In Brief

In Brief

 

Proposal fails for downtown apartments
The Ventura Planning Commission deadlocked on Wednesday, June 20, after failing to decide whether or not to include affordable housing in a planned downtown apartment complex.

The proposed project would put 255 units on three and a half acres at Junipero Street, between Santa Clara Street and Thompson Boulevard. The first motion, to approve the project with 15 percent affordable housing included, failed, with two members of the Commission — Dan Long and David Ferrin — voting in favor while two others, Laura Dunbar and Rondi Guthrie voted in favor of market-rate pricing for the housing.

Three members of the Commission abstained from voting due to conflicts of interest.

Ventura’s Downtown Inclusionary Ordinance requires that 15 percent of for-sale and for-rent projects include affordable housing, but recent California Supreme Court rulings have brought into question whether or not the requirement is legal, argued attorneys for developer John Ashkar.

Ashkar has until 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 1 to appeal the decision to City Council, but the failure to pass the project in any regard effectively adds several months to the already delayed construction.

Barbara Macri-Ortiz, an attorney representing low and moderate-income households in support of the inclusionary housing, said during open commentary that it “isn’t a just society” that would allow a certain segment of the population to live downtown while the “slaves that serve them” are forced to commute.

Dunbar said, however, that there already exists an “inordinate amount of low-income housing” downtown, before voting against the 15 percent proposal.

Film screening highlights human trafficking issue
A film documenting the plight of victims of human trafficking and the people who work to put an end to it will be screened this Saturday in Thousand Oaks in support of Forever Found and the Ventura County Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

In Plain Sight: Stories of Hope and Freedom follows six female abolitionists as they fight against sex trafficking. Through interviews with victims and law enforcement officials, the reality of human trafficking is unearthed.

Detective Cpl. David Ruggiero of the Ventura Police Department says that human trafficking in Ventura County is a big problem.

“It is a big problem, but how big of a problem is difficult to say,” said Ruggiero. “The hidden nature of the crime and just the fact that we haven’t been proactively looking for it as law enforcement in the county makes it difficult to determine.”

While Los Angeles County has created a task force to seek out perpetrators and to assist victims in transitioning into normal lives, Ventura County doesn’t currently have an equivalent. Ruggiero says that this is a problem of a lack of reporting the issue and that if the people of Ventura County wanted to put an end to it, those with the power to start a task force would do so.

“With human trafficking you don’t have customers with minor girls calling us and saying they found a victim,” said Ruggiero. “For the most part, the girls see themselves as criminals because they’re involved with prostitution, so they don’t often report it, either.”

Forever Found and the Ventura County Coalition Against Human Trafficking are made up of members of local law enforcement, members of the District Attorney’s office and social service agencies.

In Plain Sight will be screened Saturday, May 30, at 11:30 a.m. at the Muvico, 166 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, $10-15. For more information, visit www.foreverfound.org.

Earthquakes subject of dinner event
Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismological expert from the U.S. Geological Survey and Seismological Laboratory of CalTech, will discuss the consequences of earthquakes at Ventura County District 4 Supervisor Linda Parks’ quarterly dinner event on Thursday, June 4, in Westlake Village.

Jones’ work with the city of Los Angeles includes the recent approval of earthquake safety standards by the City Council for cell phone towers, which could hinder search and rescue efforts and even the long-term economy of a city if damaged during an earthquake. Jones also pointed out that many of the city’s water pipelines travel across fault lines and that keeping water flowing is critical to recovery after a quake.

Parks says that though LA and Ventura County are different in many ways, preparation for earthquakes should be a similar venture.

“Each community has their own special vulnerabilities,” said Parks. “We need to be working with our fellow jurisdictions, cities and counties, because one can get really cut off from services. You really do need to count on your neighbors.”

The dinner will be held at 7 p.m. at Petra Mediterranean Cuisine, 3731 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Westlake Village, $35. For more information and to RSVP, call 214-2510 by Friday, May 29.

