Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chain Ordinance Passes Planners

Council to now consider measure aimed at formula fast-food and ‘big box’ retail stores

By Nao Braverman
After two strikes, city staff finally brought forth an ordinance to protect Ojai from the proliferation of chain stores that was accepted by the Planning Commission at Wednesday night’s meeting. With the rejections of two previous ordinance drafts behind them, all seven of the Planning Commissioners agreed to recommend the new ordinance to the council, as written.
Though not quite as radical as the emergency moratorium currently in effect, which temporarily bans chains altogether, the new ordinance would put Ojai on the map as a city that rejects formula fast-food and big box chains. Similar to San Francisco’s and Sausalito’s ordinance it also requires that any incoming chain business have a public hearing, where locals would be invited to comment.
Though vocal members of the public have voiced increasingly divided opinions aboutsuch an ordinance, the newly proposed draft appeared to be an even compromise. As it amended the definition of “formula retail” to a business that maintains ten or more locations with three or more standardized characteristics, increasing the standardized characteristics from two to three, it dropped many formula services from the “formula business” category entirely, quieting the concerns of local residents who were afraid of keeping out Ojai’s much-needed services. Some services such as insurance companies and banks, they argued are almost invariably chains.
While Scott Eicher, chief executive officer of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce, and local developer Ron Polito both cautioned that creating a 10,000-square-foot cap on formula business might be a problem if existing buildings with a larger square footage such as Starr Market or Rains were to close, planning commissioners and other community members said they were confident that both chains and locals could find ways to fill those spaces.
A chain grocery store, for example, could lower its standardized features, change its sign and omit uniforms for Ojai, so that they would no longer fall into the formula retail category, said Planning Commissioner Susan Weaver.
Even if that fell through, city attorney Monte Widders confirmed that the City Council could call for a text amendment extending the 10,000square-foot cap to something larger if so needed.
Some community members thought the ordinance should be stronger but accepted staff’s recommendation nonetheless.
“I think what we have in front of us tonight is a reasonable compromise,” said a local resident and author of a recent ballot initiative regarding chain stores.
Local resident Marika Natalie added that that keeping as many corporations out of Ojai as possible has broader implications.
“We have the first generation of children whose life expectancy is shorter than their parents.” she said, referring to the ban on fast food chains. “that is because mass corporations find any way they can to make money with out any intimate connection with their customers. ... Ojai has a foothold, there is no reason to give that up.”
With a relatively brief discussion, the Planning Commission unanimously agreed to recommend the ordinance.
“This is a great opportunity for us to use our creativity and make Ojai what we want it to be so I would recommend that the city pass this,” said Planning Chair Tucker Adams.
In other planning news, commissioners continued the discussion on the Ojai Valley Community Hospital’s proposal to build a prefabricated metal building to be used for storage purposes.
Many nearby residents came forward with noise complaints and other building code violations regarding the hospital and argued that the storage facility was ugly and would reduce their property value.
Hospital representatives Mary Jo Garrett and Joe Panushka said that building a cement block wall, though it might reduce noise problems, would be too costly and might hinder their plans to expand their emergency room for which they were already behind schedule.
Planning Commissioner Troy Becker suggested that hospital representatives meet privately with nearby residents to discuss the matter before returning to the next planning meeting with a proposal.


James Hatch said...

Ojai needs a one stop convenient place like Walmart. It would cut down traffic to Ventura, and, it could go in the bowling alley. Why should we burden Mira Monte and Casitas Springs with all our traffic? Plus, Ojai needs more jobs with benefits.

Ynez Arce said...

Trader Joe's, anyone? :) Yummy, healthy, cheap, and better than hippieville Rainbow Bridge.

Anonymous said...

Trader Joe's, anyone? :) Yummy, healthy, cheap, and better than hippieville Rainbow Bridge.

You've probably never seen a hippie in your life. You've just seen a bunch of uptight yuppie posers with 6 figure incomes.

Something you'll never see under any circumstances: a Trader Joes in Ojai. Believe it. Montecito isn't going to get one, either, and Montecito is worth more per square in than Ojai will ever be.

Painted Hand Farm said...

