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.

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