Wagon Wheel Bowl set for demolition
Wagon Wheel Bowl, the last remnant of an era long gone in Oxnard, closed its doors on May 24.

The bowling alley was built in the 1950s near the now long-demolished Wagon Wheel Hotel and Restaurant and has remained open through the turbulent time leading up to an eventual redevelopment of the area, the iconic neon sign still standing.

The 63-acre site upon which the bowling center sits will soon become a 1,500-home, 50,000-square-foot commercial space, plans for which have been bouncing around since before the onset of the recession in 2008.

In Brief

In Brief

Brooks Institute changes hands
As Brooks Institute celebrates 70 years this year, it is also going through an ownership change, from Career Education Corp., which has owned it since 1999, to Green Planet.

According to the Brooks press release, Green Planet is a global logistical solutions provider for students and families seeking an international education, and “In the interest of building global citizens, Green Planet works with a network of schools around the world to facilitate exchange programs and other cross-cultural connections for students of all ages.”

It also directs readers to Green Planet’s homepage, www.gphomestay.com. Requests for interviews with Green Planet officials were not answered by deadline.

Brooks Institute President Tim Gramling, who came on board in October, said that this opportunity will help the school garner global attention.

“We want to leverage our history and look to the future,” Gramling said, “and for visual arts to find its way to national and international audiences.”

He also relayed that the school will not change its name and that students will experience little to no change as the transition wraps up by the end of the year and after its completion. As indicated by the GPHomestay.com site, it appears there will be more of a focus on bringing in international students, but Gramling said that Brooks will continue to market itself to students locally and statewide.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2013, the latest data available, enrollment was 518. Gramling wasn’t sure of the exact percentage of international students enrolled, but he said it was significant. There is no difference in tuition for in-state or out-of-state students. Though Brooks has seen a decline in enrollment over the last decade, Gramling said there was a slight uptick in the last year.

In 2013, Brooks Institute announced that it would be consolidating its Santa Barbara and Ventura campuses to Ventura, where it is now headquartered. Gramling said that all classes should be relocated fully from Santa Barbara by no later than early next year.

While the college is located just outside the Ventura city limits, Ventura City Manager Mark Watkins said that he is happy to see students living in the area and even visiting City Hall. He said that the change in ownership to a bigger company may present Brooks with better opportunities to expand.

— Michael Sullivan

Oil spill off Santa Barbara coast *UPDATED*

5/21 – After initial reports of only 21,000 gallons of oil spilling onto the Santa Barbara coast Wednesday morning, that afternoon, oil pipeline officials said that the spill has increased five fold to 105,000 gallons, but admit that since hte pipeline is below ground it will be several days before the actual number is known.

 —- 

An estimated 21,000 gallons of oil spilled onto the coast just north of Santa Barbara at Refugio State Beach on Tuesday afternoon, prompting authorities to close fishing, shellfish collecting and other water activities for the foreseeable future.

After firefighters responded to reports of a foul smell near the beach around noon on Tuesday, they found a half-mile long slick of oil near the coastline. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered that an onshore pipeline had burst, spilling oil into a nearby storm drain that flows into the ocean.

The pipeline is owned by Plains All American Pipeline, which released a statement on Tuesday afternoon regarding the spill saying that they are “making every effort to limit its environmental impact.”

By 3:15 when the pipe had been secured, the oil had stretched to over four miles wide and 50 feet deep.

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network recovery teams have been deployed to the scene; affected wildlife can be reported by calling 1-877-823-6926.

Oxnard to host 2016 travel journalist convention
The Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau has won its bid to host the North American Travel Journalists Association’s 2016 conference, an event that will bring up to 130 writers and journalists from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to Oxnard.

The conference will be held April 4-7, 2016, and will feature events, classes and seminars on the surrounding area, including the Channel Islands and greater Ventura County. This year’s conference, held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, ended with an announcement of the 2016 location.

