Category Archives: City News

Ventura Police Department awarded $220,000 grant

“Why did I drink when I was drunk?”

The Ventura Police Department (VPD) was awarded a $220,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) for a one-year enforcement and education program with an emphasis on safe travel. This grant will assist in VPD’s efforts to reduce deaths and injuries on Ventura roads.

“This grant funding allows us to educate and enhance the safety of residents behind the wheel, on our sidewalks, and in our bike lanes,” said Ventura Police Sergeant, Michael Brown. “Through education and behavior changes, we hope to create an environment that is safe and equitable for all road users in our community.”

The grant will fund a variety of traffic safety programs, including:

  • Patrol with an emphasis on alcohol and drug-impaired driving prevention.
  • Patrol with an emphasis on awareness and education of California’s hands-free cell phone law.
  • Patrol with an emphasis on education of traffic rights for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Patrol with an emphasis on awareness and education of primary causes of crashes: excess speed, failure to yield, failure to stop at stop signs/signals, improper turning/lane changes.
  • Community education presentations on traffic safety issues such as distracted driving, DUI, speed, bicycle and pedestrian safety.
  • Collaborative efforts with neighboring agencies on traffic safety priorities.
  • Officer training and/or recertification: Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST), Advanced Roadside Impaired
  • Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE).

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The one-year grant is for the 2021 federal fiscal year, which runs from October 1, 2020 through September 30, 20201.

To learn more about the Office of Traffic Safety grant and VPD’s educational efforts, please contact Emily Graves, Community Outreach Specialist for the Ventura Police Department, at egraves@cityofventura.ca.gov.

VFD awarded $218,000 in grant funding

LUCAS is designed to deliver consistent, high-quality chest compressions.

The Ventura City Fire Department (VFD) was awarded $218,000 in grant funding to purchase 12 automatic chest compression devices through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG).

The device, known as the Lund University Cardiac Arrest System (LUCAS), is designed to deliver consistent, high-quality chest compressions, even under difficult conditions, to provide life-saving support for extended periods of time.

“The Lucas chest compression system helps first responders do what they do best – save lives,” said Firefighter Paramedic Kyle Tong, lead trainer on the new devices. “As firefighters, we want to help cardiac arrest victims as quickly as possible because every second counts. With these new automated devices, we’re able to deliver consistent care, increase the chance of patient survival, and reduce injuries that can occur during transport.”

In July 2020, Ventura City Fire started using three LUCAS devices, which helped more than 32 cardiac arrest victims in less than four months. The unit is lightweight, comes in a backpack, and can be applied quickly to a patient, interrupting manual compressions for less than 10 seconds.

As a part of the federal grant, the City of Ventura is required to provide a 10 percent funding match in the amount of $22,000, which has been budgeted.

To learn more about the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program or the LUCAS machine, please contact Emily Graves, Community Outreach Specialist for the Ventura Fire Department, at egraves@cityofventura.ca.gov.

City of Ventura launches winter weather response plan to help homeless 

As Ventura enters this year’s winter weather season, the City has partnered with the River Community Church to launch a response plan to provide stay warm packs and temporary shelter to homeless persons during severe weather events, such as severe rain, wind or low temperatures.

Now through March 31, 2021, the City is accepting community donations to create stay warm packs for sharing with Ventura’s unhoused individuals during harsh weather events. Desired donations include rain ponchos, blankets, jackets, hand-warmers, socks, toiletries, snacks, tarps, and carrying bags for items.

“When serious winter weather is forecasted to impact our community, the City will work with local social service partners, the Downtown Ventura Ambassadors, and other local non-profits to provide outreach and support to our most vulnerable population,” said Meredith Hart, the City’s Safe and Clean Program Manager.

Residents wishing to donate items for the Stay Warm Packs can bring materials to the ARCH, a homeless shelter in the City of Ventura, located at 2323 Knoll Drive. Donations can be brought to the rear of the building and dropped off near the exterior sliding glass door.  Monetary donations are also being accepted by mail through the River Community Church. Checks should be labeled “Winter Weather Response Plan” and mailed to 859 E. Santa Clara Street, Ventura, CA, 93001.

