Category Archives: Featured News

A surf inspired gala celebration supporting foster youth and families

Guests enjoyed fine food, entertainment and inspiring speeches. Photos by Yana Khiyod

Kids & Families Together hosted their 4th Annual November Fundraising Event Fostering the Next Wave 2022, held on Saturday, November 5th, at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach, was a surf inspired fundraising celebration supporting Ventura County foster youth and families. The event raised funds for Kids & Families Together (K&FT) and More Than Conquerors Surf (MTC Surf).

More than 150 guests joined us for this fun and successful event! Guests enjoyed surf inspired music and films during Happy Hour, along with a silent auction filled with a wide variety of items up for bid. The evening’s program included inspiring testimonial speakers and messages from two Ventura County political leaders and a local professional surfer!

Speakers for the event included: an opening and welcome from Ventura County Supervisor Matt LaVere; Sharon Watts Woolley, K&FT’s Board Chair; David & Faith Friedlander, K&FT’s Co-Founders; and Elle Miller, Founder of MTC Surf. Kids & Families Together presented the 4th Annual Founders’ Award to CA State Assemblymember Steve Bennett for his continued support of programs benefitting Ventura County foster youth.

Testimonial speakers included: Dr. Barbara Morris Jensen, adoptive parent supported by K&FT; Gwendolyn Herrera, Assistant Vice President/Branch Manager Union Bank and kinship caregiver supported by K&FT;

Lea Martinez, Ventura County foster/resource parent supported by K&FT and an “MTC Surf family” participating in their monthly surf events; and John Villela, Board Member of MTC Surf.

Featured guest speaker was professional surfer, long board champion and Ventura local, Mary Osborne. We want to thank Mary for stepping in at the last minute to join us. The event closed with a fantastic hula performance by Hula Anyone from Santa Barbara. https://www.hulaanyone.com/ Our event emcee was, Matthew Graczyk. Our event DJ was, Logan Graczyk. https://djmajestic.com/

We gratefully acknowledge our event sponsors! Sponsorship levels were surf themed, recognizing the top big wave surf spots in California and our local favorites here along the Ventura County coast!

Top Level “Maverick Sponsor” at $5,000 was Union Bank. “Rincon, Queen of the Coast Sponsors” at $2,500 were, Assured Partners and Aqua-Flo Supply. “C-Street Sponsors” at $1,000 included, Mission Produce, Gold Coast Health Plan, The Partnership for Safe Families & Communities of Ventura County, Pacific Western Bank, Liz Donnelly Group Re/MAX, Gold Coast Health Plan, Ventura Townehouse, Community Memorial Health System, Sharon Watts Woolley, John Woolley, Marianne Bloom and the Kearney Family Fund. “Mondos Sponsors” at $500 were, Rick & Sheri Ashleman, Dorn & Dr. Kathleen Van Antwerp, the Mullett Family, Robert & Jean Bonar, Lu Setnicka, Kyle & Crystal Cummings, Controlled Elements Heating & A/C, and the Ventura Breeze.

Founded in January 2000, Kids & Families Together serves foster, adoptive, kinship, and birth families throughout Ventura County. For over two decades K&FT has become the leader in providing critical services and support to children who have experienced trauma, abuse, neglect, loss, and multiple placements. K&FT is unique in that we provide counseling services, education, support and strategies to connect caregivers and parents to the children in their care. We wrap our arms around the entire family to help them raise healthy, nurtured children that thrive. To learn more visit – https://www.kidsandfamilies.org/

More Than Conquerors Surf, founded in 2020, serves foster youth in Ventura County by providing them with the opportunity to experience freedom, joy, and confidence through the gift of surfing. MTC Surf’s mission is to provide foster youth with the ultimate surf experience in a safe and fun environment while encouraging personal growth, community, and faith. MTC Surf desires that every child and teen that surfs with them would know that they are fully loved and capable of conquering any current and future challenges they may face. To learn more visit – https://www.mtcsurf.org/

We thank everyone that came out to support this event! Thank You!!!

Missed the event? You can still support by texting the word “Fostering” to 91999 to donate.

A video recap of the event can be viewed on Kids & Families Together’s YouTube Channel … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvTYSC241Kc

City announces new acting Community Development Director

Ms. Zayer has demonstrated a broad range of industry knowledge.

