Thursday, May 31, 2007

Andy’s Mural Meiners Oaks Inspiration

Artists create the mural on the once-graffiti-laden side wall at Andy’s Liquor on El Roblar Drive and Lomita Avenue.

By Laignee Barron
Around the corner from Oak Grove School and two blocks away from Meiners Oaks Elementary is Andy’s Liquor Store, on the corner of El Roblar Drive and Lomita Avenue. It’s a busy site — locals pass by, as do kids and teens on their way to and from school. Taggers have also been frequent visitors to the site, using the blank wall as a canvas for their graffiti.
The side wall of Andy’s has been repeatedly spray-painted with profanities and gang signs, which the owners quickly painted over. Just beyond the patches of black paint, however, the words were still decipherable and the intentions obvious.
Nearly everyone sees graffiti as an increasing problem in the Ojai Valley, but few have attempted to solve it. Last weekend, however, kids from the Once Upon a Wetland preservation group tackled the problem — with art.
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Ojai Crowds Santa Maria Truck Hearing

By Linda Harmon
Concerned residents of the Ojai Valley made a substantial impact at the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission’s first hearing on the Diamond Rock mining project Wednesday. The commission agreed to address problems with the submitted Environmental Impact Report before proceeding at its next meeting on July 11.
Ventura County 1st District Supervisor Steve Bennett voiced Ojai’s major reservations about a proposed solution which adds a condition to the mine’s Conditional Use Permit, banning its trucks from Highway 33 through the Ojai Valley. The commission’s staff said the ban, a reciprocal arrangement, would remain in effect unless Ventura County sent trucks through Santa Barbara County or a multi-county agreement is reached by Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.
“This ban can be revoked at any time by a revisit to the mine’s CUP by the Planning Commission,” said Bennett who sees it as a temporary and dangerous approach. He believes it is imperative that the EIR problems be addressed now so that, if the ban is lifted and the trucks are allowed, the impact will be judged by Ojai’s existing much stricter air quality standards.
Read more

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nader Brings Craft From Pine Valley To Ojai

Michael Nader, "All My Children" star, is now teaching acting classes in adopted home town

By Sondra Murphy

His stories are of successes, setbacks and famous names. Through it all, Michael Nader has maintained a love of acting that has helped him work through life’s challenges and led him to teaching his craft to others.
Born in St. Louis and raised in Southern California, Nader was a surfer in high school, which got him in a little trouble with school administrators back then. Doing yard work for Eric Morris a couple of years later, he was given a scholarship to acting workshops and began studying the craft. His classmates included Jack Nicholson, Leslie Ann Warren and Bruce Dern.
His ability to surf landed him his first film opportunity with American International Pictures. “AIP was doing the beach party movies,” said Nader. “The director, Bill Asher, met with me but wanted to see if I could surf. I got seven movies out of that.” He was later cast in the “Gidget” series with Sally Fields and has been a working actor ever since.
Many will also remember Nader from “As the World Turns,” “Dynasty,” “All My Children,” and many television mini-series and guest appearances. While working on successful shows, Nader continued to study acting. “The more you work, the more the pitfalls,” he explained.
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Ojai Losing Its Funeral Home

Mike Brown, left, Jerry Clausen, Barbara Clausen and Chester Perry. After 71 years of service to the community as Ojai’s only funeral home, Clausen’s is closing its doors.