The City’s winter weather response plan also includes an emergency temporary shelter that can accommodate motel rooms for up to 20 individuals. Shelters will be activated at least 48 hours in advance when temperatures are projected to fall below 40 degrees or if weather projections show more than half an inch of rain overnight.

Priority will be given to homeless individuals who are 65 and older or live with chronic health conditions. All remaining motel rooms will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. Individuals who receive a room must arrive at the River Community Church, located at 859 E. Santa Clara Street in Ventura, between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on the day of the winter weather response plan event. Those who are unable to secure a room will be provided with Stay Warm Packs.

The winter weather response plan will run from December 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021.

To learn more about the winter weather response plan, please visit the City of Ventura’s Safe and Clean Program website or contact Meredith Hart, Safe and Clean Program Manager, at mhart@cityofventura.ca.gov.

City of Ventura launches general plan update

The City of Ventura has launched the first phase of public engagement activities to update the General Plan. The theme of the update “Our Vision. Our Future,” reflects the importance of encouraging community members to be involved in shaping Ventura’s quality of life for the next 20 to 30 years.

“The General Plan seeks to maintain the unique charm and character of Ventura, while creating opportunities for future improvements in our City, ranging from affordable housing to health, to economic development, transportation, public safety, environmental sustainability, open space and more,” said Mayor Matt LaVere. “This is a tremendous opportunity to gather a diverse range of input as our community helps shape the vision for Ventura’s future.”

The comprehensive update is a three-year process that is expected to take until 2023 to complete. Throughout the multi-year effort, the city will embark on a robust community engagement initiative that includes surveys, virtual and in-person workshops when safety allows, an interactive project website, meetings with Community Councils, engaging with a wide variety of residents and stakeholders within the community, and other interactive activities.

Initial activities include the formation of a General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) to guide the update effort, meetings with Community Councils, and a workshop with the City Council on November 16, 2020.

The General Plan update effort will also include a Local Coastal Program update and the creation of a Climate Action Plan to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance environmental sustainability in Ventura. California state law requires every city and county to maintain an up-to-date General Plan to guide future growth and development.

To learn more about the City of Ventura’s General Plan, visit www.planventura.com.

City of Ventura recognized achievements

The City of Ventura received a Beacon Spotlight Award for its measurable achievements in reducing community greenhouse gas emissions, further illustrating its dedication to meet state climate goals. The Beacon Award, which is sponsored by the Institute for Local Government (ILG), honored Ventura with a Silver Level Award for an eight percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions during a special virtual presentation in conjunction with the League of Cities Annual Conference.

This award builds on Ventura’s long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability. Since joining the Beacon Program in 2010, the City has been recognized for numerous achievements for saving energy and implementing sustainability best practices like implementing a green business certification program, expanding open spaces, planting drought-resistant landscaping, and encouraging alternate modes of transportation.

“The health of our residents and the environment that surrounds us is a top priority in Ventura,” said Mayor Matt LaVere. “We are proud of the work our City has done to accomplish energy efficiency goals, and it is a great honor for Ventura to be recognized with a Beacon Spotlight Award for our efforts.”

In addition to participating in the Beacon Program, the City of Ventura is also part of ILG’s BOOST Pilot Program, a joint endeavor of the ILG and the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) to help local governments address California’s climate and equity goals. Through the BOOST Program, the City has secured more $700,000 in grant funding to support its comprehensive planning effort, which will include the City’s first Climate Action and Resilience Plan. The City’s participation in both programs provides additional resources to assist with climate and resilience initiatives. For more information about the City’s Environmental Sustainability Division, visit our website.

Currently, 161 cities and counties throughout the state participate in the Beacon Program. The Institute for Local Government established the Beacon Program to create a framework to assist local governments in setting goals, documenting progress and sharing best practices that create healthier, more efficient, vibrant communities.

To learn more about the City of Ventura’s achievements visit: www.ca-ilg.org/beacon-award-participant-profile/city-ventura.

