2002 Year in Review;
In January, a dozen or more boulders weighing as much 15 tons
were moved into artistic place by OST Trucks & Crane of Ventura
at Ojai's newest park. The behemoth stones have been placed around
what will be the park's central water feature and as part of
a dry stream bed.
A team of psychologists from Patton State Hospital has recommended
in January the release of Miguel Hugo Garcia, the man who was
found not guilty by reason of insanity after he admitted killing
an Upper Ojai man and his daughter in May 1997.
Despite Stuart Rupp's ongoing pleas that the Arcade Plaza fountain
not be destroyed or moved, the City Council moved forward on
the redesign of the Arcade Plaza at Tuesday night's City Council
The City Council authorized the city's Senior Planner Doug Hooper
to be interim community development director. Bill Prince resigned
from this office this month to take a position with the city
of Santa Barbara.
Five students on their way to Nordhoff High School Friday morning
were injured when the vehicle in which they were riding veered
off the road and overturned off Ojai-Santa Paula Road near Happy
Valley School at 7:10 a.m.
Ken Reeves, 16-year cross country coaching career at Nordhoff
High School, has hauled a lot of trophies back to Ojai. Since
he's been training runners, NHS has had the winningest high school
cross country team in state history.
Two masked and armed men, believed to have been in their mid-20s,
are being sought by authorities for allegedly robbing two men
inside their Crestview Drive home late Sunday night. According
to Sheriff's Detective Joe Evans, conflicting statements by homeowner
Bruce Ditchfield and 20-year-old renter, John Reason, indicate
that there may have been a third person involved in the 10:30
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 Defense Coalition
came to protest.
The main item on the agenda was the architectural review of the
Los Arboles condominium project at 203-307 S. Montgomery St.
Those residents whose homes abut the proposed housing applauded
the work of architects Marc Whitman and Tom Bostrom, and developer
Narcotics detectives from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department
and the Ventura Police Department completed a month-long investigation
into the street-level sales of cocaine in Oak View when José
Luis Gutierrez, 25, was arrested last Wednesday during the execution
of a search warrant at his home in the 500 block of Mahoney Avenue.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies, organizations from
around the country mobilized their resources to come to the aid
of the families of the victims, as well as the fallen heroes
in the New York City Police and Fire departments. To salute the
work of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, the Petco
Foundation is proud to announce a $150,000 grant to the organization
that trained 13 of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Certified
Canine Search Teams deployed to the World Trade Center site.
Ojai-based rescue dogs deployed to Olympics
NDSDF founder Wilma Melville, flanked by Murphy Black, left and
Murphy's daughter, Abby, who is in Salt Lake City for the Winter
District attorney candidate Ron Bamieh took his campaign Friday
into the hometown of the man he hopes to replace, Michael Bradbury,
who is retiring after 24 years as Ventura County's top prosecutor.
Bamieh made several stops in Ojai, including the Rotary Club
and Ojai Valley News, advocating his candidacy in what will likely
be the most expensive district attorney race in Ventura County
Democracy in action could be seen at Tuesday night's City
Council meeting. Impassioned parties on both sides of the Los
Arboles project overflowed city chambers. At issue were the approval
of the architectural review and environmental impact report of
the 23 condominiums planned for South Montgomery Street. The
Citizens to Preserve the Ojai and the Environmental Defense Coalition
and allies opposed the construction of the 23 units, maintaining
the project will increase traffic, pollution and noise and put
Ojai on the way to becoming another Camarillo of stucco condominiums.
Del Francis has been working to get his fallen shipmates some
recognition for the better part of 20 years, ever since the 1982
unveiling of "The Wall" (formally known as the Vietnam
The Colorado resident is one of the survivors of the June 3,
1969, sinking of the USS Frank E. Evans, a Navy destroyer cut
in half during a training exercise in the South China Sea. Seventy-four
men died, including 23-year-old Radarman 3rd Class Christopher
Carlson of Ojai.
