.

With more than 20 hands-on activity booths there will be something for everyone! Join City of Ventura Summer Day Camp & Aquatics Center staff for special crafts, try your balance on the Ohana surfboard, paint a colorful bookmark with RED Brick Art Camps, play the money game with Money Munchkids, make slime with Mad Science, build with Play-Well Lego, learn to play guitar with Rock & Roll High or sing and drum with Music Therapy by JAB. The Li’l Circus that Could will bring circus arts & interactive fun to kids of all ages. You don’t have to run away to join the circus; the circus is coming to Barranca Vista Park!

Stay for the first Fairy Tales in the Park performance of the season. The Peter Pan 4: Hook’s Uproar performance will begin at 4 pm and will last one hour. We encourage you to bring a blanket, picnic and low lawn chairs.

While you are at the event, view the newly installed public art project “Bee Cause. This permanent art installation, led by local artist M.B. Hanrahan, beautifies the space and also pays homage to the plight of the North American Bumble Bee.

For more information, visit the Barranca Vista Center website.

City of Ventura news

Applications are now being accepted for the City of Ventura 2018-19 Cultural Grant Funding Program. The grant program is awarded annually to support Ventura-based cultural non-profits. These funds are unrestricted and may be used for organizational support, programming, and services. The application and guidelines are available online at www.cityofventura.ca.gov/grants; applications must be received by Friday, June 29, 2018 at 5 pm.

Non-profit organizations are required to provide proof of their 501(c)(3) status or their Ventura County-based fiscal agent(s). Grants will range in size from $1,000-$20,000 and will be awarded on a competitive basis with a total of $90,000 available. Organizations whose real annual budgets are less than $10,000 are only eligible to request $1,000; all other requests may not exceed 10% of the organization’s real annual budget. Past recipients must have submitted a final report from the previous year to be eligible for future funding.

Developed in 1993, the City of Ventura Cultural Grant Funding Program supports economic development, increases tourism and enhances lifelong learning opportunities in the arts for all ages.

Art Tales Winners to be Honored at Public Reception May 17

The public is invited to attend a special reception to honor the winners of the 10th Annual Art Tales Writing Contest on May 17, at 5:30pm in the Community Meeting Room at City Hall, 501 Poli Street. Attendees will hear the inspirational pieces read by the winners. This year’s Art Tales writing contest received more than 125 works of short fiction and poems from youth, teen and adult writers, hailing from Ventura to Atlanta, Georgia.

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners of Art Tales are:

  • Youth Poetry: 1st Macy Li 2nd Larsen Meckstroth 3rd E.K. Baer
  • Youth Fiction: 1st Shawn Coyner 2nd Isabel Connell 3rd Devin Varela
  • Teen Poetry: 1st Penelope Duran 2nd Sophie Stimer 3rd Ethan Adler
  • Teen Fiction: 1st Cole Dodos 2nd Genevieve Werner 3rd Aaron Meraz
  • Adult Poetry: 1st Mary Adler 2nd Gabrielle Oracio 3rd Sheri Ward
  • Adult Fiction: 1st Gerald Zwers 2nd Carolyn J. Foegen 3rd Caitlin Trude

Four contest judges read “blind” entries to determine this year’s winners.

The art work used to inspire this year’s contestants were Tambor by William Hendricks, Clouds that Free the Spirit by Frances Johnson, and Freedom Wing by Teal Rowe.

The Ventura City Council established the Municipal Art Collection in 1999 to document the history of visual art in Ventura through the acquisition of artwork created by local artists. For more information regarding the Art Tales Writing Contest or the Municipal Art Collection, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/arttales.

Ventura welcomes new police officers

Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney, Officer Allen and Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnew.
DA Investigator Baray, Officer Rolls and Chief Corney.

Five new Ventura Police Officers graduated from the Ventura County Criminal Justice Training Center’s Academy this month and are now in their next phase of field training!

Congratulations to Officer Rolls for being presented with the “Outstanding Personal Traits Award” and Officer Allen for being presented with the “Outstanding Academic Achievement & Scenario Performance Award”.

The 49 recruits, representing agencies throughout Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties completed 24 weeks of instruction provided through the combined efforts of local law enforcement agencies and other criminal justice entities. The intense training and education prepares these recruits for the responsibility of serving as police officers. We wish the entire class well as they begin their next phase of training!