The City of Ventura has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for Fiscal Year 2019. This year marks the 29th consecutive year that the City has received this award.

“The City of Ventura is honored to be recognized by this prestigious award in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting,” said City Manager Alex McIntyre. “I’m proud of the dedication and great job our finance team has done with the budget. This award is no small endeavor and demonstrates the commitment of both the Council and City to clearly communicate our financial information with the public.”

The CAFR has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR. The Government Finance Officers Association is a major professional association servicing the needs of 19,000 appointed and elected local, state, and provincial-level government officials and other finance practitioners.

The Ventura Police Department announces the release of a Public Crime Map

The Ventura Police Department (VPD) and LexisNexis Risk Solutions have recently partnered to provide a new way for the community to stay informed about crime in the City of Ventura. The Ventura Police Department now has an online crime map called Community Crime Map designed to alert the public about recent crime activity in their area and improve communications.

“Implementing a public and interactive crime map allows us to be more transparent with our community about crime occurring in each neighborhood,” said Commander Rick Murray. “It’s important for residents to be aware of activity in their area so they are able to take action and stay safe; Community Crime Map will help them do so.”

Ventura residents can view a map that shows all of the reported crimes in their area, sign up for neighborhood watch reports that breakdown recent crime activity near their home, school, or other places of interest, and can submit tips to the Department through an anonymous tipping feature. These special features make it even easier to access near real-time information.

Community Crime Map empowers Ventura residents to make better decisions about crime, by putting the same technology used by the Ventura Police to analyze and interpret crime activity, into the hands of the community it affects so they can make informed decisions about how to stay safe.

Community Crime Map automatically syncs with the Department’s records system to keep crime information updated and accurate online. The data is geocoded and cleaned to protect victim privacy, and all data secure and confidential. All incidents are then displayed on a map, grid, and analytics dashboard along with some basic information about each incident, including the type of crime, location type, block-level address, date, and time.

Check out the Community Crime Map at https://www.cityofventura.ca.gov/1052/Arrest-Log-Interactive-Crime-Map

City seeking people to work on the general plan

We are seeking volunteers to serve on a committee to help develop our next General Plan for the City of Ventura (GPAC). The General Plan guides the City’s vision, goals, policies, and actions for the next 25 years!

The GPAC will consist of 10-15 community representatives to collaborate and provide guidance throughout the General Plan Update process. The GPAC members have an important role in this process.

They will:

  • Serve as an ambassador for the community
  • Be a community advocate for the General Plan Update
  • Provide insight as to how to reach multiple populations
  • Provide insight and advice on potentially controversial issues
  • Understand sensitive community needs

Requirements for GPAC

Prospective members should be aware of the following criteria which will be used in evaluating candidates. It is critical that each person appointed to the GPAC be willing to perform all required duties for the duration of the planning process, which is anticipated to last through Spring 2023 and will include approximately 18 GPAC meetings.

GPAC members are volunteers and receive no payment for their work. Appointed or elected officials may not concurrently serve on GPAC.

A GPAC member must:

  • Be a City of Ventura resident.
  • Commit the time that is necessary to carry out the duties of a GPAC member. This includes time to learn about and stay abreast of General Plan issues, to attend committee meetings, and perform committee assignments.
  • Be genuinely interested in General Plan related matters and understand the importance of a General Plan to reflect and advance the needs of the community.
  • Understand the local community, its social and cultural needs, and be willing to communicate those needs to the committee.
  • Be able to work with others to reach a common goal.
  • Be open-minded, intellectually curious, and respectful of the opinions of others.
  • Have the courage to plan creatively and direct the effective implementation of those plans.
  • Be able to withstand pressures and prejudice that would restrict or prevent equal service to all.
  • File a Form 700 Conflict of Interest

The General Plan is the embodiment of the community’s vision for the future of Ventura. It is the City’s comprehensive framework of guiding policies on land use, housing, roads, recreation, historical and natural resources, balance of adequate water supply infrastructure, public safety services, and noise, and serves as a basis for decisions that affect all aspects of our everyday lives from where we live and work to how we move about. It is implemented by decisions that direct the allocation of public resources and that shape private development.

