New City Council takes up agenda
by Anne Gilman
Newly re-elected council member Joe DeVito took the reins
as mayor at Tuesday night's City Council meeting while retiring
mayor and longtime council member Steve Olsen received a standing
ovation and many hosannas for his long service to the city.
Also Carol Smith, newly elected to her first term on the City
council, joined re-elected councilmember David Bury. The new
mayor pro-tem is Council Member Sue Horgan.
Olsen was born and raised in Ojai and has served on the council
for the past 17 years. He is credited with launching the Youth
Master Plan, starting the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, spearheading
the skateboard park, and many youth-centered recreational programs
within the city.
Carol Belser, director of the Parks and Recreation Department,
noted that Olsen championed the skateboard park in spite of opposition
from people who thought it would be a hazard in the city. "For
all you have done for recreation," she said, "we, the
Ojai Recreation Department, make you honorary staff, and are
issuing you keys to the Skateboard Park, and the recreational
City council members, city staff, and others came to the podium
to acknowledge Olsen's many contributions. Russ Baggerly, president
of the Environmental Coalition of Ventura County, seemed to sum
up the many praises, "Thank you for many years of public
service. You have served your city well."
Interim Public Works Director Ed McCombs and City Engineer Glen
Hawks presented plans for sidewalk improvements on the south
side of El Paseo Road between Matilija Junior High School and
Foothill Road. These plans are part of a Safe Route to School
Program, a safety demonstration program that uses federal transportation
fund for constructing bicycle/pedestrian safety and traffic calming
projects. Three years ago, Ojai was awarded a Safe Routes to
School grant of $30K.
El Paseo Road is a primary route to Matilija Junior High School,
and many Matilija students use this section of El Paseo to walk
or bicycle to school. The south side of the road is currently
an asphalt path. The north side is an unimproved dirt path that
is not conducive to pedestrian travel.
City Attorney Monte Widders summarized the effect of California's
newly enacted housing laws on Ojai.
The new laws allow property owners to build second units in single
and multi-family residential zones without going before the Planning
Commission for approval; the new laws require ministerial approval
only. Neighbors will not need to be notified and Conditional
Use Permits will not need to be obtained.
This ruling fundamentally removes control from the government
on restricting second unit dwellings or "granny flats."
The size of these units will still be restricted to 640 square
foot limit; and 1000 square feet for guesthouses. Both will be
limited to one story in height.
"The intent of the legislature in passing these laws was
to resolve some of the housing crises with second units on single
and multi-family housing," Widders said. "We now have
to develop a second unit ordinance that meets state law."
As there are many second unit dwellings in Ojai that are illegal
and not registered in the city, Council Member Smith suggested
an amnesty on second dwellings in order to make them legal and
meet safety standards.
Ojai is one of many California cities objecting to this law,
and Widders foresees court cases opposing the legislation. For
now, the new law goes into effect on January 1, 2003.
Due to the holiday season, the next city council meeting will
be held on Tuesday, January 14.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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