Category Archives: City News

Share your love for walking, biking, and rolling in Ventura

by Public Works Director Phil Nelson

Wheel you be our valentine?

There’s so much to love about Ventura, especially when it comes to enjoying time outdoors with our remarkable year-round climate! We love seeing the community get moving, whether it’s biking to one of our many bike paths, walking or rolling to the beach, or hopping on local transit to head downtown.

On Thursday, February 17, the City will host a virtual workshop at 6:00 p.m. to gather ideas on improving active transportation options in Ventura. We invite the community to ask questions and share their ideas with us during the public meeting!

Workshop participants will have an opportunity to ask questions, preview current bike and pedestrian networks, and review the City’s Active Transportation Plan. Additionally, participants can share ideas for how the City should prioritize improvements such as building sidewalk connections near schools and parks or enhancing existing sidewalks near popular destinations.

The City’s public works department launched the Active Transportation Plan in summer 2021, thanks to funding provided by Caltrans. This project is important because it creates a roadmap to improve walking, biking, and transit through future projects and programs. Additionally, the project

includes information about safe routes to school, a traffic safety program for K-12 students and families, and a program called complete streets, which outlines standards for transportation infrastructures throughout the City.

In the last several months, we’ve collected thousands of ideas through surveys, visited local schools to learn more about pedestrian safety for students, met with community stakeholder groups, and hosted virtual and pop-up events to gather a diverse mix of feedback.

Everyone’s feedback is important!

To register for the virtual workshop, sign up to receive email updates, and review the latest findings from the community, visit www.ActivePlanVentura.com.

The workshop will also be streamed live on YouTube. A recording will also be posted to the project’s website for those who can’t join us.

City of Ventura continues temporary closure of facilities

The City of Ventura has extended its temporary closure of facilities and suspension of most in-person recreational programming until Monday, January 31, 2022, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases countywide.

The City will continue to monitor cases at the end of January and reevaluate dates for safely reopening facilities.

“The extension of the City’s temporary closure is a precautionary measure that allows critical services and operations to continue while minimizing opportunities where transmission may be possible,” said Ventura City Manager Alex D. McIntyre. “The health and safety of our community and City employees continues to be our top priority.”

Temporary facility closures include Ventura City Hall, the lobby at Fire and Police Headquarters, Sanjon Maintenance Yard, Ventura Avenue Adult Center, Barranca Vista Center, Westpark Community Center, Ortega Adobe, and the Olivas Adobe. Senior nutrition meals are available for pickup on-site at the Ventura Avenue Adult Center.

Most in-person sports, recreation, and community service programs are canceled until further notice. For questions about upcoming parks and recreation services, call (805) 658-4726 or visit www.CityofVentura.ca.gov/ParksRec.

Facilities that remain open with safety protocols include the Ventura Aquatic Center, Buenaventura Golf Course, and the Olivas Links Golf Course. Ventura City Council, Commission, and Committee meetings will continue to meet virtually during regularly scheduled times.

City staff remains available online or by phone during regular business hours. In addition, all public safety services will continue regular 24/7 operations. For Ventura Water questions, visit www.venturawater.net or call customer care at (805) 667-6500. For a water emergency, contact (805) 650-8010.

For information about how to get vaccinated, visit www.vaccines.gov or make an appointment directly at MyTurn.CA.gov. The Public Health clinic schedule is available at www.vcrecovers.org/vaccine. Additionally, there are 14 no-cost state testing sites in Ventura County. Visit www.vcrecovers.org/testing for more information about testing.

For additional information on City of Ventura services, visit www.CityofVentura.ca.gov.

City of Ventura awarded nearly $2 million grant for skatepark expansion

Skatepark project expands the skatepark by more than 20,000-square-feet. Photos by Patricia Schallert

The City of Ventura received a nearly $2 million grant from the state’s “California Outdoors for All” initiative to fund construction to expand the skatepark at Westpark, located at 450 W Harrison Avenue.

The Westpark Skatepark Expansion Project expands the existing skatepark by more than 20,000-square-feet and includes features tailored to various skill levels, green infrastructure, and public art.

“This is an exciting win for Ventura, especially for our families living on the Westside,” shared Mayor Sofia Rubalcava. “This grant will do so much good in our community. An expanded skatepark will provide more space and opportunities for our kids to play outside and enjoy more recreational activities.”

