Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Renovation For Ojai Valley Bowl?

Interior photographs of the former bowling alley’s coffee shop reveal an advanced state of dilapidation.

By Nao Braverman
Longtime Ojai residents remember when the abandoned concrete block on 1202 E. Ojai Ave. was once an integral part of Ojai’s night life, a thriving business that catered to all ages.
Last known as the Ojai Valley Bowl, the 16-lane bowling alley had a coffee shop and restaurant at the entrance, a lounge with a full bar in the back, and even a small pro shop where bowling balls and other equipment could be purchased.
Local bowlers practiced daily and Ojai’s kids celebrated birthdays there. Five nights a week, bowlers participated in organized leagues.
But for the past 10 years the dilapidated building has remained unoccupied. Deemed structurally unsound by the planning department in recent years, and occasionally occupied by vagrants, the property now wards off all such visitors with a forbidding chain-link fence.
Current property owner Gail Bazzano, a Louisiana resident, said there was still a chance she might bring the old bowling alley back. After confirming rumors that a Los Angeles woman had expressed interest in resurrecting the bowling business, she said the proposal is still up in the air.
“We’re tossing around the idea to see how much interest people in Ojai would have,” she said. “Before putting four to five million dollars into something, we would want to know if people are really going to use it. We really don’t know at this point. We’re still doing research.” she said.
Bazzano, who purchased the property seven years ago, initially planned to fill the building with retail and office spaces. With a daughter living in Santa Monica she frequently visits, Bazzano was interested in purchasing the nearby lot with the hopes of developing it.
“I love Ojai, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen,” she said.
But she recalls the planning officials she met with in 2002 told her she could not keep the building where it was, set back from the street.
“They told me I was going to have to tear it down and move it to the sidewalk. The building had to have parking behind it and not in front, which created a huge problem for me because I didn’t want to tear the building down,” she said.
City manager Jere Kersnar, who was not employed with the city at the time of her application, explained that the building was structurally unsound and did not meet seismic standards; primarily because of a groundwater problem that caused the building to flood after significant rainfall. As the cost to retrofit the building was greater than the cost of new construction, by the Planning department’s estimation, the Planning Commission has asked Bazzano to move it to the street.
Bazzano still intends to use the old building. Recent studies have revealed ways to bring the building up to building standards more cost effectively than a complete reconstruction, she said.
“Despite the fact that it has been vacant for a while, we shouldn’t lift our general design regulations for the sake of expediency,” said Kersnar.
Nonetheless, few could argue that a bowling center of some kind would be preferred by most residents over the present eyesore that has marred East Ojai Avenue for at least 10 years.
“Whatever regulations there are could certainly be worked around,” he said.
The former owner, Winifred Boersch, who sold it to Bazzano, last opened the doors to allowed Oprah Winfrey to film “Before Women Had Wings,” a 1997 made-for-television movie, and also proposed to turn the property into a Rite Aid to the opposition of many locals in 1998.
Before that, Planning Department records reveal a sign permit was issued to Joseph and Cherie Borgaro, and a conditional use permit was issued to Robert and Mary Oblinger in 1982. The first permit was issued to Ralph Jost in 1960 when it was initially opened as Topa Lanes.
Bazzano had set her plans aside after initially being rejected by planning officials. “It has only been the past six months or a year that I have been considering the idea of making it a bowling alley again,” she said. “I would love to know if the residents are interested. If the townspeople would really use a bowling alley and really want it made, I would be a willing participant.”

48 comments:

Carla said...

I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE A BOWLING ALLEY BACK IN OJAI! I spent many evenings as a youth and young adult at the "Bowling Alley" and would definitely enjoy the sport again when available locally. Bowling would be a great outlet for the youth of Ojai - it's Fun Competition!

Anonymous said...

PLEASE DO! Give the youth and
young at heart a focal point
of recreation in Ojai. Don't
let sour puss neighbors say it is
too noisy because it is the sound
of people enjoying life with something to do that is wholesome
and healthy. Spare?

sheltieman said...

Please bring it back.
In the 70s & 80s I use to work there as a pin chaser (the person that worked on the machines during league play)
If it comes back I would love to work there again.

Thanks
Dan

wildflower mama said...

I would love a bowling alley in Ojai. It would become part of our daily/weekly lives here. What fun. They'd have our business and all the other families I know as well. It's been a topic of interest since we moved here from Ventura 4 years ago.

Anonymous said...

If it comes back can we also get blue chip stamps back ? Ojai needs it. It should have never closed

Mark Nash said...

There's a groundswell of support to bring a bowling alley back to Ojai. It's a great idea. As a kid the bowling alley would provide hours of competitive entertainment. Bowling is an inexpensive way to have fun while still allowing the owners to turn a nice profit(food and beverage sales, video games, leagues, etc..) Sounds like a win, win.

Anonymous said...

I was kind of hoping that we could have a trailer park, an adult bookstore, and a topless bar there. (Oh, and maybe a service center for the gravel trucks.)

