Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chain Ordinance Gets Council's Blessing

By 4-1 vote, council passes first reading of new law restricting stores larger than 10,000 square feet

By Nao Braverman
The Ojai City Council finally accepted the first reading of a long-awaited ordinance to protect Ojai from the proliferation of chain stores. If this ordinance draft is adopted upon its second reading at the next council meeting on Nov. 27, it will put Ojai on the map as a small town that will not let in anymore chain fast-food restaurants, or big box chains of more than 10,000 square feet.
Though it would keep out the smallest Wal-Mart or Costco, it could also prevent Vons from selling to an Albertsons or Ralphs if it goes out of business, unless one of those chain grocery stores agrees to operate under a different name.
Councilwoman Sue Horgan was concerned about the existing buildings larger than 10,000 square feet that might remain vacant after a business folded.
In a brief run-down city manager Jere Kersnar named several existing buildings that exceed the 10,000-square foot cap including Vons grocery store, currently 22,257 square feet, Starr Market which is 21,040 square feet and the abandoned bowling alley which is 16,240 square feet.
Horgan was concerned that were any of those buildings to vacate, it might be difficult to fill a space of such size with anything other than a chain. And if a desirable chain were to apply, Ojai might regret having passed the ordinance.
But Kersnar reminded her that the larger spaces could be subdivided to occupy smaller chains. Mayor Carol Smith said she had faith in Ojai to come up with a privately owned business to fill those spaces. Ojai resident and author of the recently withdrawn citizen’s initiative regarding chain stores, Kenley Neufeld, reminded council members that a big box could effectively replace Vons, simply by keeping the Vons name while operating under a different ownership. Not a completely unheard of technique, the Lazy Acres whole foods store in Santa Barbara is owned by Albertsons, he said.
Other residents agreed that the 10,000 foot cap was adequate.
“You can’t have an ordinance that covers everything perfectly,” said Ojai resident Leonard Klaif. “We are going to have to keep out some chains we like. I’m sure everyone has their one favorite chain they’d like to see in Ojai but we can’t accommodate them all.”
City attorney Monte Widders clarified that if the council wanted to withdraw or change the 10,000 foot cap at a later date, they could do so with a text amendment.
Though the ordinance does not ban new formula businesses other than fast food and big box in the city, it requires the approval of other chain retailers to be contingent on a conditional use permit. The CUP process requires public notification and a public hearing, providing an opportunity for people to comment on each and every chain opening within the city.
To accommodate chain service businesses, which local residents rely on, this ordinance has a looser definition of “formula business” than used in previous ordinance drafts. By defining them as a business that maintains 10 or more locations and employs three or more of the following characteristics: standardized merchandise or menu, standardized facade, standardized decor or color scheme, uniform apparel, standardized sign, trademark or service mark, it craftily allows most chain services to be dropped from the formula category altogether.
The ordinance also provides additional protection to the central downtown area by restricting formula businesses of more than 2,000 square feet and more than 25 feet of frontage from the city’s Downtown Commercial Land Use Designation which includes the north side of Ojai Avenue from Ventura Street to Montgomery Street, including the former Texaco Station and the Arcade Plaza as well as the Ojai Playhouse, and Fitzgerald Plaza on the south side of Ojai Avenue.
Horgan was also concerned about Vons becoming a legal non-conforming business, as a chain of more than 10,000 square footage, which would prevent it from expanding or remodeling without a CUP. Widders clarified that Vons could expand, according to the municipal code, but only by 50 percent.
Councilwoman Rae Hanstad also expressed some concern about the 10,000-foot cap for chains, because, she said, Ojai’s residents need their grocery stores. She deferred to the Planning Commission which had discussed the issue in depth and voted in favor of adopting the ordinance on first reading. All other council members were also in favor of the proposed ordinance except Horgan, who wanted to eliminate the 10,000-square-foot limit for chains.
In other City Council news, Kersnar announced that in addition to the Ozena Valley Mine in Ventura County and the Diamond Rock Mine in Santa Barbara County, two other mines in Santa Barbara were applying for expansions, which would mean even more truck trips through the Ojai Valley.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK can we call a spade a spade
here? Why must a city council
process resemble pulling teeth
with a broken wrench? The
ordinance was fairly simple and straightforward yet was passed only
through a numbing series of multiple co-hearings, drafts, a SLAPP suit filed by the city attorney against a citizen, and copious amounts of public time and money wasted. This is the city's version of progress? I'd hate to see their response time for a clearly pressing problem... PL

Anonymous said...