The existing 3,200-square-foot park is one of three skateparks in the City built over 20 years ago. Along with the skate bowls at Pacific Park and Hobert Park, the community identified a need for facilities geared to a range of skaters. As a result, multiple community partnerships helped support the project through fundraising and participation. Among the supporters, the Westpark Skatepark Expansion Steering Team (W.E.S.T.) raised $10,000 for the project design and construction and assisted with public outreach.

“The City worked closely with our residents, skate park users, local stakeholders, and Spanish-speaking community members to create the initial design for the skatepark expansion project at Westpark,” said Parks and Recreation Director Nancy O’Connor. “In preparation for this statewide grant, the City started community outreach efforts in May 2019 and early 2020. Through a series of in-person and virtual meetings, we received hundreds of ideas on specific skatepark features, sustainable landscaping, public safety, and beautification.”

In the coming weeks, the City will conduct additional outreach during the request for proposal process to gather public input as it refines the final design for the skatepark expansion project.

This grant is provided by California State Parks as part of Governor Newsom’s “California Outdoors for All” initiative, which will provide $548.3 million in grant funding to more than 100 communities to create new parks and new recreation opportunities in underserved communities across California.

The City’s Parks Division maintains 39 facilities with current construction projects underway at Community Park as well as the first-ever inclusive playground at Arroyo Verde Park.

For more information about City parks and facilities, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/Parks.

City of Ventura welcomes new Chief Building Official 

The City of Ventura is pleased to welcome Shawn Huff as the Chief Building Official in the Community Development Department. Huff joins the Ventura team from the City of Chico where he was the Deputy Director of the Community Development Department. Prior to that, he served as the Chief Building Official for the City of Visalia.  

With over 20 years of serving both state and local governments, Huff has a wide range of technical and regulatory experience. He served as an administrator in the State Housing Law Program and helped develop the state’s building standards with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Before starting his public service, Huff worked in the private sector in the trades.   

It’s exciting to bring Shawn onboard with his broad background in both the private and public sectors,” shared Community Development Director Peter Gilli. “His technical and regulatory knowledge brings a diversified skill set in serving our residents and businesses.”  

Huff holds a master’s in public administration from Golden Gate University, a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico, and an Associate of Science degree in Building Inspection Technology from Butte Community College.   

I am looking forward to the opportunity to live, work in and serve the fine community of Ventura,” said Huff. “I look forward to fostering relationships with our citizens and providing safe and efficient building standards that protect our residents.”   

The City’s Chief Building Official is responsible for managing all building regulation services and programs. To learn more about the Community Development Department, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/CommunityDevelopment. 

Get a jump start on your Spring cleaning! 

On Saturday, February 12, 2022, the City of Ventura’s Environmental Sustainability Division hosts its next Community Cleanup & Recycling Event. These cleanup and recycling events are held throughout the year to help City residents drop off unwanted items to be properly disposed of or recycled. Event space is limited, and registration is required to participate. 

Items accepted, but not limited to the following:  

  • Household, trash, and garage items: appliances, clothing, furniture, and metal.  
  • Electronic waste: computers, TVs, printers, audio/video equipment 
  • Paper (limit two banker’s boxes): secure onsite shredding service available  
  • Tires (limit four per household): for drop-off instructions, visit the registration website 

Items not accepted:  

  • Household hazardous waste (HHW) is the only material type not accepted at the event. These items include but are not limited to aerosol cans, automotive fluids, motor oil and filters, paint, batteries, chemicals, and fluorescent tubes. For more information on how to dispose of HHW or register for an upcoming drop-off event, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/hhw.   
  • Commercial or business waste is not accepted at these events, and vehicles clearly marked for commercial purposes will not be allowed entry.  

Register today at www.cityofventura.ca.gov/ESevents. For more information about this event or other questions for the City’s Environmental Sustainability Division, call (805) 652-4525. 

Bag food waste, tie it off, and place it in the yard waste cart

The Food Waste Recycling Program for residents launched on January 1, 2022. Residents in single-family homes must bag food waste, tie it off, and place it in the yard waste cart. Food waste includes meat, bones, dairy, bread, fruit, vegetables, as well as all other edible and inedible parts of food typically thrown into the trash. Once at the sorting facility, bagged food waste is separated and composted into soil products. Do not place food waste directly into the yard waste cart, as this will contaminate the yard waste.

