Category Archives: Featured News

“Free “Learn to Row” on Saturday Aug. 29th @ 8:30am at Lake Casitas

photo by Dani Thole
Casitas Rowing is now signing up Boys and Girls 9th-12th grade for the fall High School Rowing Team and kids 6th-8th grade for the fall Middle School Team. PE credits offered for all local Ventura high schools for the team.
Practice begins with a “Free Learn to Row” on Saturday August 29th @ 8:30am at Lake Casitas and athletes will then get a Free 2-week Trial to try rowing before signing up.
Contact Coach Wendy for more information [email protected] 805.642.2288 or check out the website for videos and more information about the training schedule

VPD and Union Pacific join forces to prevent train accidents and deaths

stuff railroad-vpdThe goal of this operation was public awareness.

On July 2 the Ventura Police Department and Union Pacific Railroad held a joint  violation enforcement operation that involved a Union Pacific police officer and Ventura police officers. The Union Pacific officer was Jorge O. Villaescusa, Senior Special Agent Public Safety.

Agent Villaescusa road on the train (actually just 2 engines connected back to back) and Ventura officers were on the train, were stationed at crossings and were on bicycles riding next to the tracks monitoring autos and people for violators.

The enforcement went from the Santa Clara River to Emma Woods campground as the train made several trips between the 2 areas.

It takes from one mile to 1 ½ miles for a loaded train to stop so pedestrians or vehicles that are on the tracks will most likely be hit as was the truck several months ago in Oxnard that resulted in the death of the train engineer and others. Amtrak trains can be extremely dangerous because they are so quiet and not heard by people thinking that it is romantic to walk down train tracks.

stuff railroad-vpd insetSeveral pedestrians waking along the tracks fled when confronted (to be issued tickets for walking adjacent to the railway) by police when the train stopped to speak with them. They were chased down and booked on miscellaneous charges by the VPD. Drivers who failed to yield at safety signals were also cited.

The Breeze asked Officer  Jason Kohagen of the Ventura Police Department why this enforcement operation took place.

He told us “As far as the railroad operation goes, I started planning this operation in early May 2015.  We had two pedestrians struck and killed along the tracks in the city in a very short time frame, and this perked my desire to try and come up with a solution plus the fatal Metrolink collision in Oxnard.  I reached out to my supervisor and after getting the go ahead from him, I contacted the railroad.  Logistically this was a challenging and complex operation to coordinate between the multiple agencies, and even the different work groups within the different agencies.”

“ The goal of this operation was public awareness.  Often times motorists and pedestrians take for granted their ability to cross the tracks, not realizing that, legally, the only place to cross the tracks, is at the marked and designated crossings.  Additionally at these crossings, if the lights are flashing, and bell sounding, it is illegal and unsafe to cross the tracks.  If there are arms associated to the crossing, it is illegal to cross until the arms are completely back up, despite the train having passed.  As a result of the enforcement associated with this event, two motorists were cited for going under the crossing arms as they were descending, and six pedestrians were cited for walking along the railroad right of way.  Two of those pedestrians were arrested for outstanding warrants, and a third pedestrian was arrested for interfering with the operation of a train and assault on an officer.  During this event Operation Life Saver information was handed out to inform  pedestrians regarding grade crossing safety.”

For more photos of this operation visit

Sister city visitors from Loreto Mexico visit ArtWalk

stuff sister cityFrom Ventura Tony and Linda Kinninger, Bert Van Auker, Barbara Brown, Kate Faulkner, Nikos Valance, and Mayor Cheryl Heitmann. From Loreto Lizette Inzunza, Maricruz Arce, Maria Gamez Castro, Hugo Castro, Ivette Granados Marines and Sergio Drew.

Representatives from Ventura’s sister city Loreto in Baja California, visited Ventura to enjoy and experience ArtWalk, the city of Ventura itself, and to strengthen ties between the United States and Mexico.


Welcomed by Mayor Cheryl Heitmann at the ArtWalk reception at City Hall, the Loreto visitors were accompanied by Linda and Tony Kinninger, discussing opportunities to further strengthen cultural and economic connections between the two cities.