This from a man who has constantly complained that there is not enough public input. Is this his version of citizen participation?

furry herbalist said...

Well said anonymous 9:14! These members of the Carp, Complain and Condemn Club find fault with every process no matter what course it takes. They postulate fantastic ideas with no basis in fact and then whine that they are ignored or marginalized.

B Dawson

James Hatch said...

Fuzzy and Anonymous,

Democracy takes its course. That is why I thank you for supporting the best candidate out there, a strong candidate, a well tuned candidate, the candidate we all support, James Hatch.

Anonymous said...

Constantly referring to oneself in the third person can be a sign of schizophrenia in a younger person or a sign of Alzheimer's Disease in an older person.

Anonymous said...

These members of the Carp, Complain and Condemn Club find fault with every process

Critics are, more often than not, people who are incapable of performing.

Anonymous said...

You who malign others for daring
to speak the truth do so out
of a combination of cowardliness
and ignorance and serve on each
other's booster clubs and campaigns
for most delusional candidate.
However you are still loved-because
even the lowest have their tale to
be heard. PL

James Hatch said...

Enough of the petty squabble. Let's talk about the real issues. And when I say real issues, I mean real issues. I mean the kinds of issues that affect us all, the kinds of life and death choices that could make the difference between waking up tomorrow.

Enough is enough. I am tired of it all ready. It makes me sick to see a real issue be reduced to a debate over an obscure group that carries no weight in the real arena. When I say weight, I mean the kind of weight that James Hatch will throw around when selected as Chairman of the Committee for A Better Ojai.

Yes, you heard it. "Commitee for A Better Ojai." Sponsored by the people, for the people, and headed by the great local leader of our time. The Committee, as all will soon refer to it, will put as its primary mission the furtherance of the political career of James Hatch.

James Hatch for Mayor.

Whiners, this is just the beginning of a new era. An era in which James Hatch will restore democracy to Ojai.

furry herbalist said...

Pete...your reply proved my point so well.

You are on public record claiming the Council does not properly notice meetings, does not provide extended comment time, does everything in its power to exclude community input. Reminding you of this is not maligning you, merely bringing forth another inconvenient point which you would rather ignore.

Back to the topic at hand: the Chain ordinance is flawed, but thankfully it can be modified as needed in the coming years. It will be a community conversation now thanks to the efforts of many who worked to keep it off the ballot. In the unlikely event the ordinance had been passed on a ballot vote instead, changing it would have been an expensive and time consuming process.

Kudos to Councilwoman Horgan for sticking to her principles and voting no. I'm surprised there wasn't an immediate recall petition started by the same group who were offended by Councilman DeVito's no vote on the moriatorium.

B Dawson

James Hatch said...

Need I say more? You cannot bury the truth behind these worthless city council efforts. When I am elected mayor, we will then see the kind of leadership this city has needed for years. The kind of leadership James Hatch brings to the table.

Anonymous said...

When I am elected mayor....pigs will fly.

James Hatch said...

James Hatch resigns from politics.

aliens said...

The truth is out there

Anonymous said...

Dear James Hatch:

Go away from Ojai. We don't need you here. You waste all of our time with your right-wing, hate-filled mongering.

I, for one, don't like it.

You are a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Dear James Hatch:

You are nothing but a divisive force in our shangri-la. Your vibe is so unOjai. We love openness in Ojai, and you do not support it. Get a life! Nice political views, you right wing murderer of woman clutching babies.

You could never win an election here or anywhere. Your views are fearphobia.