E.J. Harrison & Sons is providing complimentary food waste collection pails (2 gallons) to assist Ventura residents with participating in the new food waste recycling program. In December, the City’s Environmental Sustainability team began delivering the pails to all single-family homes in Ventura. The food waste recycling pails are also available by request and to residents in multi-family housing units as the program expands.

Before buying new bags for the pails, consider reusing bread bags, takeout bags, or grocery bags as a liner for the pail to collect food waste. When the bag is ready to be disposed, tie off the bag and place it in the yard waste container. Do not place your food waste recycling pail out for curbside collection.

This new program is required by California’s Senate Bill (SB) 1383. SB 1383 aims to reduce methane emissions by diverting organic material from landfills by establishing statewide food waste recycling requirements for cities. The City is rolling out food waste recycling for all residents, businesses, and multi-family properties to comply with the law.

A Year of Highlights from the City of Ventura

by Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava

The coming of a New Year marks a time when many people take a moment to reflect on the past year. It’s a time to acknowledge achievements, recount past accomplishments, and celebrate milestones. As we wrap up 2021, I’m reminded of how productive the City and Council have been in the last year. We’ve done a lot amidst a pandemic and seen many long-term efforts come to fruition.

The City Council recently approved a permanent streamlining ordinance to simplify the development review process. For several years, it has been a Council priority to streamline the planning and public hearing process for those who want to build in Ventura and businesses who want to improve their properties. Under the improved streamlining process, the City can shorten a development project’s review time while keeping the community informed through early public notification and involvement.

The City Council also recently approved extending the five-block closure of Main Street to vehicle traffic through July 2022. In addition, work is underway to explore options for making Main Street Moves a more permanent attraction through a cost-effective, flexible design approach for the downtown area. This project will come back to Council for review and approval as it develops.

Thanks to City staff’s determination and hard work, the City Council unanimously approved key terms for a potential development agreement worth $35 million to extend Olivas Park Drive and construct a levee in the flood plain along the Santa Clara River. The 139-acre project is the southern gateway to the City, adjacent to Highway 101 and the Ventura Auto Center, and has been a priority since the 1980s. Under the agreement, the City would pay for the road extension, and the three property owners would pay for the levee. This project is a huge win because it will create significant sales and property tax revenues and improve traffic flow in the area. City staff will bring the final proposed deal to the Council early next year.

Apart from recent Council-approved items, it’s important to acknowledge City staff’s commitment and dedication to launch new programs and engagement opportunities in a wide variety of City departments.

Transitioning public services online has been an ongoing priority. In 2021, the City launched a new virtual public permit counter. Ventura Online Permit Services, also known as Ventura OPS, is a digital public permit counter that allows a customer to submit a permit application, upload plan sets, schedule inspections, and check project status online without coming into City Hall. Next year, continued enhancements such as an integrated online payment system and improved forms are planned.

In 2021, construction kicked off for a second entrance at Community Park and the City’s first ever inclusive playground at Arroyo Verde Park. Both sites are anticipated for completion in 2022. The City was also awarded a $2 million grant from the state’s “California Outdoors for All” initiative to fund construction to expand the skatepark at Westpark. The project will add more than 20,000-square-feet to the existing site with features tailored to various skill levels, green infrastructure, and public art. Our Parks and Recreation Department will conduct additional outreach to gather community input as it prepares a final design for the Westpark skatepark in the coming year.

The City recently completed the visioning phase of its General Plan Update, which involved virtual workshops, seven in-person pop-up events, and more than 1,500 survey responses. The goal of this phase was to gather input on community values, identify locations for new development, and determine potential land-use changes in different areas for the future and long-term growth of our City.

In support of the General Plan, the City is also working on its Active Transportation Plan to identify projects and programs that will make walking, biking, and taking transit great choices for all who live, work, or visit Ventura.

Some other notable 2021 achievements include adopting and implementing new water and wastewater rate increases to support daily operation and maintenance of the City’s existing water and wastewater systems. Additionally, this will support approximately 36 planned capital improvement projects, including the long-anticipated State Water Interconnection Project and the VenturaWaterPure Program.