The City of Ventura announced that Neda Zayer has been selected to serve as the acting Community Development Director, effective November 15, 2022. Zayer will succeed Peter Gilli, who came to Ventura in June 2019. Neda Zayer has served as the City’s Assistant Community Development Director since September 2019.

“Mr. Gilli has led the department through unprecedented challenges, transitioning permits online in response to the pandemic, advancing recommendations to improve the development review process, and tackling state-issued mandates like the housing element and land use requirements,” said City Manager Alex D. McIntyre. “Peter brought many valuable initiatives forward in his time with us, and wish him all the best in his next endeavor.”

In the last three years, the Community Development Department has contributed to many important City Council goals. This includes drafting the 2021-2029 Housing Element, adopting an updated Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance, creating an expanded Permit Services Division and the Housing Services Division, supporting the City’s commercial cannabis applications, improving the historic preservation process, and launching the General Plan Update process.

The Community Development Department is responsible for planning and zoning, building and safety, code enforcement, housing, and redevelopment for the City of Ventura. It ensures that new construction and additions to existing structures meet the policies and guidelines established for public safety, zoning, and development. The department also works closely with various City commissions and committees that help guide and advise the City Council regarding development in Ventura. Community Development has 45 full-time employees and an annual operating budget of over $15.4 million.

“Ms. Zayer has been with the City for three years and demonstrated a broad range of industry knowledge, professional experience, and an inclusive approach that will complement the right blend of skills needed for the next chapter of our Community Development Department,” said McIntyre. “Neda’s leadership style in supporting the organization as well as our residents, businesses, and community partners is a tremendous asset for the City during this transition time.”

City approves applicants for commercial cannabis business permits 

Cannabis stores are clean professionally designed retail businesses.

The Ventura City Manager Alex D. McIntyre selected the finalists for the City’s first round of commercial cannabis permits. The three retail businesses that have been conditionally awarded permits are Responsible and Compliant Retail Ventura, located at 1890 East Main Street; TAT Ventura, located at 2835 E Main Street; and ZASA, located at 4591 Market Street. The only industrial applicant in the process has been awarded to Ventura’s Finest, located at 3037 Golf Course Drive.

“The City embarked on an extensive evaluation process that included feedback from an outside consulting group, staff, and community members. All applications were carefully reviewed to allow for responsible commercial business operations in our community,” said City Manager Alex D. McIntyre. “This is an extremely regulated area. These businesses were selected because they provided thorough neighborhood compatibility, security, and safety plans. They also demonstrated a strong desire to be responsible partners that would invest in community groups and local organizations.”

Once operating, all cannabis businesses are subject to regular inspections, audits, and monitoring. City staff, the Ventura Police Department, and State regulators will collaborate to safeguard the community and ensure all local and state requirements are met. All cannabis retailers must check IDs and ensure customers are 21 years of age or older (18 or over if a medical patient). Cannabis businesses must be at least 600 feet from an elementary, middle, or high school. Permits are renewed annually and can be revoked if a business does not conform to the terms of its permit or comply with the City’s ordinance.

In November 2020, voters approved a ballot measure for the taxation of cannabis in the City of Ventura. City Council approved an ordinance on February 24, 2021, and authorized the City Manager to initially grant up to five retail storefront or non-storefront cannabis permits and 10 industrial permits.

The City’s rigorous, merit-based application process opened in August 2021 with 25 retail and one distribution applications. In April 2022, nine finalists were selected by City staff and an outside consulting group using combined criteria of business ownership, neighborhood compatibility, community benefits, investment plans, and proposed locations, among other criteria. The finalists participated in a public meeting in July 2022, where community members shared input on applicants and the proposed locations.

Three of the five retail cannabis permits were included in the City’s first round of applications. The other two retail permits will open after the California Coastal Commission decides if cannabis businesses will also be permitted to operate in the City’s Coastal Zone. The final two retail permits will be considered Citywide and not limited to the Coastal Zone.

Cannabis businesses are expected to generate between $600,000 to $700,000 in revenue to fund City services in the first full year of operation by June 30, 2024.

For more information on the City’s cannabis regulations or the application process, visit www.CityofVentura.ca.gov/Cannabis.

Ventura’s Golden Age of Surfing: 1960-2022

Bill Hubina has long been a fixture in the Ventura surf community. Photo by Cecilia Ortiz @thepixelchick

by Amy Brown

In the 1960s, surfing was still in its relative infancy along the California coast. The ‘Sport of Kings’ started in ancient Polynesia, and had a surge of U.S. mainstream popularity in the Post-Vietnam war, as it gravitated from Waikiki to Malibu. The next few years were referred to as the Golden Age of surfing, as surfing gained momentum, media visibility and exponentially evolved. Meanwhile, Ventura was blossoming with its peeling point, reef and beach breaks and a small but seriously stoked cadre of enthusiasts was putting the sport and the city on the map.