Like most of us, Nordhoff High School 10th-grader Jamie Garrett
felt the pain experienced by New York City survivors in the aftermath
of the World Trade Center disaster, and began soliciting teddy
bears to send to children whose school lies in the shadow of
Ground Zero. More than 650 bears were eventually donated or purchased
with contributions collected from Ojai Valley school kids through
Garrett's persistence, and shipped to the Bath Beach School earlier
Two Nordhoff High School girls were struck in a crosswalk
Wednesday morning as they left the campus on lunch break. The
driver of the vehicle, a 16-year-old, also a Nordhoff student,
was not injured. According to Deputy Jeff Marrs, Ojai's traffic
investigation officer, Carley Marr, 16, was knocked straight
to the ground by the impact, and suffered a broken right wrist.
More seriously injured was 17-year-old Lindsay Morgan, who was
struck and carried approximately 30 feet from the crosswalk that
crosses Maricopa Highway at Pirie Road.
After 90 minutes and 22 speakers, the Ojai Unified School
District board of trustees voted 3-2 Tuesday to reject proposed
changes to the school calendar, before receiving dire forecasts
about the district's finances and enrollment.
Glenda Mahon, left, holds the American Heart Association's Heartsaver
Award that she presented to Emily Massey, who displays the lifesaving
measure she performed on her sister, 9-year-old Heather.
The city of Ojai experienced an overall increase in reported
violent crimes last year when compared with 2000 statistics,
but Sheriff's Capt. Gary Pentis said the percentages can be misleading
when dealing with small numbers.
Pentis, who doubles as Ojai's police chief, said he is actually
pleased that the arrest rate is up.
After years of steady decline, reported crimes in the unincorporated
areas of the Ojai Valley have leveled off, showing an overall
decline of just 1.4 percent in 2001. The unincorporated area
also includes a stretch of North Ventura Avenue east of the Ojai
Freeway from Casitas Springs to the Ventura city limits.
Tire-marked, driven over and unattractive, the planters, commonly
called bulb-outs, on North Montgomery Street, will soon be torn
out. The Ojai City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to
remove all 24 planters along the street that runs between Ojai
Avenue and Grand Avenue. "These bulb-outs are a nuisance
and an eyesore," said City Councilwoman Rae Hanstad. "I
can't think of any of us who like them.
For his long and distinguished history of volunteering for
the community, "Papa" Joe Silvestri has been named
grand marshal of the 2002 Ojai Independence Day parade.
Each year, the Ojai Independence Day Committee selects the person
it believes has unassumingly contributed to the community with
little or no praise, according to board member Pat Bushman-Nelles.
Dealing with dropping enrollment has become the theme of recent
Ojai Unified School District board meetings, as Superintendent
Van Riley said Tuesday that he has a target of $2.2 million -
nearly 10 percent of the district budget - to cut by June.
Oak View's Community Works! organization has taken another
step toward acquiring the Oak View School property and preserving
it as a community resource. About 50 valley residents came to
Oak View Community Center Thursday evening to hear keynote speaker
Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett. He outlined the work
the county had already done, the details of a possible tax increase
to buy the property, and what other steps would need to be taken
before the old elementary school could be purchased.
The bad news is that Ojai's Art Workshop owners and proprietors,
Kent and Sharon Butler, are leaving - and not just the building,
either, but the country. But the good news, as Sharon points
out, is that local artist Janis Hansen will be taking over.
A 74-year-old Oak View woman died Monday afternoon as the
result of a fire at her Grapevine Road home. Mary Mortensen was
pronounced dead on arrival at the Ojai Valley Community Hospital
of asphyxia by inhalation of smoke and carbon monoxide, according
to Senior Deputy Medical Examiner James Baroni.
It isn't quite enough that the Citizens to Preserve the Ojai
saw a problem, wrote a petition, got the necessary signatures
and fixed a spot for their Traffic Initiative on the November
ballot. A lawsuit from the city of Ojai and its City Council,
filed on March 13 and served Monday on the city clerk's office
and the CPO calls into question the appropriateness of the initiative.