The bureau submitted a thorough mock itinerary to the association, which included activities and allotted time for educational seminars, over a year ago and was given notification in January that it was a finalist.

While mornings of the conference will be focused on educational seminars, the afternoons and evenings will have a more local slant, as attendees will have the opportunity to get to know Oxnard and the Channel Islands through tours, cooking demonstrations and more.

“It allows us to highlight Oxnard and Ventura County as a world-class visitor destination, and to share the many different facets of our city,” said Susan Smith, president and CEO of the Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The writers will be able to experience Oxnard firsthand as they will have an opportunity to sign up for excursions that best represent the city and the surrounding communities.”

Attendees will also be provided with travel to the conference through a partnership between the Bureau and AMTRAK, which has offered free rides for all attending writers.

Lawsuit alleges Domino’s underpays delivery drivers
A lawsuit filed by a former delivery driver alleges that the Domino’s Pizza chain, operated by Hishmeh Enterprises Inc., underpays on reimbursement for mileage to drivers who use their personal vehicles for deliveries, in violation of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor laws.

The suit alleges that by failing to adequately reimburse drivers, the drivers’ net wages drop below minimum wage. Twelve of the 70 franchises named in the lawsuit operate in Ventura County, while the rest operate elsewhere in Southern California and in Arizona.

“The best-case scenario is that we prevail, get back wages for the drivers and hopefully change things going forward,” said Jack McInnes, a lawyer at Paul McInnes LLP, one of the three firms handling the suit.

McInnes says that drivers working for Domino’s receive between 20 cents and 25 cents per mile, well below industry standard. The optional IRS standard per mile in 2015 is 57 cents.

The driver who filed the lawsuit is seeking class action status, making any driver who worked for or currently works for Hishmeh in the last three years part of the case.

In Brief

In Brief

CSU Channel Islands commits to going, staying green

California State University Channel Islands President Richard Rush signed in April the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a declaration, an acknowledgement of deep concern about unprecedented climate change and a promise to take steps to reduce greenhouse gases and achieve a more stable climate.

Channel Islands is the ninth Cal State University to sign the commitment.

"As our university continues to grow, it is essential that we remain good stewards of the environment," Rush said. "Our mission as a university is to create promising futures for our graduates. We see this pledge to address climate change as part of that mission."

CSUCI has already taken steps to address certain aspects of “going green” by planting native species of plants that require less water, making use of “gray water” and adhering to sustainability practices on campus. The university was named one of 353 Green Colleges by the Princeton Review last year.

CI Chemistry Professor and climate change expert Simone Aloisio, Ph.D., says that the university could make use of biofuels for an on-campus power plant.

“If we could convert our plant to a biofuel plant, that would be a significant step,” said Aloisio in a press release. “I think it’s feasible now that biofuels are becoming competitive with traditional natural gas."

Free emergency dental treatment in Port Hueneme

California Dental Group will be holding a free emergency dental treatment event at its Oxnard location on Monday, May 18, focused on providing services for those who might not have the money to go to a dentist.

Free dental services will include fillings, emergency root canals, extractions, treatment for toothaches and cleaning of infected gums at no cost to as many people as can be seen on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m.

“We see an amazing number of people who need treatment and can’t afford it,” said Dr. Kamran Sahabi, owner of the dental group. “We come across this every day. So I decided that we needed to address this serious health issue.”

The services will be provided at 305 Port Hueneme Road, Port Hueneme. No appointments will be taken. For more information, call 488-1112.

CLU speaker to share 20-year journey to degree

When Lisandra Castro stands up to speak in front of 80 Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals students this Saturday at the California Lutheran University graduation ceremony, she’ll have completed a journey that began 20 years ago — one that started with relearning everything that made her who she was.

While attending Moorpark High School at the age of 17, Castro contracted viral encephalitis, an infection that attacked her brain, leaving her with amnesia. Over a two year period, Castro — with the assistance of then CLU Professor Carol Genrich — entered into cognitive therapy, where she regained most of her memories prior to the infection.

