In Brief

Looking for a landmark

While the Wagon Wheel property owners have announced their intention to start demolishing the area in September to make way for a new residential and commercial development, the Ventura County Cultural Heritage Board (VCCHB) has renewed its drive to secure landmark status for the site.

On Jan. 22, the board decided to place the issue on the agenda for their upcoming meeting on Feb. 12, when it will vote on whether to recommend that the Oxnard City Council designate the 60-year-old former roadside motel and restaurant as a historic landmark.

“Part of the reason is that the property owner [development firm Oxnard Village Investments LLC] doesn’t even seem open to discussing it,” says Gary Blum, chairman of the VCCHB. “And there’s a lack of information coming from the City of Oxnard about where it stands on the issue.”

If the council grants the Wagon Wheel landmark status, the developers would have to go through the VCCHB to get a certificate of appropriateness before obtaining a demolition permit.

While the property owners have said they plan on preserving a few of the structure’s architectural elements, Blum says the board does not feel the mitigation is significant and would like to find a way for the developer to incorporate the existing building into the new project.

Third time’s a charm?

Twice in five years voters in Santa Paula have rejected ballot measures calling for the development of Adams Canyon, an area of empty agricultural land just outside the city limits. Now, developers who want to build expensive housing there are giving it a third shot.

On Jan. 18, supporters of developing the area turned in a petition to the county calling for another special election, this time asking residents to open the 6,500-acre canyon up to 495 homes as well as a hotel, school and golf course.

The petition’s signatures are currently being verified, says Santa Paula City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, and if all goes smoothly, the initiative could be in front of the city council by their Feb. 5 meeting. Should the council decide to act immediately, the measure would then be put to voters in a special election to be held no later than 88 days after rendering their decision.

“My guess is that the new council majority is anxious to act on it right away,” Bobkiewicz says.

Santa Paula shot down the first proposal to develop Adams Canyon — which called for more than 2,000 homes — in 2002 and denied a second one asking for far less homes just last year.

Development supporters argue the project would bring more property tax revenue into the city coffers and that developing the canyon would leave the valley floor for use as agricultural land.

Although the last proposal included just as many homes as the current one, Bobkiewicz believes the thinking this time around is that it could win by being more “resident driven” rather than “developer driven,” like the previous measures.

Welcomed with open doors

The Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB ) has won a bid for the city to play host to a California Welcome Center, a facility designed to introduce visitors to what Ventura County has to offer.

The 1,800 square foot center, which will be located just off the freeway in Oxnard, will be one of 13 other facilities serving different regions across California, says Janet Sederquist, president of the bureau. It will provide people who are either looking for a place to stay in town or simply stopping by while traveling on Highway 101 with information about the county as well as offering wireless Internet service and regional merchandising, selling everything from Oxnard salsa to Strawberry Festival gifts to items from the Ventura Music Festival.

The OCVB headquarters will move from downtown Oxnard to the site of the new facility, Sederquist says.

According to Sederquist, the new center, which will represent the central coast along with Pismo Beach, is estimated to have a over 100,000 visitors annually. It is expected to have a soft opening in mid- to late February, with a grand opening to follow in March.

Seal of approval

Oxnard’s “city garage” is now a National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence-certified Blue Seal organization.

The city’s Fleet Services Division, which works to maintain the health of city vehicles, was recently awarded an ASE Blue Seal of Excellence, which recognizes the most highly qualified maintenance facilities in the county. Facilities employing at least 75 percent ASE-certified mechanics qualify for the certification. Next to Oxnard, Thousand Oaks is the only other city in the county with a Fleet Services Division bearing a Blue Seal of Excellence.

Bill Birch, Fleet Services Service Manager, says he plans on putting up banners advertising his department’s achievement.

“Our customers are other city employees, and we want to show them we’re trying to provide the best service possible,” he says.

In Brief

Out of the woods

One of the most damaging fire seasons in recent memory officially ended Jan. 15, closing a six-month run that saw the Ventura County Fire Department coping with 28 wildfires. The largest of the bunch, including the Day, Schekell, Sequoia and Sherwood fires, burned a total of 165,780 acres.