The 2005 General Plan was adopted August 8, 2005 and evolved from the 2000 Ventura Vision strategies reflecting the planning objectives and smart growth principles of the community. The Vision strategies set the framework for the General Plan.

Amy “Yamamoto” Callahan Candidate for VUSD Trustee, Area 3

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Having been born and raised in Ventura it afforded me the opportunity to attend some of the best public schools in the state. I attended Juanamaria, Juniperro Serra, ATLAS (formerly Saticoy) elementary schools, Cabrillo middle and a proud graduate of Buena High School class of 1994. It was a time when our school district had many California Distinguished schools that our community attracted young families to Ventura.

When we started our own family, I knew we wanted our two daughters to grow up in the same special community that my sister and I did. I also knew I wanted to invest in the community that invested in me, but soon came to realize that not every student has the same great education I did, but should, and now more than ever.

As we are all feeling the challenges and uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought, our children and grandchildren are feeling it even more. Our community has experienced real challenges before, and with the Thomas Fire specifically, bringing our community together and making us stronger together. It is this strength and sense of community that inspires me to serve and why I am running for Ventura Unified School Board for Area 3.

As an educator for over 20 years, I taught social studies and civic education in California, Hawaii and Texas. As a current Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) parent, member of the VUSD Superintendent Parent Advisory Council, and VUSD K-12 alumna; I bring a vested commitment to ensure our school district provides a safe, communicative, high achieving, and innovative world-class education experience for every student we serve.

I am proudly recommended by the Ventura Unified teachers and education support professionals along with several parent, student, non-profit and business groups in the community. I provide a trusted listening ear while bringing experience and expertise on education policy, budget and funding. I am also the only registered Democrat on the ballot for this seat.

For my birthday I humbly ask for your vote and for your contribution to our community to bring forward a best in class education system that values us and our input.

Others ways to support my campaign and our community with your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors in Area 3:

Please forward this Dear Neighbor email and letter on.

Request a lawn sign to display at your home and/or business at amy4vusd3.org

Convene a Zoom meet-and-greet (20-45 minutes) to listen and learn more about your specific areas of interest to share

Endorse me!

For updates and information, join my Amy “Yamamoto” Callahan Facebook Group and tag and forward on to your network.

Contribute $25, $50 or $100 today!

To learn more about me as a candidate and what I stand for, please visit amy4vsud.org.

Mayor Matt LaVere’s 2020 State of the City

The theme of this year’s State of the City is “Focus on Recovery: Rising above a Pandemic in Ventura”. We are now 6 months into this pandemic, and all of our lives have been impacted in immeasurable ways. I hear story after story of the personal ways COVID-19 has impacted so many individuals, families and businesses in our community, and it breaks my heart – because so many of our friends and our family are struggling right now.

And I can only hope that through this despair, we find opportunities for progress and improvement. I am someone who always looks for the silver lining in difficult situations, and I believe that despite the challenges we are facing today, we can find opportunities to create a more prosperous tomorrow.

I hope many of you come to share my belief that although it has been an incredibly tough year for the City, we are well positioned for an effective recovery, and more importantly, the groundwork has been laid for future success in 2021 and beyond.

City Facilities have now been closed for close to 6 months, our commitment to serving the community and its residents hasn’t stopped. When COVID-19 hit, the City quickly transitioned operations to re-imagine City services in order to support online services for residents and businesses. The City isn’t satisfied with simply providing the same service as before, we are seeking to be better. We have aimed to improve operations, and to close service and technology gaps.

We initially struggled – the transition to digital, to moving all of our operations online was difficult and there were hiccups and delays. And I know this stressed the patience of many in our community. But we persevered. We fast tracked, we went online, we streamlined, and we accomplished all of this with a staff largely working from home. And although there were definite problems in the first months after COVID forced the City to completely change the way it did business, I believe the system we currently have in place will serve us incredibly well as we transition from recovery to future successes.