Anonymous said...

The adult bookstore would be great. They could make alot of money providing massages too. And it could put some local people to work.

evan austin said...

i'm all for it, but with a few hesitations: i'm reticent to see another place (particularly youth-focused) pushing cheap corn-syrup-based foods and shoot-em-up video games. if we can do this consciously and with a conscience, i think Ojai would be vastly better for it. i'd much rather bowl for real than on my Wii any day!

Buff Stevens said...

i'm with ivan. enough with corn-based, shoot'em up videos...

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Ojai Frostie could be in the front where the coffee shop was, I rememeber an article in the OVN about the Ojai Police spending too much time there back in in the 1980's. They used to serve a Kahuna Burger with Bleau Cheese dressing and pine apple. Please do bring back the Topa Lanes (did I date myself by calling it the Topa lanes?) ANYTHING would be better than the eyesore it has become. The Bar was pretty cool too. Any kind of family entertainment in Ojai is good, and there would be a profit to be made fore sure.

Anonymous said...

Drinking and Bowling DO Mix.

Anonymous said...

YES PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ive raised 3 boys in the valley and
it would of been great to have something for us as a family to do together.There is nothing around here unless you go to ventura . Ive been here for 25 years and remember the good times in our valley, when we would all get together and go bowl a couple of games.

Anonymous said...

Bowling is one of the devil's game. The three holes in the ball represent the number 666. Children become hypnotized by the game, and wind up being suggestible to the words of demons. Bowling is not mentioned in the Bible, and I have never seen Jesus depicted as bowling. All of this frightens me, and I fear for Ojai.

Anonymous said...

"Bowling is one of the devil's game" we should all fear you. Do you need a ride back to the hospital?

Cathy said...

Bringing back the bowling alley is a great idea. It would offer what Ojai needs a fun, healthy family activitiy that is indoors.
Build it and we will come.

Anonymous said...

It would be wonderful to have the Bowling Alley back in Ojai. We really do need something like that for people to do here, and it's in a great location...I vote YES!

Anonymous said...

I was kind of hoping for a gas station. Or a mosque.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a really upscale restaurant for out-of-towners would be a good thing. Or a Merrill Lynch office.

Anonymous said...

Please bring back the bowling alley! We drive to Ventura at least once a week with our two boys to bowl. It would be so good for the community to have the bowling alley back up and running!!!

Anonymous said...

What a great idea to resurrect the bowling alley! It's good, clean,
family fun, rain or shine! I spent many days there during my teenage, and adult, years, and it was great fun. I do not, however, think the building should be rebuilt towards the front of the lot with parking located in the rear. I think this would open the door to taggers, vandals, and other less than desireable activities.

Anonymous said...

I hear many comment, it appears, from adults who think they know what the kids of Ojai want and need or are nostalgic for their own youth. Why don't we do a survey in the schools, like was done a few years ago by the Youth Foundation, and see what tghe kids themselves want.

Maybe they would want skating rink there, or a multi-purpose multi-media center or....?

Anonymous said...

Gail, the property owner, agreed to correspond with local residents. She can be contacted regarding the old bowling alley building at ojaibowlingalley@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to have a place to take the FAMILY in Ojai, instead always going to Ventura.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a great idea, Ojai needs more for teenagers as well as families to do. I would love to see it come back.

Anonymous said...

Please please please. Our youth have been forgotten here in Ojai. Our destiny is in the hands of our youth. We need family fun here in Ojai.

Anonymous said...

Posted On: January 21, 2008 08:17:11 PM

: Doreen Riggs
: ddriggs25@sbcglobal.net
Comments: re:article: "Lanes Change" (1/16/08)I am writing in responce to this article.I've been wondering,(as I know many other people I've spoken with who live in the valley)what has taken so long for someone to express an interest in reviving the long forgotten Ojai Bowling Alley. I for one would be very supportive for the return of the bowling lanes and coffee shop. What a great asset it would be for our community's youth and for family receation. I remember many enjoyable times spent w/ my family and friends at Ojai's Bowling lanes when I was growing up, and right across the street was a minature golf course that also brings back fond memories. (hint to Soule Park Golf Course w/ that nearly vacant corner next to the Fire Dept.) I believe if the property owner,Gail Bazzano were to ressurect the bowling lanes she would have a good portion of our community's support and business.

Anonymous said...

ive lived in ojai my whole life, and as someone being in my early twenties, i dont remember the bowling alley at all. i do think bringing it alive again would give youth/young adults something to do in this town besides drink all weekend, theres not hing in this town to do for them on weekends and it could keep alot of kids away from under age drinking.

scott said...

please i beg you to please let our valley have its bowling place back. it would make everybody in the valley happy and satisfied so if you could do us this favor it would be a great thing. please please i beg you there is nothing to do and this will make the valley with more people and that means you will make like 2 the amount

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Anonymous said...

please please please bring the bowling alley back! I've lived in Ojai all my life and I had alot of fun at the bowling alley as a kid and as an adult!

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