By Lenny Roberts
How times have changed. Being born in Ojai’s hospital is now only on an emergency basis, and few, if any of us will be buried in Nordhoff Cemetery. Although you can still die here, funeral arrangements will have to be made elsewhere because, despite the aging of Ojai, Clausen’s Funeral Home is closing its doors Thursday after 71 years of operation.
In 1935, Jerry Clausen’s parents bought the nearly one-acre parcel of land on the prime corner of Montgomery and Matilija streets where they soon opened Ojai’s funeral parlor in the front room of the two-story Victorian-style white house. In those days, a funeral a month was about all there was there. As a young boy, Jerry Clausen helped his father in the business, which also provided the town’s only ambulance service.
“The hearse was the ambulance,” Clausen said. “There were not a lot of laws in those days.”
Before 1960, all emergency and other patients went to Ventura. But as Ojai grew, so did the need for a hospital, which co-owner Barbara Clausen calls, “One of the best things to ever happen to Ojai,” and a full-time mortuary capable of servicing the Ojai community.
Even before the hospital was built, Clausen Funeral Home was constructed on the southeast corner of the property, and has since served thousands of families. About 180 arrangements are provided each year — just two short of the average of the more than 21,000 funeral homes nationwide, according to the National Funeral Director’s Association web site.
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

1940s Ojai Readies For War Effort

The regimental parades on Sundays were a
big attraction for Ojai residents.

By David Mason

On Feb. 24, 1942, the appearance of a Japanese submarine near Santa Barbara, and its shelling of the coast, emphasized the possible danger to California. As the submarine slipped into the Santa Barbara Channel and fired 20 rounds from its 5-inch guns into the Ellwood Oil Refinery at Goleta, it became evident that there was a real need for a well-trained organization to take over the responsibility for the defense of California.
The incident unnerved locals when told that it was the first attack of the war on the U.S. mainland. In the Ojai valley, blackouts became a nightly occurrence for several weeks.
Read more

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ojai Losing Two Key Managers

By Nao Braverman
With fond memories and farewell wishes the City of Ojai will be losing two valuable staff members this summer. Doug Breeze, director of Public Works for more than four years, and Carol Belser who has been directing the Recreation Department for almost 15 years, both gave their notices earlier this month and will be leaving before the end of summer.
“Both Doug and Carol have new challenges ahead,” said city manager Jere Kersnar. “They have been valuable staff members and contributed a lot to this community.”
Breeze, a Port Hueneme resident, came to the city four years ago with 20 years of experience directing maintenance for municipal water districts and public works for the city of Port Hueneme.
“He has been a very focused and effective worker who always wanted to get things done,” said the city engineer Glenn Hawks. “I’m sorry to see him go. He was great to work for and always gave me full support.”
During his four years with the city, Breeze improved local pedestrian safety by overseeing the construction of a number of crosswalks including the lighted crosswalks in front of Nordhoff High School and across Ojai Avenue at Ventura Street. Three trolley stops, a Willow Street extension connecting Fox Street and Montgomery Street, and a large asphalt overlay project including Cuyama Road and Grand Avenue were all completed under his direction.
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ojai Photographer Captures Queen's Historic Visit

By Misty Volaski
In 25 years, Ojai photographer Joe Sohm has never accepted an assignment from anyone but himself.
And he likes it that way. It frees him up to create his own assignments, all of which fall into the same basic category: democracy and the American experience.
He’s sent himself to all 50 states, to big cities and teensy towns, to high school baseball games and Mardi Gras. He covered the events of 9/11, and even photographed Bill Clinton’s successful campaign for the presidency in 1992. He’s out on the road about one-third of the year, “sleeping in RVs and Motel 6s, people’s houses,” said Sohm. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Read more and view Sohm's images

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ojai Gravel Mine EIR Disputed

By Nao Braverman
The most recent environmental impact report for the new Diamond Rock mine claims that increased traffic from gravel trucks will not significantly impact the quality of life in Ojai.
To the dismay of members of the local Committee to Stop the Trucks, the EIR, released on May 15, also states that there will be no traffic impacts if travel is not allowed during rush hour, there will be no safety impacts regarding school travel, no noise impacts, and no significant impact on air quality in Ventura County.
Michael Shapiro and Howard Smith, two active members of the local Stop the Trucks Coalition stood in front of an audience of about 160 people packed into the Chaparral Auditorium on May 15.
Holding opposite ends of two pieces of rope, they stretched them out for the audience to see. One was measured to the length of two average size, modern day gravel trucks, the other was the exact width of a tunnel along Highway 33. They were about the same.
“There is no way that two trucks going opposite directions could fit through that tunnel at once without hitting each other,” explained Smith.
Road safety is just one of the many concerns that committee members have regarding the increasing truck traffic.
They are also worried about the impact that more diesel trucks would have on the valley’s air quality, student safety, and, in turn, the local economy.
Though the project’s draft EIR identifies a significant and unavoidable impact on Ojai’s quality of life, the final EIR states that the quality of life impact will be less than significant.
Committee members disagree.
Read more