Ventura local Kate Faulkner and Sister City board members Barbara Brown and Caryl Cantrell offered the hospitality of their homes to the visitors, and Father Tom Elewaut offered the mission rectory as home base for two of the visitors. Committee Co-Chair Suzanne Baird welcomed them through the Ventura Visitors Bureau so that they could share information and artwork with locals during the two days of the event.


“We are pleased to have hosted the delegation,” commented Sister Cities Chair Barbara Brown. “Highlights of the trip included a visit to the Wav, a tour of the Museum of Ventura County, and a visit to the Channel Islands through the generosity of Island Packers”.

VPD looking to implement body worn cameras throughout department

stuff VPD camerasBody worn cameras has impressed the department.

By Rebecca Wicks

A pilot program that has randomly-selected Ventura Police Department officers wearing cameras on their bodies since May, 2014 has impressed the department to the point they now aim to roll the program out department-wide.

The department is only half way through the year-long program, originally part of a research project headed by Detective Josh Young, a student at the University of Cambridge but has seen enough advantages to cause department heads to look to integrate cameras permanently.  And, while the pilot program aims to measure specific outcomes including citizens’ complaints; use of force; and prosecution outcomes, Assistant Chief Brock Avery of the Ventura Police Department points to ways the cameras can work to help Ventura specifically that may be different from other police departments.

“We have a great police department and a lot of public support,” said Avery. “We don’t necessarily need body worn video for identifying misconduct; it’s another tool for success for us, for putting together better cases.”

While Avery is less concerned with recognizing officer wrong-doings, City Manager Mark Watkins sees how body worn video can helpful to the City when it or one of its officers is put in the position of defending its actions.

“In the event we are put in that position, of being accused, if you have video you have proof you are doing the right thing – it’s not what we said versus what they said,” said Watkins.

The department currently uses cameras which remain on, but do not record until an officer presses a button.  When an officer presses that button, it automatically begins saving – beginning 30 seconds before the officer pressed the button.  This means if an officer sees something which they deem important for example, someone getting rid of what may be evidence, the officer can press the button and it will capture the incident even if it happened just before pressing record.

According to Assistant Chief Avery, the department is beginning the process of pulling together a proposal to implement an ongoing body worn camera program.  In addition to equipment costs the budget is likely to include a new full-time employee to manage the video data as well as storing the data for, in some cases, multiple years.  He estimates startup costs for the program to be in the $400,000 range with ongoing year-to-year costs somewhere around $100,000.

“It will come down to funding,” said Avery who would like to see the program approved for the next fiscal year which would begin this summer.  “It will be our job to show the need, and the value of a program like this.”

According to Watkins, the budget for a camera program would most likely first appear in April, 2015 when the larger budget is proposed and outlined for the City Council.  And, while the budgeting process for the next fiscal year hasn’t begun yet, Watkins is optimistic about the City being able to fund a new program like this.

“We don’t have a complete picture yet, but looking at expenses and revenues, so far everything is tracking,” said Watkins who mentioned there may even be grant monies or other funds available to offset some of the startup costs of a program like this.

Watkins explained he hasn’t seen any data on the camera program yet, but from what he’s heard so far, believes the program has merit.

“There is so much technology available, it’s a matter of figuring out which technology to invest in – and that goes for all the departments in the city,” said Wakins.

A Taste of honey

business heritage - CopyThe store also carries a variety of fruit spreads, salsas and candies all made with honey.
Photos by Michael Gordon

by Sheli Ellsworth

Heritage Honey encourages tasting. Feel free to mosey up to the honey bar and sample some of the intoxicating flavors of locally grown natural honey. Unlike wine tasting however, honey tasters are safe to drive after sampling creamy mango, avocado, raspberry, orange, creamy cinnamon, eucalyptus, the ever-popular creamy lemon and other honey flavors. The store located at 2031 E. Thompson is owned by David Mitchell, a local, long time bee keeper and Suzanne Lamey who manages all packaging on site and handles the daily store needs.

Lamey has 8 years of experience in Honey Packing in Ventura County, “My job title grew from Quality Control Manager to Managing all the day to day operations at that facility. I felt like Ventura was the Supreme location to start a Honey Packing Facility and Retail Store. Ventura is well known for its support of local businesses and for this reason our idea to bring this unique Honey business to the City of Ventura would benefit the health of its community.”

