Category Archives: City News

City of Ventura’s City Hall and facilities have opened

Has it been this long since City Hall was open?

The City of Ventura has opened City Hall and other facilities to the public on Monday, July 12, 2021. The reopening aligns with the State of California’s move to Beyond the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and the full reopening of business sectors.

“We are thrilled to reopen city facilities and welcome the community back after more than a year of being closed for in-person service,” said Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava. “Ventura, thank you for your sacrifices, commitment, and resilient spirit throughout it all. It is because of our community’s collective efforts that we are where we are today.”

Cleanings and improvements at all city facilities have been made to ensure the health and well-being of residents, businesses, visitors, and City staff when using public counters. Patrons and vendors visiting City facilities and City Hall will be required to wear masks when indoors, and physical distancing shall be practiced.

“During the last year, the important and impactful work of the City continued as we pivoted quickly to work remotely and provide virtual services,” stated Ventura City Manager Alex D. McIntyre. “Bringing the public back is a significant step forward as we look to recover from the pandemic. We are reopening City facilities for business and looking forward to serving the community in-person again.”

City Facility Reopening

City Hall and City facilities will reopen for normal business hours. Hours of operation vary at each location. For more details, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov.

City Council, Boards, and Commission Meetings

Public meetings will continue to be hosted virtually as well as be open for limited in-person participation with social distancing and masking required. The first modified in-person City Council meeting will be hosted on July 19, 2021.

To participate virtually in public meetings, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/AgendaCenter.

Virtual City Services

As the City reopens, Ventura’s services will continue to be available online, ensuring residents and businesses have more options to take care of important matters and connect with City staff.

Electronic applications for City permits and development projects must be submitted online. Residents, developers, and business owners can visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/PermitServices to submit applications.

Parks & Recreation

Parks, beaches, golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts, the Ventura Aquatics Center, and public restrooms are open.

The Ventura Avenue Adult Center as well as other community centers and recreational buildings are open to pre-registered participants participating in scheduled activities, camps, and programs, which are available by advance registration only.

To learn more, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/ParksRec.

Special Event Permit Applications

Applications for block parties, free speech events, parades, processions, athletic and sporting events, walk-a-thons, and festivals will be accepted digitally.

Before advertising or promoting your event, be sure to receive conditional approval from the City to ensure the date and event location you are requesting is available.

To learn more, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/SpecialEventPermits.

The City of Ventura is committed to maintaining the health and safety of the public and will be closely following Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS).

Even with California relaxing distancing and masking requirements, the risk of community spread still remains high, and the COVID-19 vaccination remains critical to slowing community transmission. To find a vaccine near you, visit www.venturacountyrecovers.org.

July is Parks and Recreation Month

The beautiful view from Grant Park. Photo by Michael Gordon

The City of Ventura is celebrating Parks and Recreation Month, an initiative of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), and inviting the community to share experiences, memories, and stories about what parks and recreation programs mean to them.

“Parks and Recreation Month provides a great opportunity to highlight the beauty of Ventura’s open spaces and parks, the importance of recreation facilities, and the positive impact they have on our wellness and quality of life,” said Mayor Sofia Rubalcava. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, parks and recreation centers have been essential in contributing to Ventura’s strength, vibrancy, and resiliency.”

The City of Ventura Parks and Recreation Department maintains 31 traditional parks, 34 linear parks, three community centers, and offers an average of 2,058 recreation programs annually.

In celebration of this national tradition, the City has planned various activities for residents of all ages and abilities, including weekly challenges to inspire and entertain community members. Weekly prize drawings will be given to people who share photos or short videos of their adventures.

“Parks and recreation programs are at the center of many life experiences and memories. Local parks are places to gather with friends and family, spaces to celebrate life’s special moments, sites that connect us with essential community services, and so much more,” said Ventura Parks and Recreation Director Nancy O’Connor. “I am proud to lead a team of amazing people who work hard to keep providing essential recreation programs and maintain Ventura’s beautiful trees, open spaces, and facilities.”