Monday, May 21, 2007

Brakes Put On Ojai Councilman Recall

by Nao Braverman
Sixth term Ojai Councilman Joe DeVito has begun to redeem himself in the eyes of several local council critics.

The group of Ojai residents who call themselves the Citizens Petition Committee announced Monday that they have stopped gathering signatures to recall the longtime councilman,

"We feel that with the council's vote on the formula business moratorium, Mr. DeVito has finally begun to represent his constituents on this important issue, " said Sean Keenan, a representative of the group.

The committee began circulating a recall petition after DeVito voted against the chain store moratorium when it was initially proposed on April 10. His deciding vote halted the heavily supported moratorium, and angered local residents who retaliated by circulating the petition. His decision to vote in favor of the moratorium on May 1 prompted proponents to suspend their recall efforts.

DeVito said that he initially voted against the moratorium because some business owners and community members had not been properly informed, not because he disagreed with the moratorium. He was pleasantly surprised to hear that the recall petition is no longer being circulated.

"The last thing this community needs is a recall," he said. "I'm glad its over and we can move on to focus on other issues."

Though Keenan has decided not to continue to circulate the recall petition, for now the committee still intends to keep a close eye on the council's future actions. Chain stores could open in the city if there is no permanent ordinance in place to stop them when the moratorium expires on June 14. Members of the Citizen's Petition Committee hope that the council will extend the temporary moratorium to prevent that from happening.

"The moratorium extension should be voted on by June 14," said Keenan. "We sincerely hope that Mr. DeVito's newfound understanding of the issue will hold."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Meixner Named Ojai Officer of the Year

By Lenny Roberts
Each year, area Kiwanis Clubs ask co-workers and supervisors at each of the 12 law-enforcement agencies within the county to select the man or woman they feel should be recognized as Officer of the Year. Ojai-based sheriff’s deputies made their collective choice clear: Bill Meixner.

Meixner was named May 11 during the Ventura Kiwanis Club’s 40th annual Law Day at the Poinsettia Pavillion. “I’m honored,” Meixner said. “We’ve got a lot of real good proactive deputies up here with a lot of experience.” Meixner added he personally voted for his mentor, Deputy Chris Loes. “It’s an honor that they would select me. I don’t feel worthy.” Ojai Police Chief Bruce Norris said Meixner, 36, started his career with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in 1999.

During his first three years, he worked as a deputy in the Sheriff’s Detention Services Division. In 2002, he was assigned to his first patrol assignment in Fillmore. In 2004, because of budget and staffing cuts in the Sheriff’s Department, Meixner was reassigned to Detention Services, where he worked the next two years at the Main Jail in Ventura. In 2006 he was reassigned to patrol at the Ojai station, where he has patrolled the streets of the Ojai Valley for the past 15 months.

“Meixner has earned a reputation as a hard worker withan uncommon ability to find and arrest those who commit crimes,” Norris said. “In the short time he has been at the Ojai station, he has surpassed most of his peers in overall law enforcement activity and arrests. With a quiet, composed and compassionate style, Meixner has made hundreds of police contacts without a complaint from the public. He is a man of strong character and integrity, and he serves the community well.”

