City sets guidelines for development
by C.A. Gilman
At Tuesday night's City Council meeting the council approved
the Revised Initial Study Assessment Guidelines as a blueprint
for future development, and set the date for a public workshop
for traffic solutions within the city.
John Jostes, environmental planning consultant, said, "The
expanded guidelines include a full list of definitions, time
lines for the environmental impact report process, and full maps
for buildout conditions. These guidelines supply a set of thresholds
that will apply to all projects that come before you. This is
the first time in the city's history that you will have a specific
set of thresholds for environmental impacts, which is something
that not every city in California has."
President of the Environmental Coalition, Russ Baggerly, asked
for more clarity on threshold levels for aesthetics, soils and
Council member David Bury agreed and asked Jostes how one determines
threshold levels on aesthetics, as they are so subjective.
Jostes said, "There isn't a tool that can determine that.
The decisions will depend on the planning director, architect,
and planning commission."
Ivor Benci-Woodward, president of the Citizens to Preserve the
Ojai, said, "In 1997 the city adopted Level of Service (LOS)
in the General Plan at 1,800 cars per day.
"The roads haven't changed but now we're thinking of establishing
2,380 as level E. The roadway hasn't changed but the LOS keeps
changing. Projects are continually approved with either overriding
traffic considerations or exemptions. There is no reason we can't
quantify those levels today."
City attorney Monte Widders said, "First of all the EIR
is not the circulation element. The EIR is not set in stone;
it's purely informational. The traffic engineers say that our
LOS at capacity is 2,800. As for that table in the General Plan
(representing acceptable traffic levels), you are required by
CEQA to go by the most recent traffic information that you can
get. The tables are not the General Plan, they are only an informational
City Manager Dan Singer said, "There is inconsistent information.
The county established the LOS as 2,700. Mr. Benci-Woodward is
not being misleading; he is working off information that would
lead one to be misinformed." Singer said that he would get
him the regional tables.
Jostes concluded, "These guidelines offer you a starting
point, not an end point. They provide a set of early warning
guidelines to measure whether projects need further environmental
review or not, and to help you evaluate good and bad projects
consistently and objectively. It is not a city EIR. It provides
an opportunity to start a dialogue with the community on an annual
basis and refine the environmental thresholds that the city holds
On other issues from the audience, Ivor Benci-Woodward spoke
on the recent judgment that the CPO lost concerning the legality
of the Housing Element allowing the Los Arboles condominium project.
He said, "The decision reveals that the city does not have
a growth management ordinance in place."
City Attorney Monte Widders replied, "Los Arboles was not
subject to the housing ordinance because it was replacement housing."
Carol Smith asked about the Ojai Valley Inn providing affordable
housing for its employees as part of its expansion plans as this
is a requirement in the Housing Element of the General Plan.
Widders said, "The actual policy in the Housing Element
does not say that the developer has to provide housing units.
It requires housing 'opportunities'. This doesn't necessarily
mean new occupancies. The inn has to show that it is offering
some form of housing opportunities before its completion."
Public Works Director Stan Hakes distributed the Ojai Valley
Circulation Study prepared by Austin Faust and Associates to
alleviate congestions and circulation problems throughout the
Ojai Valley. It includes a number of proposed traffic circulation
improvements, including park and ride programs, signing, striping
and lighting improvements, alternative route designations, and
intersection modifications such as roundabouts.
Hakes said, "We need an open workshop with the Council and
the public in order to carefully consider a reciprocal traffic
mitigation fee program before drafting a city ordinance."
Bury added, "We wouldn't just be discussing the Austin Faust
study but also other traffic issues. We will use that workshop
as a springboard for other workshops for traffic mitigation."
Hanstad asked that a representative of the school district attend.
The special workshop to discuss these issues and address questions
or concerns will be held on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. The Traffic
Circulation Study is available in the library and at city hall.
As Ojai is in the process of developing its own arts ordinance
to provide funds for public art, Arts Commission Chairman Maudette
Fink introduced Marilyn Miller, City Arts Commissioner in Oxnard,
to present the council with Oxnard's experience with its arts
ordinance that has been in effect since 1989.
Miller said, "Many cities have these types of programs -
Phoenix, San Diego, El Paso - and view them as similar amenities
to roadway and tourism improvements. Since 1989 over 30 pieces
have been installed in Oxnard.
Point presentation of examples of various art projects installed
within the city. Oxnard encourages developers to install pieces
that are reflective of the type of business they do. Landscaping
is also an important part of the project.
Miller said, "Some people didn't agree with the art. However,
one of the purposes of art is to get people in the community
Bury asked how Oxnard establishes the budget for the developer
and how the art is assessed.
Miller said, "The ordinance does not require a specific
amount although there is one percent fee written into the ordinance."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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