Planning OKs Los Arboles
by Cheryl Gilman
Although many came to support the Los Arboles project at Wednesday
night's Planning Commission meeting, once again the Citizens
to Preserve the Ojai and the
Environmental Coalition came to protest.
The main item on the agenda was the architectural review of the
Los Arboles condominium project at 203-307 South Montgomery Street.
Those residents whose homes abut the proposed housing applauded
the work of architects Marc Whitman and Tom Bostrom, and developer
Whitman and Bostrom gave a slide presentation showing the history
of the site from when it was the Evergreen Cottages, through
the various plans for the Los Arboles condominiums and the current
architectural and landscape design."
Whitman said, "The intention is to bring the downtown architecture
to South Montgomery Street. There will be two-piece ceramic tiles,
stucco, decorated iron plaster tiles, ceramic tile fountains,
and many trees and lush landscaping."
Bostrom added, "The trees that had been removed and were
not diseased will be transplanted back into the same area. We
are also adding 108 new trees; the buildings will be very well
Smigel's plans are for a 23-unit, market-rate townhouse development
on the vacant 3.13-acre site at South Montgomery. Previously,
there were 29 single-family and cottage units, four of which
were demolished within the last four years, the others had been
razed in 1995. This area had been considered blighted and a safety
hazard. It had been decided that the tenants shouldn't be evicted,
but would leave through attrition and their units not re-rented.
Fifteen of the planned units are to be constructed on the west
side of the street and include duplexes and triplexes. Eight
units are proposed on the east side of the street, in two four-plexes.
Living space for each townhouse ranges from 1,515 to 2,855 square
Public access is intended to be provided to Libbey park by a
pedestrian bridge from the Ojai Art Center located north of the
In his report. Interim Community Development Director Doug Hooper
said, "The project is in the heart of the original redevelopment
plan area. This, no doubt, was reflected by the dilapidated blighted
cottages that previously existed on the site. As the cottages
declined, transients and deviants increasingly occupied this
area. Numerous police calls were made to the cottages for disturbance
of the peace."
Resident Jean Smart said, "I live a stone's throw from this
beautiful project. It will be a definite benefit to our community.
Before work began on this property we had derelicts urinating
there. I'm in favor of this project and seeing something we can
be proud of."
Tree advocate John Christiansen said, "The proposed bridge
construction will adversely affect too many trees, as the grading
will sever feeder roots of these trees. An alternative mode of
telephone-pole-like construction would have much less negative
impacts on those trees and would be less likely to turn them
into hazardous trees." He asked that the developers consider
this in the construction method approach.
Ivor Benci-Woodward, President of the CPO said, "The CPO
has been an organization in this valley for 40 years. We're here
tonight because of a lawsuit we had against you and won on this
very same issue."
Chairman Paul Blatz interrupted Benci-Woodward and said, "We're
not here to consider the validity of a lawsuit - either present
or future - which has nothing to do with the merit of our decision
Richard Keit, a Montgomery Street resident said, "It's a
shame that the CPO can't get over their paranoid, vindictive,
and ad hominem attacks on everyone that supports this project."
William Dorsey of Montgomery Street said, "I'm a second
generation commercial artist in Ojai. I love having the commercial
district opened up to South Montgomery Street."
Ojai resident Barbara Bowman, owner of Barbara Bowman and True
West on Ojai Ave. said, "Marc Whitman is basically turning
Ojai into a beautiful place. There are not many developers who
are coming to Ojai to invest the kind of money that Lance Smigel
has invested. We're talking about Ojai people doing a stunning
Commissioner Joe MacAllister said, "It seems to me that
people who live in the city want the project, and people who
live outside, don't."
Blatz added, "This project has come back to fit in with
what this area of town needs. The adding of trees will be exceptional.
It's in the village mixed-use area which should be dense. The
architects have done an outstanding job with their design and
with saving the trees."
The motion to approve the architectural design for the Los Arboles
project passed unanimously.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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