Norris said a typical example of Meixner’s work came recently when he stopped a local resident he suspected of committing multiple thefts. During that traffic stop, Meixner found stolen purses, credit cards, wallets and tools, along with a variety of drugs and narcotics. A subsequent search warrant of the suspect’s home revealed additional stolen property from residents he had victimized in the area. Police estimate that this single arrest reduced thefts and burglaries in the Ojai Valley by 50 percent, or more.

“This type of police work has been repeated many times since Meixner was assigned to the Ojai station,” Norris said, adding “residents of the Ojai Valley can rest easier knowing he is watching out for them.”

Meixner is married to his wife, Cathy, and they have four sons. He is a member of the Sheriff’s S.W.A.T. team, and he has bachelor’s of science degree in business administration.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ojai Subway Gone? Not So Fast

by Nao Braverman
Despite opposition from vocal residents, and a temporary city moratorium on chain stores, owner The owner of the building at 323 E. Matilija Street has decided not to terminate his lease with Subway.
Franchise owner Dave DiTomaso confirmed that he and building owner Ernie Salomon had changed their minds and intend to open the well-known sandwich shop on Matilija Street after all.
"We were talking about terminating the lease, but we have finally decided to proceed with our plans," said Salomon.
The temporary moratorium on formula retail and restaurant establishments was unanimously approved by the City Council on May 1 and prohibits the issuance of any building permits to chains such as Subway for 45 days following the May 1 meeting, and possibly longer if the moratorium is extended.
Read more
Read Salomon's letter to Mayor Smith

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

S. B. Planners Recommend Ojai Truck Ban

By Daryl Kelley
In a potential break through in efforts to limit local truck traffic, Santa Barbara County planners are recommending a ban on gravel trucks from Diamond Rock mine down state Highway 33 through the Ojai Valley, officials confirmed Wednesday.
But that ban – not yet approved by the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors in Santa Barbara – would remain in effect only if Ventura County officials route no more gravel trucks from here through Santa Barbara County.
This potential quid-pro-quo arrangement could be the beginning of a regional solution to the increasing problem of gravel truck traffic on busy two-lane roads not meant for such heavy use, said Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, whose district includes the Ojai Valley.
“This could set a precedent,” Bennett said. “It’s a very significant development, and it’s the result of the fact that hundreds of Ojai Valley citizens have gotten organized to oppose these trucks.”
Read more

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

PUC Says 24 Percent Water Hike Enough

Golden State had requested 44 percent,
but critics still believe increase excessive

By Daryl Kelley
The state office charged with protecting the public’s interest in utility cases has recommended a 24 percent increase in Ojai’s water rate over the next three years — a sharp reduction from the amount requested by a private water company, but a hike critics still describe as excessive.
Golden State Water Company, which provides water for nearly 2,900 customers in the city of Ojai and vicinity, has asked the state Public Utilities Commission for an increase of about 44 percent by 2010, although its rates are already much higher than other local water agencies.
In a lengthy analysis released late Monday, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates of the PUC found that Golden State’s requested increase was nearly double what should be approved.
The water company has overstated its anticipated operations, maintenance and administrative costs and its immediate need to improve pipelines and wells is less than the company maintains, the report said.
But the Ratepayer Advocates office said a hike averaging 8 percent a year on Golden State’s base rate in Ojai is justified. That compares with the company’s increase of 3.99 percent in 2005 and 4.12 percent in 2006. If its new request were granted, Golden State would have received rate increases of 116 percent over the last two decades.
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Coalition Urges Green Ojai

By Sondra Murphy

Environmentalist Hunter Lovins, right, addresses the Ojai Valley Green Coalition May 12.