According to NRPA, 93% of adults in the U.S. say their mental health is improved by services offered by local park and recreation professionals and agencies.

For details, visit  www.cityofventura.ca.gov/ParksRec, or follow the Ventura Parks and Recreation Facebook page.

For information about NRPA, visit www.nrpa.org.

City adopts $303.3 million budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022

The Ventura City Council adopted a balanced $303.3 million operating and capital budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 at its Budget Hearing on June 21, 2021.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the General Fund will have a balanced budget of $124.1 million, allowing the city to deliver several upcoming projects, advanced planning work, pandemic recovery, and core services and programs.

“This budget provides the resources to support the ongoing services our residents have come to expect. It was prepared in support of the City Council’s established budget principles and strategic annual goals, which were both identified earlier in the year,” stated Ventura City Manager Alex D. McIntyre.

The FY 21-22 budget allows for technology investments, homeless services, public safety enhancements, upgrades to the fire department’s alerting system, investments in downtown Ventura for Main Street Moves, support for an economic development strategy, and additional staffing support for business technology innovation, community development, and human resources.

The budget also includes funding from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA). City Council approved a plan to use ARPA funds for one-time expenditures for community beautification, a one stop shop permit center, parking improvements at Mission Park, Main Street Moves, facility improvements and repairs, fire station enhancements, and upgrades to the City’s information and technology systems. The City will receive $16.3 million in one-time funding over the course of the next two years.

The City continues to invest in Ventura’s infrastructure, and added nine new projects to the 2020-2026 Capital Improvement Program. Projects include Promenade repair improvements, citywide bridge preventative maintenance, parking lot light improvements for Paseo de Playa and the Pier, stormwater mitigation, sidewalk ADA improvements, water and wastewater service repairs, and coastal facility improvements. Eight of the projects in the six-year workplan are funded by Measure O.

“The City remains focused on recovering from the recent pandemic and continues to use multi-year forecasts and budget principles to ensure long-term financial viability,” said Finance and Technology Director Michael Coon.

The City Council also recently adopted the Fire Department Operational Performance Study on April 21, 2021, which outlined a need for facility improvements and three additional positions to optimize service delivery. As a part of the FY 21-22 budget, $3.5 million has been set aside for fire station facility upgrades and additional operational enhancements. The City will present a strategic plan for fire operations during the mid-year budget review in January 2022.

In support of the Council’s current goals, the City completed a comprehensive Information Technology (IT) Strategic Plan and scoping for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which was presented in May 2021. The IT Strategic Plan assessed the City’s existing technologies, operational requirements, and service delivery needs, and outlined a strategy to address unique business need requirements by the public and customer relationship management through new and improved interfaces.

For additional information about the City of Ventura’s budget or financial documents, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/FinancialTransparency.

City of Ventura launches online tool to support local businesses in recovering from COVID-19

The City of Ventura’s Economic Development Division is launching a new online business intelligence tool called “SizeUp Ventura” to provide access to market research information.

“The City of Ventura is committed to helping our local businesses succeed and recover from the pandemic,” stated Mayor Sofia Rubalcava. “They are the foundation of our local economy, employ our residents, create new jobs, and make our community a more prosperous place.”

Local businesses and entrepreneurs can now access free industry-specific and hyperlocal information to help them grow and make smarter decisions using big data analysis. SizeUp features information collected from hundreds of public and proprietary data sources covering firmographic, demographic, geographic, labor, wage, cost, consumer spending, transportation, and more.

“In today’s information economy, if you don’t have access to information your business is at a significant disadvantage. With the launch of SizeUp, we are empowering Ventura businesses to make more data-driven decisions to better operate, succeed, grow, and recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Estelle Bussa, City of Ventura Economic Development Manager.

Using the new SizeUp Ventura website, local businesses can:
1.   Rank their business performance compared to industry competitors,
2.   Discover potential customers and suppliers,
3.   Better understand the competitive landscape, and
4.   Optimize advertising to target ideal customer segments.