In 1994, Castro enrolled at Moorpark College and started a business to assist children with cognitive disabilities, a business she left a few years later to raise her two children. Over the course of five years, Castro and her husband fostered seven children, one of whom they later adopted.

In 2011, Castro re-enrolled in college under the school’s Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals program, which allows students to take night classes once a week in order to better handle a working schedule, following in the footsteps of her mentor Professor Genrich, who is now a professor emerita. Castro will receive her degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in education.

“Everyone in the Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals has had to overcome obstacles that are totally unique, none of us have taken a common path,” said Castro. “We’ve been able to form a network of support through that; and CLU, because of the student program, has been able to create this network of support to make this possible.”

Tips for National Electric Safety Month

May is National Electric Safety Month and local electric service Mr. Electric is raising awareness throughout the county with a few helpful tips on potential electric hazards in and around the house.

“National Electrical Safety Month is a great time to bring awareness to key electrical issues,” said Bobby Martinez, owner of Mr. Electric in Simi Valley. “We want residents to be aware of electrical hazards and the ways they can ensure that their homes are equipped to minimize those potential hazards.”

A few tips provided by Mr. Electric include:

•    Never insert fingers, small objects or anything other than electric plugs into electrical outlets. Install tamper-resistant receptacles if there are small children in the home.
•    Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many items plugged in at once.
•    Do not operate electric appliances near water.
•    Unplug any appliance that emits sparks or does not work properly.
•    Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, basement and outdoor areas.
 
For further information and more tips on how to make your home electric-hazard safe, visit www.mrelectric.com.

In Brief

In Brief

 

United States Treasury Department/IRS scam
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office received hundreds of calls over the last several days from area residents, reporting that they had answered calls regarding money they owed the United States Treasury Department, IRS, etc. The callers left residents phone numbers to call back, usually with U.S. area codes but which then might connect them to international phone numbers. Some residents have complied and sent money while others may be on the hook for international call expenses.

Capt. John Reilly with the Sheriff’s Office said that these types of scams usually happen all at once in a particular area and then move on to another location. He said that when it comes to payment to government agencies, go to the source; i.e., if the IRS calls, go to the IRS office to make a payment; or for an unpaid traffic ticket, go to the courthouse. Do not send money to any unverified number.

For those residents who received such calls and sent money, he said they should call the non-emergency line at their respective local police departments and that those departments will then send the reports to the FBI, since the money was more than likely sent to a foreign location.

  — Michael Sullivan

Stamp out hunger at your front door

The 23rd annual National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp out Hunger food drive kicks off on Saturday, May 9, when local postal employees will take donations for their local food banks.

Ventura County residents are asked to leave nonperishable, protein-rich foods in a bag next to their mailboxes for postal carriers to pick up while on their daily routes. The donations will then be collected from participating post offices and taken to FOOD Share’s distribution site in Oxnard.

“It’s amazing how much a single-day food drive can have a profound impact replenishing our distribution warehouse’s shelves,” explains Bonnie Weigel, president and CEO of FOOD Share. “We are so grateful to our local letter carriers who shepherd more than 100,000 pounds of food from around the county to ensure thousands of children, seniors and adults do not go hungry this month.”

More than 1 billion pounds of food have been collected nationwide since the campaign’s launch in 1991. FOOD Share has received as much as 150,000 pounds of food in support of up to 75,000 hungry individuals in years past.

Bike to Work Week rolls into Ventura County
The Ventura County Transportation Commission and the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District will host the 2015 Bike to Work Week from Monday, May 11, to Friday, May 15, featuring a chance to win one of several prizes, including a new bike, a GPS system and gift cards, to name a few.

Cyclists will also be able to stop at “pit stops” in their respective cities for free tuneups and more. Bike to Work Week is a nationally recognized, activity-promoting event that takes part within the larger National Bike Month celebrations hosted by the League of American Bicyclists.