Yeah, but there's a Trader Joe's only minutes away on Milpas. Ojai would be a good candidate, given all the current and future development. I could see people popping over from Santa Paula to avoid Ventura, especially after I experienced the Victoria gridlock on my last trip west. What a nightmare! Oh, and on that same trip, some woman butted in front of me at the Rainbow Bridge with the lame excuse that "she was a local." Well, la-ti-da, so was I and I never acted that rudely. She also parked her Lexus SUV in a handicapped spot. The clerk didn't care, the cops don't care. Ojai has really gone downhill. I think the only genuine hippie left in Ojai is Suza.

Buff Stevens said...

Ojai is nothing but a town filled with wannabe left wingers that don't see the good in a WalMart chain store and the jobs it creates for people that need to work and keeps them off of welfare. Anyone against WalMart is not a patriot and should move to China, where you will see people begging for a WalMart.

Anonymous said...

Who the hell is Butt Stevens?

Buff Stevens said...

Nice one, Anonymous. Make a pun of my name and then hide behind yours. I'm a local and I need a place to live.

Anonymous said...

You're a "local"? What does that mean; that you've lived here 2 or 3 years and now you know what's best for everyone else?

News flash: just because you want to live somewhere doesn't mean that everyone else has to bend over backwards to make it happen for you.

As far as hiding behind my name, I'm betting I'm not going to find anybody named "Buff Stevens" in the phone book, and not just because you have an unlisted number.

Buff Stevens said...

Hey, Anonymous, i don't wear my six month pin and write poetry down at the local coffee shop and chant up to the blue hills. Let's get real, this town needs jobs, and I mean real jobs, the kind a big chain like WalMart can produce: long-term, mid and upper level management, plus bene's. Whose bending over backwards, except the happy customers unloading the WalMart carts. I work for the government, and am not allowed to divulge my name, but at least I had the creativity to make one up, Anonymous. That's more creativity then all the wackjobs in your neck of the woods have combined.

Anonymous said...

I work for the government, and am not allowed to divulge my name

You need help.



Secret Agent Man said...

Okay, Anonymous, I don't even live in Ojai anymore, because it is too expensive and I live in Sacramento. But I'll tell you one thing, if they had more track homes, with small yards so no watering is needed, we could have more houses in littler spaces, plus, a one stop shop would allow more open space. FYI, WalMart is good for the economy. Supply and demand. Basic Adam Smith stuff. Comprende?

furry herbalist said...

Why does every discussion about chain stores, housing or any change degrade into a "I've been here longer than you so I have more say than you" arguments?

Seems to me that anyone who lives in a town and works to become a member of a community or invests in a community gets to call the place home.

Change happens, its what humans do. What matters is how it is managed. It needs to be a conversation with the community, a conversation based on facts.

Luckily, the Planning Commision left a little bit of leeway for formulas other than fast food to do business in Ojai. A Conditional Use Permit process has been included in their recommendations. This is a much better proposal than the ballot inititive that was floating around Ojai.

If you have questions or comments about the propposal, don't forget it still has to be acted on by the City council sometime in November. Join other good citizens and come express yourself at Council meetings!

B. Dawson

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that anyone who lives in a town and works to become a member of a community or invests in a community gets to call the place home.

Absolutely. But that person also needs to show at least a little respect for the hard work, wishes and dreams of those others who've also helped to make this town what it is.

When you've been here long enough, (and I'm surprised that you don't feel that you've been here long enough now and that you still choose to identify with the know-it-all newbies as opposed to the people who've actually helped to make this town a better place) you'll also find yourself getting a bit annoyed by the recent arrivals who treat you as if your desires and wishes meant nothing, regardless of how long you've been here and how hard you've worked to build what you've built.

When you move into your new storefront, imagine yourself being there for 10 years, and then imagine yourself suddenly having to deal with a new neighboring tenant who wants to start making rules for all of the old-time tenants to follow before he or she has even had a chance to learn your names or find out why things are the way they are. I'm guessing you'll be muttering the word "newbie" under your breath, too.

furry herbalist said...