One of them was Bill “Blinky” Hubina, now owner of Ventura Surf Shop, who was recently inducted into the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame. He moved to Ventura in 1961 to attend Ventura College, but his academic fervor quickly gave way to following his real passion on the waves. “It was the very beginning back then, there were probably only ten major surf shops on the whole California coast at that time, “ he said. “With the boom of the Golden Age, Ventura soon had a major surfboard business on Callens Road, Ventura International Plastics, that made mass production surfboards sold all across the country.”

Hubina and his friends didn’t have wetsuits in the 1960s, and while there were not yet a lot of surfers, when they came they were welcomed. “Mile for mile, we have more surf here than any other place on the coast,” said Hubina. Around that time he created what he calls the first short board in Ventura—by accident. “I was broke, and wanted a new board but didn’t have enough money. I was doing repairs and had a blank that I’d sawed the nose off to repair and then sawed the tail off to put on another board. I made a shorter longboard that was 7’11 that I took to C Street and was amazed at how it surfed; all my friends wanted to ride it. That started my career of making short boards.”

Bobby Biggerstaff working in his shaping shed at home.

For many, surfing is legacy passed down in the family, like Bobby Biggerstaff, who grew up surfing in Hueneme with his dad, who learned from his father. Biggerstaff is now a shaper for Fletcher Chouinard, a surf division of Patagonia, but started making boards in the garage with his father. “It started because of my dad, and because boards are so expensive. My dad has a DIY mentality,” said Biggerstaff. “You don’t have to have a pro’s name on a board to make you surf better.” He says his family has seen the local surfing culture change and grow over the years. “Back when my dad was young, the Strand was super local spot. You kind of had to be more respectful in the water and more aware. Now it’s a bit more of a free for all.” He suggests that if someone is just learning to surf, it’s a good idea to hire someone to show them the ropes and learn safety rules and etiquette. “Surfing is for everyone. No matter where you’re from, your skin color, how you identify, there’s a place for you in surfing. You need to know the rules of the road—it’s kind of like driving a car, if you’re out of your lane or cutting people off, you can seriously hurt someone. It’s important to learn the right way.”

Nancy Cairns says “Rides are better with friends.”

Learning the right way is a legacy that can come from strangers in the lineup and can grow to include ocean literacy and social responsibility, according to Nancy Cairns. She been surfing in Ventura for 20 years, and remains grateful for the folks that were willing to help her learn. She joined local groups that focus on surfing and environmental and social responsibility. “That’s really grown in Ventura’s culture of surfing, activism around surfing is about maintaining and preserving our environment. I’m really impressed with the younger generation that are activists, protecting our environment and wanting to engage people with disabilities and get them connected with surfing, with something that will change their lives.”

Teacher wins Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award

Superintendent Dr. Antonio Castro, Ms. Julie Blevins and Mound Principal Ms. Bobbi Powers celebrating the award.

Julie Blevins, a kindergarten teacher at Mound Elementary School in the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), has received the “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award.”. The “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” was created after Chris Prewitt, beloved VUSD Assistant Principal, who passed away in 2014 after a woman under the influence hit and killed Prewitt while he was out jogging. 

Chris was an incredible teacher, water polo coach, administrator, and friend to all lucky enough to spend time with him. Chris’ unrelenting passion for life inspired the staff and students of his schools and the community.

Each year a recipient is honored with this award. The honorees of this award show the same spirit and passion that Chris carried with him daily and have positively impacted their school sites in the same way that Chris affected his.

This year’s winner, Ms. Julie Blevins, is the epitome of an eternal optimist. She teaches kindergarten at Mound Elementary School and wears a constant smile on her face. In addition, she volunteers for School Site Council and the Parent Teacher Organization in her free time. Others describe her as always proactive and positive. She always has a kind word for those she meets. 

“Julie remained positive and a bright light through the complications of COVID-19 for Mound and its students. She is loved by students, colleagues, and parents alike. Anyone who meets her would agree that she deserves this recognition,” stated Principal Bobbi Powers. 

“I am humbled and honored by this award. Chris Prewitt was an amazing man,” stated Ms. Blevins.