Rural, wildland areas will now be equipped only with one to two fire engines, weather conditions permitting, and a hand crew of 18 people with three bulldozers and three helicopters remain at the ready in the now downgraded level of precaution.

However, the Ventura County Fire Department encourages vigilance and suggests that combustible growth be replaced by fire-retardant plants.

More information on fire safety and prevention can be found at www.fire.countyofventura.org.

Feeding the bookworm

Call it two birds with one stone or two holidays with one book sale. Either way, a weekend book sale designed as a nod to two February holidays — and those would be President’s Day and Valentine’s Day — will offer up quality books in all categories.

The San Buenaventura Friends of the Library, or SBFOL, will be selling the used books, including hardbacks, paperbacks, fiction, non-fiction and children’s books — and including a diverse selection of works on history, religion, art, classics, nature, health, biography and special interest. Proceeds from the sale will be used to purchase new books and support reading programs at Ventura’s three public libraries. Books can also be donated for future book sales at any of the three Ventura branches.

The SBFOL is a volunteer public service organization that offers support by conducting sales and other services. For information regarding the organization, including becoming a volunteer worker or making donations, visit the Foster, Wright or Avenue library branches to retrieve informational paperwork.

The upcoming book sale is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10, and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb.11, in the Topping Room of the E.P. Foster Library, 651 E. Main St., Ventura.

Driving up the hill for organic goods

Organic food enthusiasts and health nuts in Thousand Oaks will need to adjust their habits slightly, and fight a little harder for parking, as the area farmers’ market temporarily moves location to accommodate a large renovation at The Oaks Shopping Center.

Starting Feb. 1, the market will be held at the former City Hall’s parking lot at 401-403 Hillcrest Drive, sharing space with the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the National Park Service Visitors Center and the Arts Council.

The market will return to the Oaks in the spring of 2008.

The Farmers’ Market will still take place on Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.vccfarmersmarket.com.

Double duty

The newest child development center on the block will continue to pull double duty as a resource for Moorpark College parents and as practical study for students in the child development instructional program. With hours that follow the academic calendar, the accredited facility features five childcare classrooms and a children’s library, and presently serves over 130 children aged 18 months to 5 years.

The new facilities will feature a grand opening at 3 p.m. on Jan.18. Members of the community are invited to attend and to bring a book to donate from the list at www.moorparkcollege.edu.

Scholarship alert

Ventura County high school students seeking to pursue a bachelor’s at a four-year university or state college, or students workforce-bound and wanting to attend vocational school, take note: The Ventura County Community Foundation is offering over 50 different scholarships for a variety of interests and life plans.

The VCCF is a grouping of charities with over $100 million in combined assets.

Those who want to pursue a career in nursing within Ventura County are encouraged to apply for forgivable loans from the Medical Education Fund, while students wanting to major in agriculture, arts, business, education, engineering, math, science and health-related areas are welcome to apply for assistance.

A $5,000 yearly scholarship is available to local students through the James Basile Scholarship Award, meant to support students at local community colleges and California State University, Channel Islands.

The foundation also disperses the “Destino Fund,” a specialized scholarship for Latinos — preferably the first generation of their families to attend college. In addition, new memorial funds have been added to the list of available scholarships, honoring family members, residents and the like by funding education in their memory.

Ambitious students are limited to applying for five of the scholarships, for which there are no application fees. Requirements, guidelines and a complete list of scholarships may be found at www.vccf.org/scholarships. The deadline for all scholarship applications is Feb. 16.

In Brief

No such thing as a free lunch

School districts in Ventura County are going to receive reimbursement for funds lost during the October 2003 wildfires that spread across Southern California.

When the fires forced people across the region to evacuate homes, many were taken in by local schools, which, after the governor declared a state of emergency, shut down educational operations and fed the evacuees with food normally reserved for school lunches, resulting in a total loss of about $2.7 million. Under the California Education Code, districts participating in the National School Lunch Program can be reimbursed for losses incurred during a state or federally determined disaster. Because the California Department of Education’s budget for fiscal year 2003-04 did not have capital left over to pay back the claims, funds from the 2005-06 budget were appropriated into this year’s budget to help with the reimbursement.

The Moorpark and Simi Valley unified school districts are verified to claim $19,513.49 in reimbursement, according to a spreadsheet provided by the CDE.