Mitchell’s first experience with bee keeping was when his mother took a bee keeping class while he was a kid. At age 15 he went to work for a bee keeper. Now Mitchell has 1400 hives scattered around the county each one with 30,000-50,000 bees. “David Mitchell’s years of service to this industry along with countless others are the history of the Heritage in Beekeeping,” says Lamey.

For anyone interested in the health benefits of bee products more than the taste of nature’s nectar, the store also sells bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis from local hives. Bee pollens have been used for centuries to energize, soothe digestion, boost the immune system and treat allergies. Bee pollen is rich in free amino acids, vitamins, folic acid and contains more proteins than any animal source. Heritage Honey bee pollen sells for $8 for an 8 oz jar. Royal Jelly is also an excellent source of nutrients and is believed to help with memory loss, sleeplessness, immune problems and to reduce anxiety. Some have even called it nature’s Viagra, but if it doesn’t work as you’d hoped, perhaps looks at something like VigRX. Propolis, a compound bees produce to coat their hives, was used by the ancients to fight infections and embalm mummies. Today it is used for sore throats, cold sores, wound healing and healthy skin and hair.

The store also carries a variety of fruit spreads, salsas and candies all made with honey. They sell several lines of honey-enriched skin care products as well as bee pot holders, bee pillows, queen bee mother/daughter aprons, tea pots and cups for bee lovers. There are plenty of fun bee books for children and informative ones for bee enthusiasts. The store also sells bee keeping supplies as well as live bees for beginner bee keepers and offers bee keeping classes.

If you are interested in the possibilities of bee keeping, a séance flanked by beeswax candles might help you discover if your bees are in your future. Or you could just stop by the store and taste some of the delicious flavors of honey.

Water Commission prepares for their difficult job ahead

city water commissionFoto: Mayor Heitmann, City Attorney Greg Diaz and Ventura Water General Manager Shana Epstein speaking at the first water commission meeting.

The city of Ventura’s Water Commission met on  Tuesday, June 23 for their first meeting at the  Avenue Water Treatment Plant at 5895 N. Ventura Ave.

A tour of the facility, which opened in 2007 and can treat up to 10 million gallons of water per day was the first order of business at the meeting. The facility treats water that comes from wells next to the Ventura River at Foster Park.

The commissioners are:

Bryan Bondy
Grant Burton, Alternate
Ted Cook
Christopher Cooper
Gerhardt Hubner
Parker Mann, Alternate
Don Mills
Scott McCarty
Suzanne McCombs

First order of business was Cynthia M. Rodriguez, City Clerk sworing in the new commissioners that were present.

Mayor Cheryl Heitmann then thanked them for volunteering, recognized the complexity of the issues that they will be dealing with  and how important their work will be in advising and guiding the City Council.  She acknowledged it would be a lot of work and that the Council looks forward to working with them and is available to guide them and answer any of their questions.

Shana Epstein, Ventura Water Manager also thanked them for their service to Ventura and gave a brief over view of our water situation in Ventura and answered their questions.

Greg Diaz, Ventura City Attorney gave an important  Brown Act (The Ralph M. Brown Act)presentation. The Brown act states that “the people insist, on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instructions they have drafted.” It applies to legislative bodies including council commissions. It was designed by the Legislature to ensure that the deliberations as well as the actions of local public agencies are performed at meetings open to the public and free from any veil of secrecy it states how open meetings must be run.

They closed by voting on a tentative agenda for the next six months. That agenda includes a discussion on “net zero” policies at the commission’s July 28 and subsequent meetings. Their work is about to begin.

As dictated by the Brown Act a brief public comment was made by one speaker.


Ventura Harbor Village celebrates all things pirate

event pirate daysFoto: This pirate is not as scary as he looks.
Phot by Bernie Goldstein

Gather your crew and head to Ventura “Aarghbor” Village for swashbuckling fun at the 10th Annual Pirate Days Festival on Saturday & Sunday, July 18 & 19, from 11:00am – 4:00pm. Ventura Harbor Pirate Days is one of Ventura’s most popular public festivals that attracts “pirates” of all ages for buccaneering and other piratey pursuits.

