When Jackie Pearce was 6 years old, her family decided to move to Ventura’s Westside, often referred to as the Avenue. It wasn’t for financial reasons, Pearce said, though her family was not rich. Her mother, who is of Mexican descent, moved her family to the area because of its cultural heritage, because she wanted her family to have more of a connection to a culturally rich area. And so now, over 30 years later, Pearce has chosen to raise her own family in the area, but not just because of the Latino heritage. She said the cultural and socioeconomic diversity, plus the general eclectic nature of the Avenue produces a very tightknit community that can overcome obstacles and accomplish great feats.
Since Pearce has lived on the Westside, the Avenue has become a sort of microcosm unto itself, from the homeless to young professionals to the affluent, from the budding artist to the third-generation farmworker to the hipster. With so much diversity and vested interest in making the Westside a great place to live, Pearce has seen the pendulum of change. Shortly after she finished her primary education, the local schools that were once diverse, in particular DeAnza Middle School, saw a shift in the student population once families had the option to choose different schools, such as Cabrillo Middle School. But in time, when DeAnza changed its curriculum to be more technology-based, a science-, technology-, engineering- and mathematics-focused education, the diversity came back, from race to socioeconomic. Also, the passion for a park, the commitment of the Westside Community Council and residents, came to fruition. The work to purchase and transform the parcel known as Kellogg Park is evidence that, with enough effort, anything is possible.
This week, VCReporter’s Art Director T. Christian Gapen explores Westside Ventura. It was a labor of love and respect for an area once disregarded for some of the rougher elements that still exist, though the community at large presents a unique balance not found elsewhere in the county. Ventura itself came to be because of the oil-rich fields of the Westside, a community built from the labor of local residents. The city blossomed from there, from weary LA residents looking for cheaper housing and respite from the chaos of a large city to local families growing and feeling grounded in the area, though somehow the Avenue for decades remained a less desirable part of town. It’s a perception problem, however, and the area is now the up-and-coming place to be in Ventura. Even half-million-dollar condos are in demand on the Avenue, whereas decades ago, that was simply not the case.
If there is anything to learn from the Avenue, it’s that diversity produces a community that is willing to work together to better itself. Without diversity, there isn’t as much to learn, explore, or be enriched by. And with that, it’s something that should stay that way. We hope that local councilmembers will continue to recognize the Westside as just as valuable as any other part of the city and residents and leaders will embrace the eclectic into the future.