Tina Jung, CDE information officer, stresses that no student was denied a lunch as a result of the shortfall.

Balloons of discontent

In the spirit of public protest and civil disobedience, a Ventura community organization is taking their anger with city officials to the street, and the sky.

On Jan. 13, Bungalow Neighbors is planning what they are calling a Balloon Beamer Demonstration to manifest their opposition to proposed three- to six-story developments in the mostly two-story or less midtown area. The group is calling for participants to cover their cars with signs, park them along Main Street and Thompson Boulevard and fly three-foot wide balloons up to 60 feet in the air to demonstrate how massive buildings can block the view of the hillsides many residents cherish.

Bungalow Neighbors formed after a spate of applications for three-story-plus projects in midtown Ventura were approved by the city. While the area is zoned to allow for large structures, there are few currently above two stories in the neighborhood. In November 2006, the City Council approved the drafting of an ordinance limiting the ability of developers to receive permission for large projects. It is a temporary measure to slow development while city planners work toward permanently rezoning the region.

The group is asking volunteers to reserve a parking space for the protest. A gathering at Pete’s Breakfast House at 11 p.m. on the day of the demonstration is also planned.

Blog blog blog

Ever wondered what goes through a city manager’s head outside the usual public meetings and statements to the press?

Here’s your chance to find out.

Following in the footsteps of Santa Paula City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, his Ventura counterpart Rick Cole has established a blog to provide residents with a “high tech/high touch approach to communication.” According to a press release, the concept is to use the Internet to open up dialogue about various issues and to give the citizens of Ventura County instant, up-to-date access to news that affects them.

Since it started in late December, Cole, who has a background in journalism, has already laid out the city’s vision for 2007, which includes implementing more smart growth plans, looking for alternative means of funding public safety and pushing greener environmental practices. He has also highlighted the success of the fire department’s annual toy drive and posed the question, “How do we apportion growth in our county?” No links to funny pictures or comments about the latest episode of Lost yet, though.

To access the blog, visit venturacitymanager.blogspot.com.

California needs to pull those grades up

Children NOW, a California-based research and advocacy group focused on child welfare, released its 2006-2007 report on the state of the state’s children. The verdict? California’s GPA is roughly a low C-average.

The study took into account issues of health — including obesity and percentage of children insured — as well as education and family stability. Culling information from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau studies and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data, in addition to private institute studies, Children NOW’s statewide results are depressing: One in five children lives below the federal poverty level, which is understood to be a yearly income of roughly $16,600 for a family of three, while 5 percent of children aged 10 to 17 are underweight.

At the same time, the score card gave one of its most dismal marks to California in the “Obesity” category, with 29 percent of school-aged children either obese or overweight. The only comparable area of failing was “Family Well-Being.” Both areas received a D+.

The latter considered family finances and the percentage of children put into child welfare programs, and in a rare instance of optimism noted that the number of children in foster care decreased by 8 percent from 2003 to 2005. On this count, Ventura County had reason to boast: According to statistics from the Child Welfare Research Center at UC Berkeley, the number of children in foster care within the county decreased by 25 percent during that time. n

The Children NOW California Report Card for 2006-2007 can be found online at http://publications.childrennow.org/assets/pdf/policy/rc07/ca-rc-2007.pdf.

In Brief

Instead of baking cookies, could you …

When Kate Hoffman’s son, Gus, volunteered her artistic services for Ojai’s Martin Luther King Day celebration, Hoffman was compelled to create a painting for the auction block.

Gus, a ninth-grader at Nordhoff High School, sits on the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation Planning Committee, and sensed that his mother was more than capable of depicting the civil rights leader on canvas, resulting in a 40-by-60-inch oil, entitled “Sit Down Together.” Images of Dr. King mingle with rubber stamped words on a highly textured, boldly colored canvas.

The artist is more than qualified: Hoffman was honored by the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, and has received an award from arts company Berol USA. For the King piece, she drew inspiration from King’s speeches and photographs from the era.

”Sit Down Together” will be on display through Jan. 13 at Washington Mutual Bank, in Ojai, and is open to silent bidding. The Martin Luther King Day celebration will be held Jan. 15 at Libbey Park, in Ojai.