In support of Small Business Week, local small and medium businesses are invited to a virtual SizeUp Ventura workshop on Thursday, May 6, 2021, from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Advance registration required for the Zoom meeting. To register, visit http://bit.ly/SizeUpVentura.

To learn more about SizeUp Ventura or the City’s Economic Development Office, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/SizeUpVentura.

Ventura City Firefighters and Ventura Police Officers worked together to save a life 

Mr. Gonzales contacted the Ventura City Fire Department to meet the first responders who saved his life.

The Ventura City Fire Department and Ventura Police Department honored the lifesaving work of three firefighter-paramedics and three police officers on Tuesday, May 18. The 41-year-old Ventura patient and his family were reunited at a special ceremony with firefighters, police, and paramedics at Fire Headquarters in Ventura.

The first responders were recognized for their instrumental role in performing CPR and saving the life of Ventura resident, Felipe Gonzales. Captain Luis Manzano, Engineer Brandyn Johnson, Firefighter-Paramedic Graham LaBarge, Officers Erik Utermohlen, Alberto Tovar, and George Orozco, American Medical Response (AMR) Paramedics James Lammon and Brandon Larson, and Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) Dispatcher Brittany Farrell were grateful to meet the family and share a special evening together.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, Ventura Police officers and firefighters from Medic Engine 1 were dispatched to a reported cardiac arrest in progress at 2:52am. Officers arrived, located Gonzales in an upstairs apartment, and started CPR immediately. Firefighters arrived three minutes later and took over medical care for the victim.

Firefighter-paramedics moved the victim to the living room for further assessment while officers took the family into a separate room to gather more information. Firefighters transferred the patient to a backboard, and with the assistance of all three officers carrying gear, were able to maneuver the patient down sets of zig-zag stairs and to an ambulance for transport.

“These calls are when seconds truly count,” said Fire Captain Luis Manzano. “Thanks to the coordination and great partnership between police officers and firefighters, the patient was able to have the best chance of survival.”

It was later determined the patient was suffering from a viral infection that led to an irregular heart rhythm, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. Due to the effort of police officers, firefighters, AMR team members, and the VCFD dispatcher, the patient was successfully resuscitated and is back home with his family.

Mr. Gonzales contacted the Ventura City Fire Department months after the incident looking to meet the first responders who saved his life to personally thank them for their professionalism and dedication to duty.

This ceremony took place during National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week, which is recognized each year during the third week in May. EMS Week brings together our community and emergency medical responders to pay special recognition and honor to those who provide day-to-day lifesaving services.

Ventura City Council approves water and wastewater rates adjustments

Rate increases will support both daily operation and maintenance of the City’s existing water and wastewater systems.

On Monday, May 17, 2021, at the Public Hearing for Water and Wastewater Rate Adjustments, Ventura City Council unanimously approved five-year water and wastewater rate increases. A second reading of the ordinances took place on May 24, 2021, for approval. Beginning July 1, 2021, the average Ventura household will see a $7.76 increase on their monthly bill.

Over the course of eight public meetings and nearly a year of deliberation, the Water Commission, in partnership with City staff and a third-party financial consultant, underwent an extensive water and wastewater rate study to evaluate the City’s water rate tiers, water shortage rates, wastewater rate structure, and financing options for major projects.

The results of the study showed that an annual rate increase of seven percent for water service and six percent for wastewater service is needed each year to continue to operate and maintain the systems, repair, and replace aging infrastructure, secure water supply, improve water quality, and meet legal and environmental regulations.

“These are difficult decisions that will impact our community for years to come. After careful consideration, City Council recognizes that we can no longer defer investing in water and wastewater systems,” commented Mayor Rubalcava. “As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure our existing residents and future generations have access to safe, clean, and reliable water.”