This year’s theme is “X Marks the Spot: A Decade of Pirates” in celebration of the festival’s 10th year. Exciting new elements include strolling sea shanties by Sisters of the Coast, pirate bubble shows, chalk painting by artist Lysa Ashley,  exotic birds, all new professional pirate shows, dockside tours and two sails daily aboard The Schooner Bill of Rights historic Tall Ship and performances of “Peter Pan 2: Hook’s Revenge” by Fairy Tales in the Park. Back by popular demand are festival favorites- Lunch with the Pirates at The Greek Mediterranean Grill & Lounge at 11:45am (both days), the Reece Ryan Kids’ On-Land Pirate Ship, Tinker Bell (look-a-like) meet and greet, and pictures with mermaids.

Festivalgoers will meet enchanting mermaids and famous pirate re-enactors, including Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Hook.  Mateys strolling through the Pirate Marketplace can spend time at Port Royal Privateers’ historical encampment, visit unique vendor booths for face painting and henna body art or find precious wares, such as woodcrafts, pirate attire, jewelry, handcrafted glass and metal gifts and nautical-themed loot.

The fun continues throughout Ventura Harbor Village where children, tweens and adults dressed to impress can strut their stuff in the daily costume contests at 2:30pm (Kids 0-7 yrs.),  2:45pm (Tweens 8-15 yrs.), and 3:30pm (Adults 16+ yrs.) for a chance to win theme park tickets.  On Saturday at 3pm piratey pets will vie for $50 in Ventura Harbor gift certificates.

Wee ones will enjoy the Mermaid Treasure Hunt ($2) and free craft activities provided by Macaroni Kid and Village galleries.  Treasure seekers can find pirate merchandise, pirate hats, swords, gifts, eye patches, flags, and gear at seaside shops. For grog and grub, Village restaurants offer a variety of cuisine for hungry crews; including roasted turkey legs and rum drink specials. Live music and entertainment provided by Ship of Fools strolling pirate band and Pirates for Hire (daily professional pirate shows).

For pirates who seek adventure on the water, The Schooner Bill of Rights Tall Ship will be offering sails at 9:00am and 4:00pm and dockside tours from 11:00am to 3:30pm and on Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19. Sails cost $25 for children (14 years and under) and $35 for adults (15 years and up). For more information and to purchase sail tickets, visit and click on “Tickets.”

Admission, parking and shuttle buses are free. Pirate Days shuttle parking is located at Schooner Drive and Harbor Blvd. or Schooner Drive and Anchors Way Drive both Saturday and Sunday from Noon – 5pm or catch the Downtown – Harbor Trolley for a free ride to the festival.

For a list of shopping and dining specials and entertainment schedule please visit , or call  477-0470.   The 2015 Pirate Days is supported by Gold Coast Broadcasting, Cumulus Broadcasting, VC Reporter, The Ventura County Star, and the Ventura Breeze.

22nd ArtWalk Ventura the weekend of July 18-19th

art ArtWalkFoto: MB Hanrahan, Pedro Pulido and five of the many students from Vita Art Center are working on the several murals for ArtWalk

The streets of the city of Ventura’s historic Downtown and Westside Cultural District will transform into a mecca of artistic expression, and bring Cuban culture and history during the 22nd ArtWalk Ventura the weekend of July 18-19th. ArtWalk will present something unique this year by bringing “From Havana to Ventura,” which is an inspiring tale about abiding friendship, torn barriers, artistic collaboration, determination, and a series of special events and exhibits, including a collaborative public mural.

ArtWalk will welcome renowned Cuban sculptor and painter, Pedro Pulido and Cuban historian Victor Pina, a former aeronautical engineer. Both are Cuban creatives who have built a close relationship with prominent artists in Ventura resulting in their upcoming visit and participation in ArtWalk.

The “Havana to Ventura Mural Project,” is a highly anticipated artistic collaboration between local muralist MB Hanrahan and visiting artist, Pulido. The mural will reflect the styles of both community painters, and contain elements shared by both Ventura and Cuban culture. The mural is at 50 W. Main Street and visible from Main Street, under the generous sponsorship of the building owner, Josh Addison and the Addison family.

Vita Art Center will be a hosting two, weeklong mural workshops, starting June 29, through its Summer Teen Program, which will be a great opportunity for young aspiring artists to work on a large-scale public art project in Ventura County.