With the goal of bringing the community together for a dialog about making Ojai a more environmentally friendly community, the Ojai Valley Green Coalition held a summit on Saturday at Matilija Junior High School. Ken Wright and Tim Baird founded the coalition. After individually viewing “An Inconvenient Truth,” each man felt compelled into action.
As superintendent of Ojai Unified School District, Baird began exploring options that would help the district become carbon neutral and save resources. As he and Wright talked, both felt that Ojai’s community sensibility put it in a perfect position to become a more green community and began having conversations with community leaders to join forces.
“We are a very new group. We have only been in existence for six months. We are not the environmental experts in the valley. We are simply trying to get the conversation going,” said Baird on Saturday after introducing some of the community leaders who were present. “We start from a basic premise. We understand that we all waste resources. We all pollute. We know we can do better. We know we can do more.”
Read more

Friday, May 11, 2007

Citizens Voice Water Complaints To State

By Sondra Murphy
High rates, poor service, deferred maintenance, perpetually failing pipes and brown water. These were the issues that Golden State Water Company customers brought to Thursday’s California Public Utilities Commission public participation hearing. The hearing was part of the long process surrounding GSWC’s rate increase application No. 07-01-013 in which the water company requests a nearly 44 percent rate hike in 2008.

About 100 people attended the hearing, with a quarter of those opting to comment, often to audience applause. CPUC inspector Victor Ryerson led the hearing, filling in for Administrative Law Judge Regina De Angeles, who is presiding over the process in northern California but was unable to attend.

“This hearing is providing a direct pipeline between Ojai and the CPUC,” Ryerson said. A transcript was taken for distribution to the departments of the commission that would be determining the outcome of the application.
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Rags to Rico

By Daryl Kelley
He never knew his dad, and his mom left him cold when he was 5 years old.
So he lived on the streets with urchins for the next 10 years in Guatemala City, the teeming capital of one of North America’s poorest nations.
Then those urchins began to die one by one in gang confrontations.
That was Melvin Rico’s world, as odd as it may seem, knowing him today as a straight-A student, accomplished athlete and founder of a Nordhoff High School club that shows young Latinos how to get into college.
“I had no choice but to leave,” said Melvin recently, his soft voice rising just a bit for emphasis. “If I’d stayed I would have died like my friends. What would you do in my situation? Would you leave your country for opportunity, or would you stay and die?”
No one sees that desperate side of Melvin these days at Nordhoff, where the penniless immigrant arrived four years ago, fresh from a six-month journey by foot, bus and guile across Mexico. He had just one year of formal education back then, because it cost to continue. So he taught himself to read and write. But he spoke no English. And once here, he had no permanent place to live.
Now, after four arduous years, as Melvin awaits graduation, students and teachers see a youth transformed, a confident 19-year-old who works 45 hours a week at three jobs, aces even Advanced Placement classes for college credit and finds time to care for his 5-year-old sister.
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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Subway Owner Abandons Ojai Plan

By Nao Braverman
Dave DiTomaso, owner of the Subway sandwich store in Mira Monte confirmed that he decided not to lease the Matilija Avenue space formerly occupied by Howie's yesterday afternoon. "The bottom line is that I felt bad for the landlord," said DiTamoso. His lease with the building owner, Ernie Salomon, allowed DiTomaso to refrain from paying rent until he acquired the necessary building permits. "I could fight the battle as long as I wanted but he would lose rental income so we mutually agreed to call it off," he said. The temporary moratorium on formula retail and restaurant establishments was approved by the City Council on May 1. It prohibits the issuance of any building permits for chains such as a Subway for 45 days following the May 1 meeting and possibly longer, if the moratorium is extended. "It looks like the rules of the game have changed," he said. "I'm fine with it, I have a number of other shops. Ernie will try to get someone else and I wish him the best of luck," said DiTomaso.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Bicyclist Critical After Collision