On March 22, the Ventura City Council reviewed the proposed rate adjustments and approved to move forward with the Proposition 218 Public Noticing process. On April 1, a detailed notice was mailed to Ventura Water customers and property owners outlining the proposed changes and instructions for customers that oppose the adjustments. According to State Law, if a majority of customers or parcel owners submit a written protest within the 45-day review period, rate increases cannot be adopted. At the close of Monday’s Public Hearing, a total of 1,076 protests were received in opposition to water service increases, 1,054 for wastewater service increases, and 1,018 for water shortage surcharge rate increases, with 13,470 needed to constitute a majority protest for water service and water shortage rates and 12,517 for wastewater service.

“City staff and the Water Commission made a concerted effort to lead a collaborative and transparent rate-setting process, with the continued goal to communicate early and often,” stated Assistant City Manager Akbar Alikhan.

Leading up to City Council’s decision, Ventura Water conducted over 20 community presentations and hosted several virtual town hall meetings where information about anticipated rate impacts was shared with community members, neighborhood groups, clubs, businesses, and economic development stakeholders.

Rate increases will support both daily operation and maintenance of the City’s existing water and wastewater systems, along with approximately 36 planned capital improvement projects, including the long-anticipated State Water Interconnection Project and VenturaWaterPure Program.

“For many years, our local water sources have been impacted by drought, regulatory and legal constraints,” shared Ventura Water General Manager Susan Rungren. “Now is the time to continue to invest in our aging infrastructure and projects that will help meet regulatory requirements, help secure sustainable water supply for existing and future customers, and improve our water quality.”

For more information on rate changes, visit www.VenturaWaterRates.net.

Ventura city staff to receive pay raises

by Richard Lieberman

Ventura city staff are going to receive salary increases. The pay raises will affect 550 Ventura city employees. At a recent City Council meeting the council unanimously voted to approve salary increases of about 2.0 % for 118 staff represented by the Ventura Maintenance Employees Association, the Ventura Police Officer’s Association and for an unrepresented employee’s groups.

Additionally, groundskeepers, welders, and others in the maintenance group are slated for a 2.25% increase that is scheduled to begin on July 10th. Also included will be an additional 2.25% lump payment.

Currently the Ventura Police Association, which counts 129 officers, corporals, and sergeants will receive a 0.25% salary increase. The salary increase is scheduled to take effect starting the week of May 25th. Also, a one-time payment of $211.80 instead of a retroactive pay increase to January 1st. The association will also receive a one-time, lump sum payment of 2.25%, plus a 2% salary increase effective July 10th.

The salary increases are included in 18-month agreements with the city. The contracts are scheduled to expire June 30, 2022.

A total of 79 employees who are unrepresented will receive a 2.25% salary increase beginning July 10 and a one-time payment totaling 2.25% of their salary. In lieu of retroactive pay, the employees requested an increase in their deferred compensation in January.

Ongoing negotiations with the Ventura Fire Association and the Police Management Associations will result in a 2% pay increase. The 2% salary increase also includes a 0.25% increase they received following the city’s approval of their contract in January.

Building the future of Ventura together!

If you had three wishes for the future of Ventura, what would they be? Now’s your chance to say. For the first time in 23 years, the City of Ventura is updating its General Plan and encouraging everyone to get involved!

The General Plan serves as a city’s blueprint for future land use and development decisions. It is a key tool for shaping and improving the quality of life for residents and businesses for 20 to 30 years.

Mark your calendars to attend our next educational series on the following General Plan elements:

June 3 • 6 pm – Economic Development: featuring guest speaker Doug Svensson, President of Applied Development Economics. Learn how the General Plan addresses economic development and fiscal concerns for the future.

June 15 • 6 pm – Housing: featuring guest speaker Veronica Tam, Owner of Veronica Tam + Associates. Learn more about the State’s Housing Element requirements and how this impacts the City of Ventura.

These virtual presentations will be available in English and Spanish.

Visit www.PlanVentura.com to register today or to learn more about the process.

City of Ventura to begin construction on first fully inclusive play area

The inclusive play area will be located at Arroyo Verde Park.

