In light of the Ventura City Council’s recent thumbs up on a mixed-use Thompson Boulevard housing project, a representative from the Bungalow Neighbors — a community group that vehemently opposes the development — says the fight to preserve what makes her neighborhood special has really only just begun.
“We’re just getting started,” said Camille Harris, a midtown Ventura resident who argues that the project at 1570 Thompson Blvd., called Paseo Mariposas, doesn’t reflect the scale, character, or historical heritage of the surrounding neighborhood. “We’re going to investigate all of our options on protecting historical areas in midtown from out-of-scale development.”
Harris added that those “options” could involve legal action and lobbying, and that she plans to increase the size of the Bungalow Neighbors group by creating a Web presence, orchestrating mass mailings and “doing whatever it takes to preserve the historic nature” of the neighborhood.
Former Ventura planning commissioner and Principle Architect William Growdon, whose architectural firm, Studio Dig Architects, is designing the project, said his plans for 1570 Thompson are in line with the City Council’s vision for infill in midtown.
At its closest point, the development — which includes five units of commercial space, five townhouse units, five row house units, 13 courtyard townhouses, three single-family attached units, two single-family detached units and one flat — is set back 16 feet from Thompson Boulevard, Growdon said, making it less in-your-face than residents might expect.
The project also increases in density as it moves away from Thompson Boulevard toward the beach. An undeveloped piece of land behind the project could eventually be used by residents as a recreation area — and could possibly become a city capital improvement project, Growdon said. He added that he’d like to create a pedestrian thoroughfare through the project and into the existing park on Ocean Avenue. Aiming to make the development as “green” as possible, Growdon added that rooftop gardens and solar panels could also be incorporated.
“I think the fear is not about this project, but what about the street will become,” said Growden.
Leon Bidlow, vice president of V2 Ventures, LLC, the project’s developer, took pains to assure residents that he is “committed to work in good faith with residents of the surrounding neighborhood,” and submitted a letter saying as much to the City Council.
Sandy Smith, former Ventura city councilman and current government relations director for Weston Benshoof Rochefort Rubalcava & MacCuish, LLP, the firm that represents V2 Ventures, said the developer’s willingness to refine the design of the project demonstrates a respect for the surrounding community. “It has been a civil dialogue — not about whether we grow or not, but about more aesthetic things,” Smith said. “I think it shows we’ve come a long way as a community.”
Likewise, Growdon said he believes that most residents support the project, and that there are only a handful of those in opposition.
Harris, however, contends that there are many in opposition and that the project’s ultimate thumbs up proves that the city’s approval process is broken — and that the city desperately needs to provide a framework within which city planners approve projects appropriate for the neighborhoods they’ll occupy.
“We know the scale of the project is wrong, but it flushed out the fact that we have a broken process for development,” said Harris.
City Manager Rick Cole said recently that the project is well within the realm of the street’s current zoning limits — limits that set guidelines for the scope and nature of construction — and that the city is in the process of restructuring neighborhood zoning codes in the absence of the recently eliminated Residential Growth Management Program, a long-standing program that regulated development.