“By combining something you do every day — like commuting to work — with a healthy and environmentally friendly activity such as biking, you can reap so many benefits, both physically and financially,” said VCTC Executive Director Darren Kettle.

For more information, “pit stop” locations and to enter for one of the grand prizes, visit www.GoVentura.org.

— Chris O’Neal

In Brief

 

United States Treasury Department/IRS scam
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office received hundreds of calls over the last several days from area residents, reporting that they had answered calls regarding money they owed the United States Treasury Department, IRS, etc. The callers left residents phone numbers to call back, usually with U.S. area codes but which then might connect them to international phone numbers. Some residents have complied and sent money while others may be on the hook for international call expenses.

Capt. John Reilly with the Sheriff’s Office said that these types of scams usually happen all at once in a particular area and then move on to another location. He said that when it comes to payment to government agencies, go to the source; i.e., if the IRS calls, go to the IRS office to make a payment; or for an unpaid traffic ticket, go to the courthouse. Do not send money to any unverified number.

For those residents who received such calls and sent money, he said they should call the non-emergency line at their respective local police departments and that those departments will then send the reports to the FBI, since the money was more than likely sent to a foreign location.

  — Michael Sullivan

Stamp out hunger at your front door

The 23rd annual National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp out Hunger food drive kicks off on Saturday, May 9, when local postal employees will take donations for their local food banks.

Ventura County residents are asked to leave nonperishable, protein-rich foods in a bag next to their mailboxes for postal carriers to pick up while on their daily routes. The donations will then be collected from participating post offices and taken to FOOD Share’s distribution site in Oxnard.

“It’s amazing how much a single-day food drive can have a profound impact replenishing our distribution warehouse’s shelves,” explains Bonnie Weigel, president and CEO of FOOD Share. “We are so grateful to our local letter carriers who shepherd more than 100,000 pounds of food from around the county to ensure thousands of children, seniors and adults do not go hungry this month.”

More than 1 billion pounds of food have been collected nationwide since the campaign’s launch in 1991. FOOD Share has received as much as 150,000 pounds of food in support of up to 75,000 hungry individuals in years past.

Bike to Work Week rolls into Ventura County
The Ventura County Transportation Commission and the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District will host the 2015 Bike to Work Week from Monday, May 11, to Friday, May 15, featuring a chance to win one of several prizes, including a new bike, a GPS system and gift cards, to name a few.

Cyclists will also be able to stop at “pit stops” in their respective cities for free tuneups and more. Bike to Work Week is a nationally recognized, activity-promoting event that takes part within the larger National Bike Month celebrations hosted by the League of American Bicyclists.

“By combining something you do every day — like commuting to work — with a healthy and environmentally friendly activity such as biking, you can reap so many benefits, both physically and financially,” said VCTC Executive Director Darren Kettle.

For more information, “pit stop” locations and to enter for one of the grand prizes, visit www.GoVentura.org.

— Chris O’Neal

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UPCOMING COMMUNITY EVENTS

  1. History Lecture Series: Accommodation and Resistance

    October 15 @ 7:00 pm - December 11 @ 8:30 pm
  2. Humanizing the Other: Art by Salomón Huerta

    November 1, 2019 @ 8:00 am - January 3, 2020 @ 8:00 pm
  3. Key Frames: A Celebration of Animation & Production Art

    November 8, 2019 @ 10:00 am - January 9, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
  4. Light Up A Life – Ventura

    December 10 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
  5. Mariachi Ensemble Concert

    December 11 @ 7:30 pm
  6. Light Up A Life – Ojai

    December 12 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
  7. Guest Artist’s Reception

    December 13 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
  8. Jazz Collective

    December 13 @ 7:30 pm
  9. Footworks Youth Ballet presents The Nutcracker on Dec. 14-15 at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center

    December 14 - December 15
  10. Humane Society of Ventura County Purrs & Paws Holiday Boutique & Marketplace

    December 14 @ 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

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