You say that I "still choose to identify with the know-it-all newbies as opposed to the people who've actually helped to make this town a better place". If you know who I am, then you know I was against any bans on any types of business in this town. Something "newbies" got started. I hardly call this identifying with them. I identify with what is fair to a community. New arrivals often have a fresh look at how to do things, elders have the experience of time. Both have value.

Yes, I get frustrated with idealists who rent their home, have little invested in the community except their ideas of how the World should be run. Most of these folks are young. They can pick up sticks and move to greener pastures with relative ease if their experiments don't pan out. This leaves us who own businesses and homes to ride out the turmoil and put things back on track. But those are the risks of life.

"having to deal with a new neighboring tenant who wants to start making rules for all of the old-time tenants to follow".....The tenants don't make the rules, the landlord does. A good landlord listens to the tenants and gathers opinions before changing the rules. I am not opposed to changing the rules if it makes things better over all.

This was my original point. Change is always happening. Even people who claim it was better "back then" have advocated for change at some time in their lives.

Those who don't speak out, make their points publically and who don't participate in public discourse - in other words, those who remain anonymous - are mostly the ones who complain that change is being forced on them.

If you don't like petitions from new arrivals, fight them. Communicate your unhappiness to our public officials. Where were all these advocates of free business at City Council meetings where the chain store issue was debated for 6 months or more? A compromise has been proposed. Fast food has been made the sacrificial lamb, but its not a done deal. City Council doesn't have to agree with Planning's recommendation, although they frequently do.

What are you prepared to do to keep change happening according to your idea of "best for Ojai"?

B Dawson

James Hatch said...

The nice thing about fast food, that we all miss out on here in Ojai, is how quick you can eat and run. Fast food is better tasting. And when I say fast, I mean under a minute McDonald's fast. Can't anyone appreciate the pleasure of eating a meal deal while strolling the aisles of WalMart, looking for the "roll back" on prices. Talk about something Ojai could benefit from: Jobs, tax revenue, and better schools for the few children still here because it is too expensive. I grew up here and I know the solution. I am no newbie, I am an oldbie.

Mark Nash said...

Once again I am disgusted by the elitest attitudes here in Ojai. Fast Food like Mc Donalds and Taco Bell provide sustenence for the poor, and lower middle-class. Wal-Mart provides jobs, but God forbid these people have jobs unless they are cleaning your house or mowing your lawn. It makes me sick

Anonymous said...


My criticism was never intended for you, and I'm truly sorry you thought it was. I don't consider your opinion to be worth less because you're not a native or an old-timer, and it's safe for me to say that there are some natives and old-timers in Ojai with whom I'll never agree on anything.

There is and always has been a thin line dividing welcome arrivals and invading forces, and that line is composed mostly of attitude and behavior. I do take exception and always will take exception to those who blow into town believing that they have all of the answers when it's obvious to many people that they don't even have all of the questions. In my opinion they're just as full of crap as people who resist change simply because it's change.

I have no problem with the initiative process, by the way, and I think that Kenley Neufeld should have submitted his signatures, if only to keep his compact with the people who signed his petition.

furry herbalist said...

Hmmmm. Anonymous, you're critism was never meant for me? Let's recap:

"that you still choose to identify with the know-it-all newbies as opposed to the people who've actually helped to make this town a better place)".....

I believe that comment clearly states you believe my identity is directly connected with those you consider to be know-it-alls and folks who have not done anything to better ojai. That's pretty darn personal.

But I do agree with you about the petitions. Those petitions were signed by folks who wanted the voters of Ojai to decide whether or not to ban chain retail and all chain food from the entire city limits. Instead, they got a compromise. Any speculation on why those petitions were never submitted?

B Dawson

Anonymous said...


"that you still choose to identify with the know-it-all newbies as opposed to the people who've actually helped to make this town a better place)"

Yes. I wanted to know why would you take a jibe directed at a know-it-all newbie to heart, when you are obviously one of the people who have helped to make Ojai a better place.

It was bad phrasing on my part. Really. But, you might be overly sensitive about the use of the "newbie" tag, even though you don't need to be. Some people become more valuable to their surroundings after one week than others become in a lifetime. I consider you to be one of the former, not the latter. I don't know anyone who considers you to be one of the latter.