By Daryl Kelley
Local public official Richard Handley was involved in a traffic accident early Tuesday morning, when the vehicle he was driving struck and severely injured a 27-year-old bicycle rider on state Highway 33 north of Ojai.
After the 4:30 a.m. accident, Steve Prager, 27, was taken to Ojai Valley Community Hospital for emergency treatment for major head injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. A hospital spokesman said Prager was in stable condition late Tuesday morning, “but does have critical injuries.”
The CHP reported that Handley, 55, a director of the Casitas Municipal Water District and preserve manager at the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, “was entering a curve when he saw the rear red light on the back of Prager’s bicycle in the northbound lane. Handley struck Prager as he tried to pass him.”
In an interview, Handley said “I did the best I could” to avoid Prager.
Handley said that a few seconds after spotting Prager’s taillight, “as I tried to get around him, the guy made a sharp left turn right in front of me. I was about 20 feet away. He hit on the left side of my vehicle and broke the windshield right in front of me.”
Handley said he routinely drives during the pre-dawn to Matilija Canyon or Wheeler Hot Springs so he can start his day with a walk in the woods. But Tuesday, just after passing Bodee’s restaurant, he saw the bicycle rider and moved left so there would be plenty of room to pass.
Handley said he was traveling about 45 mph when Prager swerved and Handley’s 1992 GMC minivan struck the man. Handley said he flagged down a pickup, whose driver called 911.
Prager suffered a gash in the back of his head, but was conscious when firefighters arrived from the Meiners Oaks station a few minutes later. The man was taken by ambulance to the Ojai hospital, where Handley said he had twice checked on his condition by mid-morning.
“I was just there,” Handley said, “and he was conscious.”
Four CHP cruisers responded, blocking traffic on Highway 33 for about 40 minutes.
Dr. Gordon Clawson, an Ojai emergency room physician, said such accidents are fairly common.
“You’d be surprised at how often this happens — at least once or twice a year.”

Friday, May 4, 2007

Taking on Water or Going with the F.L.O.W?

By Sondra Murphy
About 50 community members interested in forming a public water company attended an Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water (F.L.O.W.) meeting Thursday night. Fed up with paying the highest water rates in the valley and their water company’s current attempt at increasing rates again, residents thirsting for relief came to listen and learn.
In response to Golden State Water Company’s application to the California Public Utilities Commission for a rate increase of about 44 percent, organizer Kathy Couturie began researching other options and found Food and Water Watch online. Based out of Washington D.C., FWW works with grassroots organizations around the world to stop corporate control of food and water. It also lobbies to increase funding for upgrading water systems and keeping federal funds for public utilities out of the pockets of private utility providers.
Golden State notified customers of its rate increase application to CPUC six weeks after applying. “I was outraged,” said Couturie, who organized Ojai F.L.O.W. to explore the possibility of deprivatizing the water system, which services most of Ojai and some of the unincorporated areas.
Food and Water Watch representative Adam Scow was at the F.L.O.W. meeting to talk about the process involved with turning a private utility into a public one. “It has become a hot topic in the last 10 years as water becomes an increasingly scarce commodity,” said Scow. There is a lot involved and can take years of cooperative efforts to accomplish.
Scow addressed the PUC process with rate increase applications. He said that utility companies ask for one rate, but CPUC usually agrees to 50 percent of the requested increase. “The company then says, ‘see, we’re a regulated company and got a 50 percent decrease in our rate increase.’” In relating this information, Scow confirmed a suspicion raised by angry customers at Golden State’s first town hall meeting in March.
Read more

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Lawsuit Filed Against Los Padres Oil Drilling

By Nao Braverman
On April 23 three conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for their plans to expand oil drilling in the Los Padres National Forest.
The Los Padres Forest Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife claim that the administration’s decision violates the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act and the 1976 National Forest Management Act, as increased drilling would harm the endangered California condor and other wildlife and plants.
“The expansion of oil drilling in our local wild lands is fundamentally incompatible with forest recreation, clean air, and the protection of wild life,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres Forest Watch. “Unfortunately, this administration has ignored the concerns of our community. By filing this lawsuit we’re drawing the line and saying enough is enough.”
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Ojai Aging, Shrinking, Losing Population

