It appears that the planning decisions for Ventura’s future are being made based on a trendy planning theory called new urbanism. This rigid planning approach says to like it or leave it. That is, we are expected to believe that our choices are to allow 45-foot buildings through the historic heart of our city or to get nothing at all. “Infill” has become “upfill” and we are told we have to sprawl up rather than out. This extreme approach to development simply doesn’t work in the heart of Ventura for two reasons.
First of all, Midtown (between San Jon and Seaward) has the highest concentration of intact, potential historic districts. Buildings 45 feet high would simply not be compliant with preservation laws that protect historic resources from the adverse affects of scale and massing. The city has not even done a historic survey of this potentially historic area and is inviting lawsuits by proceeding without one.
Secondly, 45-foot high buildings will not be compliant with the General Plan or the Midtown by Design plan (which dictates that views to the hillsides and vistas to the sea shall be preserved as public resources). Buildings this high would eliminate hillside views from the heart of Ventura. Venturans might as well be driving through Kansas if they are forced to traverse the city between 45-foot tall spatial enclosures.
Hillsides have always defined Ventura’s sense of place and Venturans cherish the hills as much as the sea. The fact that 70 percent of the voters chose to preserve them and that 74.1 percent of voters in a recent election in Midtown chose to keep them in view by opposing three story buildings should give our elected representatives a clear message. As Ventura councilwoman Christy Weir said to the new urbanist planners at City Hall to, it’s time to “listen to the collective wisdom of the community.”