ArtWalk is a free, self-guided tour of more than two dozen high-end art galleries, pop-up stores and studios, as well as the return of 15 PODS® Containers transformed into mini art galleries. The PODS Containers were generously provided by PODS of Tri-Counties owner Steve Yapp. Attendees also may take advantage of the free shuttle service, which connects venues along Ventura Avenue and Main Street.

“We’re thrilled with the growth ArtWalk Ventura has experienced over the past two decades, and especially excited for the Havana to Ventura artistic collaboration,” said Mary Perez, ArtWalk Ventura organizer and owner of Vita Art Center.

Tortilla Flats memory still alive

stuff-tortilla-flats-smJim Capito, Barney Quijada, Alicia Valenzuela Tarin, Esther Hanks, Sheli Ellsworth, Carlos Chapman, Jim Martinez and Benny Arrelanez met at the Bell Arts Factory.

By Sheli Ellsworth

The Tortilla Flats district in Ventura may be relegated to the annals of history since the construction of the Highway 101 overpass, but its soul lives on in the memories of former Tortilla Flats residents. To the Tortilla Flats Committee of 8-10 people who meet every other Saturday, the area is still very much a part of their lives.

The Flats economy was dependent on the Las Palmas Chili factory. “Everyone did time peeling chilies,” according to Jim Capito who had relatives in the Flats. “They brought in gunny sacks full of chilies and dumped them on tables.  They paid 1½¢ per pound for peeling and removing the stems.” Esther Hanks says the factory was one of first commercial businesses in the area. “After school, children of the workers would drop buy the factory, peel a few chilies and go outside and play. After you handle the chilies you want to be real careful where you put your hands—especially when you go to the bathroom—it’s not the kind of pain you forget!” says Benny Arrellanes.

“Life was simpler then,” says Alicia Valenzuela Tarin. “We bathed in a metal tub in the kitchen. Everyone used the same water. We girls crossed the train tracks and went to the beach for fun.” There was the Mission Theatre on Figueroa St. where Chinatown was located. If you went on Bank Night there was a lottery that awarded money and prizes. It only cost 10-12¢ and the movie always opened with a Porky Pig, Donald Duck or Woody Woodpecker cartoon. “We saw Buck Jones, Tom Mix, and Hoot Gibson. Westerns were popular. I remember seeing The Mummy’s Hand, said Benny Quijada. Unlike modern kids, Flats’ kids were easily satisfied. “We would put coins on the tracks and wait for the Steamer Daylight to turn them into arrowheads. We would get cardboard boxes and ride them down the hill on Poli street,” the members say.

Everyone had a radio. “I remember sitting in front of a Philco Radio waiting for the electric humming to turn into the Inner Sanctum, Sky King or The Shadow,” says Jim Martinez.

“Our underwear was made out of La Piña baking flour sacks. “My mom sewed them on a treadle sewing machine in 1931,” said Alicia Valenzuela Tarin. Chase Brothers delivered milk from the Willoughby Dairy along with eggs and butter. “Helm’s Bakery delivered Wonder bread, éclairs and bear claws even though almost everyone make their own tortillas,” according to Jim Martinez.

In the 1940s Victory Gardens became popular. There were a lot of small gardens where residents grew their own corn, tomatoes and green beans.  Cactus pads called nopales were also popular. “Everyone shared what they had,” the members agreed. Many of the residents worked picking citrus, walnuts, apricots and strawberries. The local grocery store, Benny’s, was happy to charge groceries for local residents. No one went hungry.

A stretch of King’s Highway, eventually incorporated into the 101, was particularly slippery. The produce trucks would spill their contents there and the place became a hangout known as Salad Bowl Curve. In the 1930s a cattle truck turned over and cattle were wondering around everywhere. Even the liquor trucks were known to spill.

Everyone rode bicycles on the primitive asphalt and dirt roads.  Many of the bikes were assembled from spare parts found at the city dump which was a good place to treasure hunt when residents had to empty their 55-gallon trash cans full of burned garbage. The yards were small and there were no curbs or gutters. Flats’ residents were inclined to use every inch of the properties. Cookouts and outdoor parties were common. Many guests were ranch hands who came to the area on the weekends and longshoremen who were home for a few days. Musicians like George Pacheco, Tony Flores and the Rodriguez Brothers entertained.

Look for more about Tortilla Flats in upcoming Breeze issues.