Superintendent, Dr. Antonio Castro, presented Ms. Blevins with the award in front of her kindergarten class, who gave her a standing ovation.

Norm Lewis helped raise funds for the Rubicon

The event launched the organization into its 25th year.

On October 8, under a beautiful Ventura evening, A Starry Soirée fundraiser was held for the Rubicon Theatre Company at the wonderful Ventura home of Julia Campbell. It featured the wonderful singing of Emmy, Grammy, Tony and SAG Award Nominee Norm Lewis.

The event launched the organization into its 25th year. Attendees were treated to a concert of musical theatre hits sung by Lewis, Broadway’s first African-American Phantom and one of the most acclaimed artists of stage and screen.

Along with pre-show drinks and hors d’oeuvres, silent auction (including 10 spots at an exclusive luncheon with Mr. Lewis), and a post-concert talkback with the Broadway Star, audience members provided generous philanthropic support to the Rubicon as it heads into the final year of its first quarter century.

Between his songs Lewis reflected on his music career. As a youth he wanted to be a professional tennis player until his junior high school year when his choice of electives were home economics or chorus and he chose chorus which was the beginning of his most successful stage career.

Besides starring in many many Broadway hits Norm Lewis recently starred in Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed, “Da 5 Bloods,” and in the groundbreaking FX series, Pose. Additionally, Mr. Lewis can be seen starring in ABC’s newest series, Women of The Movement, and offscreen, his voice can be heard in the latest season of Apple TV’s animated series, Central Park. He was also seen as ‘Caiaphas’ in the award-winning NBC television special, “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert!,” alongside John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Alice Cooper.

Congratulations to the graduates of Project SEARCH at Cypress Place Senior Living

“You will be able to move forward with passion.”

by Carol Leish, MA

On October 7, Nicholas (Nick) Riesgo, Maria (LuLu) Martinez, and Jeremy Moore graduated from a 10-month internship at Cypress Place. They interned in the areas of dietary, laundry, and housekeeping.

By getting involved in the Project SEARCH program, Executive Director of Cypress Place, Gina Salman said, “We wanted our interns to gain independence, work as a team and interact with our residents. They have been a tremendous support to the community. Our staff and residents have enjoyed their presence. We as a community have learned patience, empathy and humility from them. There is a mutual respect between all of us.”

In her remarks congratulating the graduates, Salman said, “You will be able to move forward with passion, while not being afraid of change. We appreciate that you have been a part of our community.”

India Lakoda, Program Manager, and Ricardo Castellon, Direct Support Staff, both at Project SEARCH, guided the interns during their 10-month internship.

Lakoda said, “I am so excited to celebrate our graduating class today! One of the qualities that I love about interns participating in Project SEARCH is that the amount of growth they curate in just 10 months. Through this journey the interns have learned another quality—to be courageous.”

Of her internship, Lulu Martinez said, “Thanks for all the kindness you have all given to us, like a family. I will say, ‘See you later,’ instead of saying goodbye.”

Regarding his internship, Nick Riesgo said, “I will be missing the residents at Cypress Place. I would like to thank Ricardo for keeping things under control, and giving all of us support.”

Of his internship, Jereme Moore said, “I am thankful for having gone through this program. I’m also thankful that Ricardo made the program work out for me.”

Lakoda also mentioned that, “Your commencement today is a celebration of your commitment to growth and readiness to embark on this new journey into the workforce. My wish for all of you is to continue to hold onto the courage within you and allow it to guide you. While you are no longer an intern of Project SEARCH, you will always be part of our PathPoint family.”

805 Writers Conference returns with Book Expo

Speakers NY Times bestselling mystery author William Bernhardt, Edgar Allen Poe winner Wendelin Van Draanen, Penny Sansevieri and Desiree Duffy.

Declaring the Covid hiatus over, the 805 Writers Conference returns from hibernation on November 5 & 6 to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ventura, with in-person and virtual sessions, a Book Expo, and half-day workshops. This will be the tenth annual conference, which started in 2011.

“No more hiding behind our keyboards,” said Kathleen Kaiser, president of the Writers & Publishers Network (WPN), a national literary nonprofit based in Ojai, California, and sponsor of the conference. “By November, everyone can be boosted against Covid, a virus that is becoming the new flu. We must learn to live and thrive with Covid, and coming to a writing conference is a great way to get out and back on track.”