Nurturing the steelhead

Area wildlife specialists fretting about the endangered Southern California steelhead have reason to celebrate this new year as the state’s Department of Fish and Game cuts them a grant for $25,000, enabling better monitoring at the Robles Fish Passage Facility —established in 2004 — at the Ventura River.

This species of rainbow trout divides its time between river and ocean, using local fresh waters to spawn. In recent years, the steelhead have begun to re-establish themselves in the upper Ventura River basin. Infrared technology, coupled with underwater cameras, allows for accurate chronicling of the comings and goings of the fish ladder in Ventura River, leading to a more accurate count of the steelhead and other fish populations.

According to the Casitas Water Municipal District office, 19 fish have been observed migrating downstream so far.

A modern victory garden

A recent town-hall-style meeting that focused on global warming led to another great civic tradition: the community garden.

Or, rather, a community group focused on organic gardening. Drawing on the successes of Ganna Walska Lotusland in Montecito, where pesticide-free methods are coupled with composting, the informal gardening group revolves around events, not regular meetings, says organizer Margaret Morris, who describes the Ventura Organic Garden Club as “a loose group of ardent gardeners uniting to learn from anyone who can teach us.” The first meeting will feature Corey Welles, Lotusland’s plant health care manager, and will focus on Lotusland’s method of brewing “compost tea,” which uses extracted plant nutrients to fortify and replenish damaged plants and ward off garden pests.

Based on a free exchange of advice, workshops and tours of member gardens, the Ventura Organic Garden Club is open to all levels of avid local gardeners.

For more information about joining the Ventura Organic Club, contact Margaret Morris at 648-4323.

The great RV debate

As the divide between Santa Paula recreational vehicle owners and their neighbors widens, the City Council has decided to revisit existing laws regarding the lumbering leisure vehicles. Complaints against the RV owners paint the vehicles as eyesores; owners complain that, as tax-paying citizens, they have a right to maintain these vehicles close to home.

“My concern is, I don’t want to have laws on the books that I tell my staff not to enforce because they’re unpopular,” says City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, who notes that RV owners feel the laws are too strictly enforced, while many neighbors complain that authorities let abuses slide.

The council was scheduled to meet this week to decide whether the issue merits its own citizen committee.

Santa Paula welcomes Mr. Mayor

Two native Santa Paulans find themselves in mayoral positions thanks to their fellow council members.

Councilmember Ray Luna is reclaiming a familiar title, having been first elected as mayor in 2002 after a three-decade career with the Ventura Fire Department.

Joining him as vice mayor is electrician John Procter, a member of the Ventura County Transportation Commission in his second term with the City Council.

Have you been drinking?

The California Office of Traffic Safety this year funded the Avoid the 14 Campaign to end alcohol and drug related car accidents over the holiday season, hosting several sobriety checkpoints and DUI patrols throughout the county. When the 18-day program — one of 36 in the state — ended on midnight of New Year’s Day, Ventura could boast that no DUI-related fatalities had occurred on its roads during this campaign. This may have had something to do with the 287 DUI arrests that were made.

California Highway Patrol officers were responsible for arresting 135 suspects, while officers in Oxnard arrested 48, Ventura police arrested 23 and Ojai police arrested two.

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UPCOMING COMMUNITY EVENTS

  1. Multiple Ones: Contemporary Perspectives in Printmedia

    August 22 @ 8:00 am - October 23 @ 8:00 pm
  2. Loni Love Headlines Levity Live

    September 20 @ 7:30 pm - September 22 @ 9:00 pm
  3. Oxnard National Drive Electric Vehicle (EV) Showcase

    September 22 @ 9:30 am - 3:00 pm
  4. Chamber On The Mountain presents Tomer Gewirtzman, Pianist

    September 22 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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    September 23 @ 8:00 am - 8:45 am
  6. Dancer’s Body Barre

    September 23 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  7. Rio Mesa Sidewalk Ribbon Cutting with VCPWA

    September 26 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am
  8. The Collection at RiverPark Hosts Walk to End Alzheimer’s September 28

    September 28 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
  9. 8th Annual Port of Hueneme Banana Festival

    September 28 @ 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
  10. Santa Barbara’s Deb Richards Book Signing & Reading of Shift & Shine

    September 28 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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