Judge halts Los Arboles
by C.A. Gilman
In a five-page opinion, Ventura County Superior Court Judge
Melinda Johnson has kicked out the environmental review report
for the 23-unit Los Arboles condo project and sent it back to
the drawing board.
Stan Greene, administrative director of the Citizens to Preserve
the Ojai, said he was overjoyed with the results of the court's
finding to halt the Los Arboles project. And though the judge
wrote, "The city can only approve the project if it complies
with all elements of the city's General Plan. It does not do
so." City Attorney Monte Widders said he, too, was pleased
for the most part.
The CPO and Environmental Coalition of Ventura had sued the city
of Ojai to stop the Los Arboles project, claiming it didn't adhere
to certain guidelines of the Ojai General Plan. These included
density, traffic, air quality, zoning and architecture.
Widders said, "Most of the CPO's objectives are without
foundation. They always argued that the Los Arboles project didn't
fit in Ojai."
The judge's ruling found that the project was under the maximum
density guideline of eight units per acre (the Los Arboles project
design is for 7.79 units per acre): that its effect on air quality
is consistent with the General Plan; and that
its architecture was not inconsistent with the General Plan.
However, she did question the developer's need for a high-density
project to be profitable; the zoning variance of 25 feet between
buildings; and the certification of the subsequent Environmental
Impact Report despite deficiences in its dealings with traffic
Widders added, "We need to clarify some traffic issues,
and give more evidence that fewer homes would make the project
economically unfeasible. The variance is not an issue because
the project is now consistent with the city zoning," (which
changed the separation between maximum allowable density between
buildings from 45 feet to 25 feet.)
"There also needs to be a clarification of traffic mitigation
plans. We don't have to go back to court to fix these."
Widders added, "In the 23 years I have been counsel for
the city, I have never had anyone sue the city before (re: the
number of suits filed by the CPO) this year."
The judge also handed down a sanction to the city to pay the
CPO $2,498 for three causes: she said there was no reason to
exclude the record from the prior lawsuit, the record was incomplete
and and the city "improperly attempted to augment the record"
after the CPO filed its second brief.
Greene said, "What's important is that the council and the
people should be talking and listening to each other better.
Lawsuits should be the last resort. Hopefully for the future,
we'll all be working together for the good of the community."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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