The City of Ventura will begin construction on its first fully inclusive play area for children of all abilities. The inclusive play area, located at Arroyo Verde Park, features gathering places, a play structure, swings, hammocks, balance beams, a sensory garden, a motion-inclusive carousel, sensory wall, embankment climbers, music play areas, and more.

“The Arroyo Verde Park play area is the City’s first all-inclusive playground, said Mayor Sofia Rubalcava. “This space will be a place where everyone in the community can come out to have fun and experience the joy of community connection and play, regardless of ability or age.”

Construction for the 10,750 square foot play area is set to begin in May and anticipated to open in Fall 2021. During construction, the project site and northern parking lot will be closed. The remainder of the park and hiking trails will stay open with additional parking available throughout the park. Additionally, project updates will be shared on the City’s website and social media throughout the duration of the construction process.

In 2017, Arroyo Verde Park’s main play structure was destroyed in the Thomas Fire. Rather than rebuild the same structure, the City decided to re-imagine the space and create the first fully inclusive play area in Ventura.

Families, community members, medical professionals, and playground manufacturers provided input into the playground’s design. Through these conversations, park designers developed an adaptive play space where children of all abilities can play together.

“This project is the first of its kind in Ventura and means so much to our community. Thanks to the Ventura Community Partners Foundation and generous donations from community groups, residents, and local businesses, the City is able to make this dream a reality,” said Parks and Recreation Director Nancy O’Connor. “We cannot wait until Ventura’s first fully inclusive play area opens later this year.”

For more information about this project, please visit http://www.cityofventura.ca.gov/AVP.

Community members combat climate change

Nancy O’Rode, Christy Weir and Barbara Brown, founding members of Ventura Tree Alliance, assist at a Restore Earth Day event.

With all the bad news about climate change… the increasingly high temperatures of summer and the rise in the number of windy days, a handful of community members in Ventura are stepping up to do what they can to make a difference.

The idea germinated when two candidates running for City Council tried to place their political signs in Ventura’s tree wells and found there was a surprisingly high number of empty wells; the trees had died or been removed and had never been replaced. As it turns out, there are over 12,000 empty tree wells in Ventura. Co-founders Christy Weir and Barbara Brown wanted to do something about that. Thus the genesis of the Ventura Tree Alliance (VTA), a nonprofit public-benefit corporation bringing community members, educators, and business professionals together to enhance the urban tree canopy in Ventura.

“We’re interested in planting trees to add to our urban forest, beautifying the city and counteracting climate change. We hope to inspire, engage, and support Venturans in planting and caring for trees through education, volunteerism, partnerships and fundraising,” states Ms. Weir, former City Councilmember. “We’re making this announcement in honor of Arbor Day, with the expectation that tree-plantings will take place this spring and summer.”

“Our goal is to plant trees in the abandoned wells, in city parks and in parking lots, creating shade and wind breaks on hot days, sequestering carbon emissions and augmenting wildlife habitat,” says Barbara Brown, co-founder. “In addition, trees capture rainwater and reduce run off. They add to the aesthetic benefits in neighborhood pride often with increased property values. Large cities all over the world are addressing this opportunity including Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Shanghai with their “One Million Trees” initiatives but as a smaller community, we need to address this as well.

”Board member and educator Nancy O’Rode states that according to Ventura’s Tree Master Plan, “Street trees are among the most valuable community assets, reducing pollution by recycling air and water; and by cooling streets helping to maintain asphalt for longer periods of time. In addition, trees lower temperature in the shade about 10 degrees. Because of the availability of recycled water, it’s more feasible to maintain trees without using Ventura’s constrained potable water supply.”

“Few improvements are a better expenditure of resources and give greater satisfaction to community life than planting and maintaining the “right tree in the right place”. A healthy urban forest enhances the quality of life for all Venturans,” adds Ms. Weir.

To volunteer or for more information about the Ventura Tree Alliance, check out our Facebook page or our website at www.venturatreealliance.com.