By Daryl Kelley
A slow-growth city for decades, Ojai became a no-growth community last year, actually losing 16 residents, according to a new state report.
It was the first time in the recent history of this aging, affluent city that it has failed to grow, emphasizing a trend that has been developing for two decades: Each year, Ojai becomes older and has fewer children.
Ojai was already Ventura County's oldest community, with about 20 percent of residents over 65, according to the 2000 federal census. And the new population figures suggest more of the same.
Whether that's good or bad is a matter of perspective, said city manager Jere Kersnar.
“What this means is that growth is flat,” he said. “These are estimates and whether they actually show a loss of people is debatable. But it's a good indication.”
The state estimates are based on numerous sets of data, including driver's licenses, school enrollments, Medi-Cal recipients, utility hookups, immigration and migration rates, and births and deaths. And, generally, its estimates have jibed with census counts each decade.
Kersnar said he's not surprised at the lack of growth, because it reflects city policy.
“It's to be expected,” he said, “because for several years we have had a growth-management ordinance in place. We have not been adding very many residential units.”
Read more

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Council Adopts Chain Store Moratorium

By Nao Braverman
A temporary moratorium against formula retail stores was finally adopted by the City Council at Tuesday night's special meeting but not without some mudslinging from both sides of the podium.
Councilwoman Sue Horgan opened the discussion with a comment in defense of Councilman Joe DeVito, for whom a recall petition is currently being circulated. She stated that the petition would do nothing more than "tear apart the social fabric of our community."
She characterized the recall as "mean-spirited and unwarranted" and asked that the proponents withdraw the petition and turn their efforts, instead, toward enhancing and improving the community.
Several residents criticized the tone of Horgan's comment and defended the recall petition.
"It's not about being mean-spirited, it's not about sour grapes" said former council candidate Leonard Klaif. "It's about saving Ojai … Two citizens have taken their own time to write initiatives regarding chain stores, what have you done?"
Read more

Casitas Directors Narrow GM Search

By Daryl Kelley
Winnowing an unusually large field of 54 candidates, Casitas Municipal Water District directors chose a handful of finalists for the agency's top administrative post on Monday after the sometimes divided board agreed on who to get to know better.
“It was a great meeting because there was a lot of unanimity,” board President Russ Baggerly said. “There was an extraordinary number of candidates, and the qualifications of the candidates were extraordinary.”
The résumés of the 26 most qualified candidates were summarized for the board Monday, recruiters said. A final selection is expected by early June, they said.
Baggerly said the field was cut to fewer than 10, but would not say how many applicants remain in contention because discussions were in a closed personnel session.
Among the finalists are veteran water district administrators from around the state, he said, but also experienced managers from the local area.
Read more

Fulton Street Extension Answer to Traffic Problems?

By Nao Braverman
The line of cars waiting to turn off Bryant Street onto Ojai Avenue at rush hour is getting longer as new developments spring up in the Bryant Street industrial area.
Commuters are frustrated and Bryant Street business owners worry that the increasing traffic has degraded the already-questionable safety of the intersection.
A partial solution is in the works, though some wonder whether it is the most sensible step to alleviating traffic snarls. At tonight’s Planning Commission meeting, commissioners will consider the Fulton Street extension project.
The proposed extension will connect South Fulton Street with Bryant Circle and allow commuters to access Bryant Street by turning onto Fulton.
The extension is just one of several traffic improvements that are to be implemented as Bryant Street developments arise. They include adding a right turn lane, continuing the Fulton Street extension to connect it to Fox Street and Willow Street, and possibly adding a roundabout in the future.
Because each project is partially funded by traffic mitigation fees charged to developers of the Bryant Street area when they apply for building permits, the traffic improvements will occur in conjunction with development proposals. If the building doesn’t happen, neither will the traffic improvements, explained city planner Katrina Schmidt.
For now the only traffic improvement being proposed is the extension of South Fulton Street to connect it to Bryant Circle.
Read more