Now a judge may decide if Ojai's residents will get a chance
to vote on the proposed ballot measure at all.
The longtime Ojai softball player who managed and played for
the Oak View Outlaws for nearly two decades died Saturday morning
when his 1983 Mazda 626 was struck head-on by a 17-year-old Oak
View girl driving a white Ford Explorer. Ironically, Daniel Thomas
Fraser, 43, had left work early and planned to drive to Ventura
later in the day to attend the funeral of his best friend's grandfather.
Twelve Matilija Junior High School students have been interviewed
by sheriff's deputies following what they described as a gang
initiation or "jump-in" last week at the El Paseo Road
campus. The students all were willing participants, according
to Senior Deputy Maureen Hookstra, and none, she believes were
seriously injured in the gang-type ritual that typically involves
new recruits being pummeled by alleged gang members.
No question about it, said city officials Wednesday, redevelopment
plans for the Arcade Plaza are going to inflict pain on merchants.
But with close communication, signs, marketing and patience,
that pain can be made bearable.
"It's absolutely going to be inconvenient," said Dan
Singer, Ojai's city manager. "In the long term, we absolutely
believe it'll bring in more people to your business, and it'll
be more beautiful.
According to a memo from Casitas Municipal Water District
General Manager John L. Johnson dated March 21, the board has
known for some time that MTBE, or methyl tertiary-butyl ether,
is present in the lake, and has determined that the source of
the problem is the gasoline being used by motorboats.
The already competitive world of upscale resorts has become
even more fierce. To meet this challenge, The Ojai Valley Inn
& Spa must go through a major expansion and renovation, said
Thad Hyland, the historic inn's managing director, who gave the
first public overview of their plans at the Rotary Club luncheon
today. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai's largest employer
and taxpayer, is scheduled to start its $47 million expansion
and overhaul in January. That amount - for the first major renovation
since 1987 - is "enough to buy another resort," said
Citizens to Preserve the Ojai has launched a second lawsuit
against the city of Ojai over the approval of the Los Arboles
According to a press release from the City Manager Dan Singer,
even though the project has been through extensive environmental
reviews, the suit alleges the city failed to follow all applicable
environmental laws in approving the project.
Despite an emotional appeal by William Kaddis and his attorney,
and a last-minute $40 million lawsuit against the county of Ventura
attempting to force a continuance, the Planning Commission of
Ventura County voted unanimously to deny an appeal of violations
levied against him by the county planning director.
The decision holds Kaddis responsible or liable for the downing
of 301 state-protected oak trees and illegal grading on a 44-acre
parcel near Rancho Matilija. Commission chair Michael Wessner
stated several times that this was an administrative hearing
and not a court of law.
Jacqueline Saunders this week announced her retirement as
executive director of the Ojai Music Festival following a decade
of service, including six years in the top administrative job.
She will step down at the end of the festival's fiscal year,
The Nordhoff High School Music Department just returned from
its annual Spring Tour - this year to the lovely "City by
the Bay," San Francisco.
The 30-plus schools competing at the Heritage Festival came from
all over California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, and Nordhoff
is proud to announce that the Nordhoff Music Department took
first place in all competitions, and the Symphonic Band won First
Place and a Concert Band Gold Award.
Additionally, Nordhoff was awarded the Instrumental Sweepstakes
Award for the highest average score of a school with three instrumental
ensembles. And they also were awarded the Overall Festival Sweepstakes
Award, the final and top award of the competition, for the highest
average score for the schools with combined instrumental and
In honor of Earth Day, the City Council held a special gathering
to praise the efforts of three Ventura County supervisors. About
50 city officials and community members gathered to share cake
and Martinelli's cider with Supervisors John Flynn, Kathy Long
and Steve Bennett. Each was honored with a large plaque. Don
and Sheila Cluff, owners of The Oaks at Ojai and most recently
the prominent contributors of land and support for Ojai's newest
park, were honored officially Tuesday evening when the City Council
voted 4-1 to name the park Cluff Vista Park.