For book lovers, there will be a free Book Expo on both days from 10 am to 5 pm, with regional authors selling their books and various speakers available to sign their books. A author speakers will be in and out of the expo through the weekend, chatting with everyone and signing their books.

The Book Expo is free for the public to attend, making sure you can go pick up your winter TBR stack. So even if you haven’t bought a ticket to the conference—there is still a way to meet all these amazingly talented humans at the Book Expo. Register in advance for the expo and have a chance to win one of four Bags of Books worth over $100 each.

Every writer needs community, and attending writing conferences is the best place to build one by meeting other writers and learning from successful authors, agents, editors, and book marketers. Face-to-face meetings, talking during breaks, and finding like-minded people—it’s the best way to keep on track, learn new ways to market your book, finish your book, and get published.

The 805 brings together top authors from all genres to discuss their process or specific craft elements all writers need to know. In addition, book marketing experts discuss how to launch a book and understand how to sell books on Amazon. Small publishers looking for direct submissions will discuss their search for new writers and be ready to meet them at the conference. Plus, there will be literary agents, book editors, and more. And one session showcases successful indie authors from the 805 area code.

“As the conference director,” said Kaiser, “I’ve found the best experts to talk with writers of all ages. Hear how they started, the obstacles they overcame, their process, and the joy of writing, which should inspire everyone to go home and get back to work on that manuscript.”

Learn more about the conference and how to register for the Book Expo at https://805writersconference.com.

General Plan: Guiding the vision and future of Ventura for the next 30 years!

The General Plan provides the City with a comprehensive framework of guiding policies for land use, housing, roads, recreation, historical and natural resources, balance of adequate water supply infrastructure, public safety services, 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.  

In November 2020, the City launched the General Plan update process, and formed a 22-member advisory committee, known as the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC), which serves as a sounding board for the process. The GPAC is comprised of residents, business owners, educators, students, and other Ventura residents who represent a diverse cross-section of our community.   

To date, extensive outreach in English and Spanish along with a variety of tools and platforms helped to spread the word and get the community involved. Thousands of community members have shared input through workshops, surveys, and pop-up events, which have shaped where we are now – which is the Land Use Alternatives Phase.  

The Land Use Alternatives were developed based on public input from thousands of residents and discussions that has been gathered up until this point sharing feedback that ranges from needing more housing, jobs, growth and preservations in our community, and everything in between.    

The land use alternatives try to balance these differing views by providing several options to consider and as discussion points of how the City could evolve over time. The goal is to hear all the feedback on the ideas presented and try to develop an option that best represents the community’s desires. The survey, which is open through the end of October, is divided up by the different areas of the City along with an overall Citywide survey.   

Everyone’s participation is critical to the process. Please don’t miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to be involved. Visit the General Plan website at www.PlanVentura.com to take the survey, see upcoming events, or sign up for the mailing list to stay informed.  

Open spaces continue to expand in Ventura hills

In 2020, the land trust bought the property for approximately $4 million.

On September 21, the Ventura Land Trust (VLT) held an official ceremony on the Mariano Rancho Preserve. At the ceremony they received a $7.2 million check to fund purchase of the ranch property and establish an endowment for improvements, restoration and maintenance. The new Mariano Rancho preserve will go from the Ventura Botanical Gardens to Two Trees in the Ventura hills. A major addition to Ventura’s open spaces.

In 2020, the land trust bought the property for approximately $4 million with plans to preserve even more miles of public trails forever.

In July, Ventura Land Trust was awarded $7.2 million from the State of California to complete the acquisition and permanent conservation of the 1,645-acre Ventura hillsides property
that will allow the organization to pay off the loan and provide funds to open the 1,645 acres to the public. The land trust hopes to open the preserve publicly in two to three years.

The funding was spearheaded by Ventura’s own Assemblyman Steve Bennett, D-Ventura and State Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara who joined in the celebration State Sen. Monique Limón and Bennett presented the check for $7.2 million to the Ventura Land Trust.

Ventura Land Trust Executive Director Melissa Baffa spoke about the future community meetings that will take place that will seek input from the public on Mariano Rancho Preserve’s goals and public access.

Since 2003, Ventura Land Trust has conserved and stewarded open spaces in Ventura County. Ventura Land Trust protects over 3,800 acres of land in the Ventura hillsides, Ventura River, and coastal estuary. Outdoor education programs for children foster a connection to the natural world. More information about the preserve is available at venturaland trust.org.