If it matters to you at all, examine what I was trying to say in the context of what had been going on before you arrived. I was surprised (and, frankly, a bit amused) that you were apparently shoring up some guy who claimed that his Top Secret job kept him from using his real name (yeah, right) and then admitted that he actually lived in Sacramento, not Ojai.

If I had been trying to insult you, I wouldn't be bothering to clarify my comments; I'd be reinforcing my insults. I hope that's not what I've done here.

Buff "Secret Agent Man" Stevens said...

You missed my point. Point being: Who can afford to live here anymore? Where our the jobs? Maybe some change could allow people that grew up here to remain here. Quite frankly, the gentrification of Ojai forced me out. James Hatch and Mark Nash have it right: We need the jobs!

Anonymous said...

Who can afford to live anywhere anymore? Can you afford to live in Oxnard? Can you afford to live in Ventura? Can you afford to live in Camarillo? They all have big box stores. Are rents any lower there for the kind of housing you're looking for? (Do you really think you're going to earn enough at a WalMart working for under $10 an hour to rent anything more than a room in a house somewhere?)

However, if you do feel that there are affordable rents in local towns that have big box stores, why did you move to Sacramento? If they are and you want to live in Ventura County, why don't you move back?

If you want to be a cheerleader for WalMart, fine. Buy stock in the company, too. Write letters to the local papers. March with banners & placards. Spray paint "I Love WalMart" on your house and car. Tattoo it on your forehead. But know this: hell will freeze over before you ever see a WalMart or anything like a WalMart in Ojai or even in the unincorporated areas of the Ojai Valley within the next 2 to 3 decades. Why? Elitism? No; economic reality. It's not worth WalMart's time & money to build here. And, in order for enough people to be able to move here to make it worth WalMart's while, there would need to be enough housing. In order for there to be enough housing, there would need to be enough water. Do you expect to see that kind of water anytime soon? Where's the water going to come from?

Apparently, it's not even worth the time and money for another major supermarket to build here, and most people in the Valley would probably love to see one of those, too. I think you can pretty much forget about WalMart, and Trader Joe's, too. You might as well wish for an Edwards Cinema with 16 screens, and an outlet mall like the one in Camarillo.

Buff Stevens said...

I live in Sacramento because my parents left Ojai when I was in high school. They couldn't afford it. I'd like to move back, but I have a steady job, guess where, yeah, at WalMart in Sacramento suburbs. Last time I visited Ojai, there was a bowling alley, a friend tells me that shut down a number of years ago.

If there were more houses, more affordable ones, I could live in Ojai and work at WalMart where the bowling alley was. Trust me, Ojai would be far better off and receive way more tax revenue, for parks and schools with a WalMart.

Call me a company man, but I think we're just what Ojai needs. Ojai's a town that relies on tourism. How do tourists get there? They drive. Want to talk about a real issue: Congestion from tourists. WalMart would rely on local traffic to survive.

WalMart gives back alot more than the little it takes from the community: sponsorships, a new skate park, and other programs not to mention the tax revenue.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you're waiting for WalMart to come to Ojai before you come back, you'll be waiting a long time.

furry herbalist said...

With sizes ranging from 98,000 to 261,000 square feet, I can't think of a single property that could house a WalMart. You would be hard pressed to squeeze in a Petco, even with them downsizing their store to roughly 19,000 square feet. Remember those sizes are for the store not including the parking.

But its a moot discussion. Under the current Planning Commision proposal, Big Box stores are banned along with fast food.

I can't image Ojai being able to support Big Box anyway, so this ban is just feel good politics. Trader Joe's looked at Dahl's not long ago concluding that Ojai already drives to Victoria Ave to shop. TJ's decided to tap a larger population and build in northern part of Ventura.

Shopping local will help diminish traffic. You may be surprised just how reasonably priced goods are from local merchants. The more you shop local and ask for specific products, the more likely local merchants are to carry those products for you. Many stores in Ojai have closed over the years because consumers believed the hype of lower prices at formula stores. I price shop Petco/Petsmart constantly and find diferences of only a few cents on the same toys, collars, etc. Factor in gas, and the savings can be a false perception.

B Dawson