The Peace Officers Association of Ventura County recognized
two Ojai men - Matthew Scesney and firefighter Timothy Norcott
- for bravery Saturday night at its annual awards dinner in Ventura
by presenting them the Medal of Merit, its highest civilian award.
Concerns raised by two business owners in the Arcade Plaza
will likely net the city of Ojai yet another lawsuit. Attorneys
David and Cath Jones, representing Lisa Clark, owner of Busy
Babes Beauty Supply and Salon, and Lisa Sauvageau of Studio Sauvageau,
said Thursday they will file a lawsuit to halt redevelopment
construction on the Arcade Plaza because it threatens to damage
business and possibly put their clients out of business.
Tempers flared and emotions ran high, but, in the end, Oak
View resident Lanie Springer's peacekeeping skills were acknowledged
with an impromptu round of applause. The Highway 33 Improvement
Committee chair led one of the committee's most-attended meetings
on record Wednesday night, when some 75 people squeezed into
the Casitas Springs Community Center to get the results of Caltrans'
and Ventura County Transportation Commission's recently completed
studies of the proposed Casitas Springs bypass.
The Kiwanis Club of Ventura has honored Deputy Joe Preciado
as Ojai's Deputy of the Year. The award is given annually to
the local law enforcement officer who most exemplifies his profession,
and was presented at a luncheon in Ventura last week. Preciado
will have his name inscribed on a perpetual trophy on display
at the Ojai Police Station. His name will follow those of many
officers who have been recognized for excellence and commitment,
most recently Deputies Mike Marco in 2001, Dave Sparks in 2000,
Mark Burgess in 1999, and Maureen Hookstra in 1998.
A standing-room-only crowd filled Ojai Unified School District's
board meeting Tuesday night to make sure that the pain of slashing
the district's budget will be shared equally. Since February,
the district superintendent, Dr. Van Riley, along with members
of the classified and certified staff, have been seeking to cut
$1,867,000 from the district's $25 million budget to offset projected
losses from declining enrollment and state revenues. On Tuesday,
Riley reported on the progress. So far, they have closed the
gap to within $148,000 - with $1,719,000 in proposed cuts.
An artistic gate will greet visitors who cross the Libbey
Park bridge to the Ojai Art Center, and the Ojai Valley Inn &
Spa will soon greet guests from an information kiosk at the entrance
to the resort. Ojai Planning Commissioners gave their stamp of
approval to the two projects at their Wednesday evening meeting.
But not before a bit of discussion.
According to a report delivered Wednesday by Casitas Municipal
Water District water quality lab supervisor Susan McMahon, the
levels of methyl tertiary-butyl ether in Lake Casitas have been
negligible since earlier readings showed levels as high as 1.6
parts per billion, which is still well below state-mandated safety
A 250-pound California black bear wandered into the Arbolada
Friday morning and perched 50 feet in a tree until California
Department of Fish and Game officers removed him after firing
three darts from a rifle.
The first two, Fish and Game Warden Clint Garrett said, were
blank, just to check the accuracy of the weapon.
Come mid-July, there will be no more bulb-outs on North Montgomery
A Camarillo company won the bid to remove the awkward, tire-marked
and gravel-filled planters. Stan Hakes, Ojai's Public Works director,
told the City Council at its Tuesday night meeting that J &
H Construction was the lowest responsible bidder. Hakes reminded
the council that Public Works had estimated in March the removal
could cost up to $28,000, and that he was pleased by the lower
Nearly 40 people showed up for a public hearing on the Mitigated
Negative Declaration for Casitas Municipal Water District's proposed
Alternative Swimming Facility - a "lazy river" - Wednesday
night, and nearly half of them had something to say about the
Onstage at the Saturday morning Ojai Music Festival family
concert, Marino Formenti twice invited young people to join him
so they could see up close how a piano, rigged with special devices
and doodads, can make intriguing sounds.
