The devil’s always in the details. When it comes to the 88-page administrative report on Ventura’s water rights dedication and water resource net-zero fee ordinance and resolution, it is chock-full of devilish details, which is upsetting both sides of the argument — water conservation advocates and development stakeholders.
On the one side, water conservation advocates say that higher fees do not equal actual water, so regardless of how much money is being paid to supply water for new development, it doesn’t mean there will be any extra water to spare. And with Ventura’s only water source, Lake Casitas, at 42 percent capacity as of January, we can understand their fear. Where exactly will we get more water? Is that detail buried in the 88 pages? We see that the report states there is a need to find additional resources but it’s not very reassuring about where and when that will happen. In fact, the report says:
“The City appears to have limited opportunities for developing additional water resources for new development.”
Perhaps the city should have a definitive answer about what those opportunities are and … what we concretely do not have available or will ever have available before passing this ordinance. This includes figuring out the short-term and long-term costs of the contentious issue of hooking up to the State Water Project (and what will happen if we don’t, should the drought continue). If those costs are in the 88-page report, it’s not obvious.
Regarding development stakeholders, they are frustrated that there is apparently no clear understanding of who is paying for what water proposed projects or exactly how much any one resident or developer is going to have to pay and whether developers may have to pay an unfair share of the burden for all Ventura residents to benefit from. And while water conservation advocates may have a fair concern over water supply, they fail to recognize the housing needs here, the unreasonably low rental housing vacancy rate of 1.85 percent that forces rent prices up, pushing out young families and the kind of middle-class people who are needed to keep Ventura a desirable place to live, balancing the rich and the poor populations. Further, there is statistical data that shows that responsible development doesn’t necessarily place a tremendous demand on water supplies.
On Monday, June 6, city staff is recommending that City Council accept the report and move it forward toward adoption. We feel that this ordinance is too convoluted and concerning to just move it forward closer to adoption. This sort of policy needs to be brought to the public for input over a series of public meetings so there is a clear understanding of what lies ahead for Ventura’s future. Right now, we can’t see that this ordinance will do anyone any good. We hope the City Council makes the right decision and votes for more public outreach on the topic.