In the last 27 weeks, the City Council has had 23 council meetings, there have been 47 Boards, Commissions & Committee Meetings, and there have been numerous Administrative Hearings held by our planning department. The bottom line is that the people’s business has continued, and the City has taken extensive steps to keep important projects moving forward by adjusting our process to meet the needs of our new COVID realities.

Our crime rates are at a 20-year low thanks to the courageous and proactive work of the brave men and women who serve as our police officers. Our firefighters respond to close to 18,000 calls a year, and work around the clock to protect us. Our Public Works department continues to repair close to 50 miles of roads and sidewalks every year. Our Parks department maintains the City’s 30 parks and ensures we have access to safe and clean outdoor space. I take immense pride in the hard work of each and every City employee, and I know they are all committed to improving the quality of life here in Ventura.

It is hard to believe my 4 years on the City Council is coming to an end. For a hometown kid, it truly has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as Ventura’s Mayor. We endured so much as a City the past 4 years, from the Thomas Fire to the COVID pandemic. But we have always remained Ventura Strong, and my faith in this City and its people has never been stronger.

Tribute to Cheryl Heitmann’s many years of public service in Ventura

“I’ve been honored to have served both as Deputy Mayor and as Mayor.”

by Carol Leish

The City of Ventura and the County of Ventura have been improved with the dedicated service of Cheryl Heitmann for many years. She was involved with the Board of the Ventura County Community College District. She has also been involved on the City of Ventura City Council. This included having served as both Deputy Mayor and Mayor.

Heitmann, who has a Masters Degree in Social Work, and is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, was in private practice for 25 years. She has also worked as a probation officer, psychiatric social worker in a hospital setting, and with children in a group setting.

Besides her work as a clinical social worker, Heitmann co-owned a political consulting and fundraising group for 20 years. She also served as the executive director of the Ventura Music Festival for 7 years.

In 2002, when she heard that the Ventura County Community College District was going through challenging times, and also had no women on the board in 20 years, Heitmann realized that, ‘Getting involved on the board was something for me to consider doing since I’ve always been passionate about good pubic education. The incumbent was not running for re-election. After I got encouragement from others, along with having my own strong belief that women needed to become more involved in the political process as candidates, I decided to run.”

While serving on the Ventura City Council, Heitmann said that, ‘I’ve been honored to have served both as Deputy Mayor and as Mayor.” During her time on the City Council she has represented the city on the Economic Development Collaborative, in which she has served 4 years on the board, which included one year as the Chair. She also has served 3 years on the Gold Coast Transit District Board, in which she was the chair for her last year. She said, ‘On Council I was able to restart the Economic Development subcommittee, producing a 5-year ED strategy. I also currently serve on the school liaison committee; the homeless subcommittee; financial committee; and, the legislative committee. In addition, I currently serve on the economic development and housing committee for the National League of Cities. By serving on all of these regional and national committees, it is/has been important for the city to be able to have a seat at the table when policies are being drafted.”

“When serving as Ventura’s only third woman Mayor,” Heitmann said, “I was especially proud to have started the city’s first sister city program with Loreto, Mexico. I was also proud to have established the Ventura Council for Seniors to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our seniors which included completing a senior strategic plan. I also spearheaded the downtown Ambassador program with the support of the Downtown Ventura Partners.”

Heitmann continued by saying, “I chaired the 150th anniversary committee to plan and execute the exciting celebration of our 150 years as a city. Since, in government, many ideas and projects take several years to complete, the Veterans Home Project is especially dear to me. It will include 122 new apartments for homeless Veterans and low-income Veteran families. I brought this project forward while serving as Mayor, and it has been continuing to inch forward. Now, it is very close to putting the first shovel in the ground for the groundbreaking.”

“Serving on the city council has been an incredible experience and one that I am glad to have had. The rewards are that I have had the feeling that I have been able to contribute to bettering the quality of life in the city I love,” according to, Heitmann. “And, just as important, I’ve had the chance to meet and work with so many wonderful people, both city staff, city partners, and community members.”

Ventura would like to thank Cheryl Heitmann for her many years, since 2002, of dedicated service to the community. Ventura has become a better place from your dedicated service.