VenturaWaterPure is the long-anticipated potable reuse project that will divert water currently being discharged to the Santa Clara River Estuary to a new advanced water purification facility. Currently, the program remains in the design phase, with construction anticipated to begin in 2023. To date, VenturaWaterPure has received over $4 million in federal grants. The City continues to pursue grants and other cost-sharing opportunities to maximize value and minimize financial impacts for our community.

This past year has been one full of many successes thanks to the resilient spirit of our community members, businesses, City Council, and hard-working City staff. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished working together. I’m looking forward to more exciting projects and enhancements on the horizon. Happy New Year, and cheers to 2022!

To learn more about these and other City of Ventura news, visit www.CityofVentura.ca.gov.

State regulations for food waste recycling taking effect

Starting January 1, 2022, the City of Ventura will be required to comply with California’s Senate Bill (SB) 1383. The City Council recently adopted an ordinance in November 2021 to comply with state law. The City also began rolling out food waste recycling programs for all residents, businesses, and multi-family properties to assist with the mandate. SB 1383 aims to reduce methane emissions by diverting organic material from landfills by establishing statewide food waste recycling requirements for cities.

“Food waste includes items like bones, nuts, dairy, bread, fruit, vegetables, meat, and more,” shared Public Works Director Phil Nelson. “The City’s Environmental Sustainability team has worked diligently to ensure our community has resources to assist with these new state regulations to recycle food waste and reduce air pollutants like methane gas.”

Residents in single-family homes must bag their food waste and place it in their yard waste cart. Once at the sorting facility, the bagged organic waste will be separated and composted into soil products. Businesses and multi-family properties can expect to be contacted by E.J. Harrison & Sons to set up yard waste and food waste collection services unless they apply and qualify for an exemption.

Businesses can request exemptions if they generate very little organic waste or if they do not have space for additional containers. Exemption waivers must be filed before SB 1383 regulations take effect on January 1, 2022.

The statewide law was enacted in 2016 by Governor Brown to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP’s), which contribute to global warming and negatively affect human health. SLCPs remain in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide, but potentially cause more damage due to their potency. By collecting and composting organic waste, SB 1383 aims to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by preventing the release of methane into the atmosphere.

The City’s Environmental Sustainability team continues to provide residents and businesses with guidance and support with food and organics recycling resources. Visit www.CityofVentura.ca.gov/ES to learn more.

Ventura City Fire Department responds to structure fire

On Dec.17, at 3:28pm, Ventura City Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire in the 300 Block of Jones St. First arriving fire units found a fully involved single family home with all residents out and Ventura Police Officers evacuating adjacent homes. Firefighters initiated suppression efforts and extinguished the fire 20 minutes after arrival on scene. Two additional homes were initially threatened by the fire but were unharmed because of the fire suppression efforts.

On Dec.18, at 3:16pm, Fire units were dispatched to a reported residential structure fire 4600 blk of Rossini Lane. Units arrived to find a growing fire inside an occupied apartment. Fire crews made an aggressive attack on the fire and thankfully prevented spread to other near by apartments. The fire originated in a HVAC unit and exact cause is currently under investigation. Residents are reminded to always have a working smoke detector in any living space and to never leave any open flame such as a candle unattended.

Obtaining construction permits and developmental approvals made easier

Streamlining the development review process has been a priority of the City Council for several years. 

The Ventura City Council made the process of obtaining construction permits and developmental approvals easier at the city council meeting held on Dec.6. The council voted 7-0 to approve a streamlining ordinance during the meeting.

The changes are expected to cut down to about a year for approvals instead of the several years it has been taking. In some cases over 10-years.

Changes included in the streamlining process include.

The community development director will be given the authority to route a project to a different decision maker than is ordinarily required. This is on a case-by-case project.

When a project requires multiple hearings in front of various committees, the community development director will “identify a single final action body,” essentially determining which committee will make the final decision. An appeal can still be filed and heard by the city council.

In response to our request Peter Gilli, AICP Community Development Director told the Breeze.

Streamlining the development review process has been a priority of the City Council for several years.  A consultant report (referred to as the Matrix Report), endorsed by the City Council in 2019, included recommendations calling for staff to propose ordinance amendments to simplify the hearing process, reconsider whether to retain DRC/HPC or reduce their scope, and to shift more application types to staff hearings or administrative actions.”  