A nervous Ernest Fleischmann stood at the foot of the steps,
ordering all adults off the stage. Formenti, it was clear, was
there to challenge young minds, help them learn about the way
music is made and to show them the finest in performances.
A fire of undetermined origin completely destroyed Enchanted
Prints on Fox Street Tuesday night, leaving its uninsured owner
with nothing but 14 years of memories. Jessica Murray, who heads
the adjacent Community Assistance Program at 210 Fox St., arrived
at Doojie Seliger's nearby home at about 10:30 p.m. with the
The bodies of Charles and Barbara Curtis were found Friday
in the wreckage of their single-engine Grumman Tiger AA-5B that
had sometime earlier slammed into the side of fog-shrouded South
Mountain near the Santa Paula Airport. The cause of the crash
remains under investigation.
At Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting, neighbors who
live near the Offices at the Pew, also known as Nordhoff Hall,
expressed their unhappiness with the noise and extra parking
generated by public events held there.
Michael McFerrin, who owns and restored the historic building,
had come before the commission to ask for an indefinite extension
on his conditional use permit that would allow him to continue
holding public events with up to 100 people on the property.
Under postcard skies, Nordhoff High School graduated 251 students
Friday as an overflow crowd roared with delight. As if it were
a baseball game, homemade signs of support popped up in sync
with some graduates' appearance as the Class of 2002 paraded
around the track en route to being seated on the community stadium's
football field. The commencement began with performances by Nordhoff's
famed Jazz and Symphonic bands before Christopher Collier, who
wrote an overture specifically for the occasion, conducted the
In light of a recent Ventura County Superior Court judge's
decision to allow the so-called Ojai Traffic Initiative to appear
on the November ballet, Ojai's city officials are suiting up
for yet another battle. On June 6, Division 34 Judge Henry J.
Walsh ruled in favor of allowing the citizens of the city of
Ojai to vote on the Traffic Initiative, which removes the overriding
power of the City Council to approve projects that would add
more traffic to the city's streets.
As Bill Baker's transforms into a full-scale restaurant this
summer, outdoor diners will be able to enjoy beer or wine with
their meal. And guests at the Emerald Iguana Inn will soon have
the luxury of renting rooms for just two days instead of the
required four, thanks to decisions made by the Ojai Planning
Commission at their meeting Wednesday evening. Despite Interim
Community Development Director Doug Hooper's recommendation that
alcohol not be allowed on the sidewalk so near to Chaparral School,
planning commissioners approved restaurant owner Laurel Moore's
A congregation of 80 people in Libbey Park protesting the
Adventure Pass accompanied musician Alan Thornhill on Saturday
as he led them in a chorus of "This Land Is Your Land."
Libbey Park served as community ground for Ojai's version of
a network of protests held Saturday at several dozen locations
across the country. The temporary Adventure Pass program, created
by Congress in 1996 and extended until 2004, has been the focus
of widespread criticism.
After years of trying to balance the need for bus shelters
along Highway 33 with the public's insistence to reduce visual
pollution, County Supervisor Steve Bennett announced last week
that the installation of 10 advertisement-free shelters has begun.
"These shelters will be a big help to the bus riders of
the valley, and hopefully, they'll encourage more people to get
around without cars," Bennett said.
Ojai's Rotary Clubs have teamed up to recognize eight of Ojai's
citizens as this year's Living Treasures. Each club nominated
four people, who will then use their talents and experience to
serve Ojai and its people.
Living Treasures was founded by Ojai resident Sanford Drucker
in 1994 as a way to promote mentoring and sharing of knowledge.
With this year's namings, there are now 132 Living Treasures.
The new members of the Living Treasure roster are Martin A. Pops,
M.D., Jack Smith, Larry Hartmann, Father William Victor Olivas,
Dr. Mike Jauregui, Nan Davis, Austin Cline and Lavon Lucking.
© 2003 The Ojai Valley News
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