Thursday, December 25, 2008

Union 76 Owner Seeks Zone Change

Calls made for plan for whole Maricopa area

By Sondra Murphy
A business owner’s desire to expand his gas station near the “Y” prompted the Ojai Planning Commission to discuss the future improvement to that area of Ojai.
Neil Abasi brought to the council a concept review for a zone change from business professional to general commercial in order to allow his Union 76 station on Maricopa Highway to add a mini-mart and drive-through car wash. It was Abasi’s third presentation to the commissioners, who were still unsatisfied with the plan’s accommodation for any increased pedestrian traffic the expansion would invite.
General safety at the three-way intersection was discussed as needing improvement. “I think we could support the changes despite the fact that it’s a huge intensity of use, but the public realm needs to be addressed in order to balance that,” said President Paul Crabtree.
“We are hoping we will have created, over time, a more pedestrian-friendly environment,” said Commissioner Susan Weaver.
“Right now, everyone who walks there puts their lives on the line. We were hoping that we would see something safer and more attractive for pedestrians.”
“Making a zone change is a really big thing for us and I’m not really seeing incentive,” said Commissioner John Mirk.
“Commis-sioner Mirk is absolutely right,” said Commissioner Steven Foster. “A zone change bears a lot of consequence for us and we need substance to justify one. The fact of its location, that it’s at the gateway into Ojai, the aesthetics become very important, but there’s a certain lack of design involvement that needs to be brought up to a higher level.”
The commissioners also hoped for improved style and configuration design for the business that would be more attractive to potential customers. Commissioner Troy Becker suggested to Abasi’s architect, Seven Bovee, that he tighten up the visual design. “It’s really hard to tell what this is going to look like given the drawings,” said Becker. “It looks like it’s going in a Craftsman direction, but you said Western and I think it would help if it went more in one direction or another.”
The commission thought moving the driveways from Maricopa Highway frontage to North Carillo Road frontage would improve some of the safety concerns, but also acknowledged that, with the pumps running parallel to the highway, it creates design challenges for Abasi and Bovee.
“Those driveways would never be allowed in today’s standards,” said Foster.
“And if you’re putting in a convenience store where people may come — pedestrians and young kids and skateboards and cars are pulling in and out and trying to get to the propane tank — that becomes a dangerous environment,” said Weaver.
“It would be nice to have a whole Maricopa plan,” said Carol Smith, City Council liaison. “That 76 lot is huge, there’s a lot of area there and also we have Carillo behind it that has a lot of seniors and a lot of people walking.” She encouraged the commission to take a closer look at the whole area in terms of improving the visual design, as well as functionality.
“I’ve always thought we could do some real work at the ‘Y,’ but it would involve all the property owners,” said city manager Jere Kersnar.
In other planning business, the commission approved two residential design review permits. Hank and Jean Manninen were given the go-ahead on construction of a two-story, single-family residence and detached garage with a second residence on South Montgomery Street, and Chuck Barnett got the green light for an addition to a rental unit on East Aliso Street.
Both sets of property owners have been working with the commission on design requirements and vegetation design that would enhance their neighborhoods.
Barnett’s plan to install native, drought-tolerant plants brought up the issue of the commission’s irrigation requirements. “I’ve had experience with native plants,” said Weaver. “”I don’t think we need to require the irrigation system. I think it would present the risk of overwatering. I support any move we can make toward xeriscaping and we have to rethink what we require people to do in terms of watering.”
The commission waived Barnett’s irrigation requirement with the condition he report back to the city in about one year on the condition of his landscaping.
Smith also reported to the commission that there is council interest in developing an ordinance regarding plastic shopping bags and she has requested that the Ojai Valley Green Coalition look into options such as biodegradable plastic, among other things.


Anonymous said...

I say let him do it. What is it going to hurt and we could us a car wash.

Anonymous said...

I can just hear all the self-appointed "stewards" of Ojai, LOL!...

"It is a retail chain, which we will fight to our last breath!"

"We must preserve Ojai, so let's just keep the Union 76 with the diesel and propane and service bay just as it is!"

"Let's put some low-income housing on top of the car wash!"