Council adopted a temporary Emergency Streamlining Ordinance (ESO) in May 2020.  In February 2021, City Council set a goal to adopt streamlining by the end of 2021.  In April 2021, Council extended ESO for another year to allow the “permanent” streamlining ordinance to be prepared. “

The proposed ordinance places aspects of the temporary ESO into the Municipal Code. The Planning Commission reviewed the streamlining changes at hearings on 11/3 and 11/17, and recommended approval of the streamlining changes on a 5-2 vote with a short list of recommended changes. “ 

It is unfortunate that some in the community make statements such as what you were sent.  Here’s a high-level overview of the streamlining proposal:” 

  • DRC and HPC are retained.  
  • Any project over 5 units will continue to go to DRC, as they have in the past.  Every housing project over 5 units will continue to have at least two public hearings, as they have in the past. 
  • Any project that affects a historic resource will continue to go to HPC, as they have in the past.
  • Projects with Major Variances or Exceptions will continue to go to PC, as they have in the past (a housing project over 5 units with an Exception goes to DRC and then PC).
  • Before ESO, façade changes (changes to the exterior of a building that does not involve additional building area) were split between administrative action and DRC review, depending on location.  Streamlining will make all façade changes administrative. 
  • Before ESO, use permits were split between staff hearings and PC depending on the type of use permit.  Streamlining will make all use permits go to staff hearings (these are still public hearings, with public notification, public comment and the ability to appeal)

 

Staff finds that housing projects are what the community has the most input on.  Streamlining will keep those projects going to multiple hearings as they would have in the past.  By shifting the rest of use permits to staff hearings and the rest of the façade changes to administrative actions, we not only simplify the process (Matrix) but also fulfill shifting application types to staff hearings and administrative actions (Matrix).”

As is typical in many jurisdictions, there are generally two pathways that a project may take: discretionary or ministerial. 

Ministerial projects are generally smaller in scope, and must meet certain criteria, but generally have less review than discretionary projects. Typical examples of ministerial projects include putting in a backyard gazebo, interior building improvements, room additions, fences or even obtaining a marriage license. 

If a ministerial project meets the requirements of the municipal code and the required fees have been paid, the permit will be granted. Furthermore, the city has very little discretion on whether it can say yes or no; oversight is limited to the various requirements that are already laid out in the code. 

The ministerial phase still involves building, encroachment and grading permits, but in this phase these do not require public notification and hearings. Ventura issues thousands of ministerial permits every year. 

With discretionary projects, the city has discretion about whether or not to approve the project. The project, such as a residential home build or a multi-unit development, must still meet state and local code requirements, but various studies — traffic impact, environmental review, etc. —  are included in the review phase. Discretionary projects require public notifications and hearings and include an appeal process in which parties opposing decisions on the project can seek an alternative. “

According to a January 2021 report produced by Ventura City Manager Alex McIntyre and Gilli, about 100 discretionary projects are approved each year. Most are minor projects, but a few attract public interest. 

Both ministerial and discretionary projects require a sign-off from various agencies including public works, fire and Ventura Water, and the city attorney’s office weighs in when legal support is needed. 

Most simply, the problem with this phase is the difficulty in getting through it. This is not to say that the process should be easy. But when describing past experiences with this phase, developers were pleading simply to be able to get through the process to a hearing, where a decision could be made,” stated the city’s 2021 staff report. 

The report cited “internal” factors that are “completely within the city’s control” that lead to the reported struggle developers have with the process.

As previously reported by the Ventura County Reporter, Gilli said (“State law puts city into a corner,” Kimberly Rivers, Apr. 28, 2021) that the current process for reviewing development proposals includes a web of various committees, which are restricted in what they can review and act on. This means a developer must present a project to several committees, none of which have the final thumbs up or down on the entire project, but rather only commenting on and approving a piece of a project. 

This can create an onerous appeal process, both for the project developer and for members of the public that object to the project. An appeal could be filed regarding one committee’s decision, only to have the project sail through another committee. 

What developers are asking for, and what Gilli said the city is working to achieve, is a process that ensures plenty of public input opportunities, a thorough review of the project, but also a clear approval and/or appeal process, which, as is the goal, would shorten the time a project is in review. 

The report continued, “Since the City’s future tax base relies on private investment in property, addressing these internal factors in the development review process has been a City Council priority.”