2002 Year in Review;
An Orange County murder suspect surrendered to sheriff's deputies
in Ventura Sunday night after a two-hour, slow- and high-speed
pursuit began in Oak View.
Adelphia Communications Corporation, the sixth largest cable
operator in the nation, and the only operator in Ojai, filed
for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
It is beginning to look a lot like Ojai in Santa Paula; litigation-wise,
that is. The Pinnacle Group, an Arizona-based developer looking
to build some 2,000 homes and an as-yet-to-be determined number
of commercial properties in Adams Canyon, is threatening the
city with a lawsuit.
Ojai's Fourth of July parade and related events drew record
The Ojai City Council and Redevelopment Agency, aware of potential
local revenue shortfalls in the coming year, and breathing a
collective sigh of relief to have finished the 2001-02 fiscal
year in the black, approved a projected $8.4 million total budget
and, excluding redevelopment, projected expenses of about $8.7
million in the year ahead. In addition to the general fund, which
is expected to see revenues and spending in the $5.8 million
range, the total budget also contains a number of special funds
for specific spending purposes.
A Saturday morning fire caused an estimated $35,000 in damage
at a Sisar Road residence. No one was at home at the single-family
home at 12190 Sisar Road at the time of the fire, which was reported
by several 9-1-1 callers at 10:15 a.m.The $200,000 structure
suffered a $20,000 loss, and damage to the contents was reported
to be $15,000.
A handful of North Blanche Street residents protested again
before the Ojai Planning Commission Wednesday but did little
to sway the opinion of the seven commissioners who voted unanimously
to approve a resolution reducing the minimum stay requirements
for the Emerald Iguana Inn. The resolution approved unanimously
by the commission now permits the Emerald Iguana Inn to book
guests for a minimum two-night stay. A minimum four-night stay
had been required.
The people of Oak View have much to be proud of these days.
Not only did they come together to save their school - on July
23, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a citizen-initiated
property tax assessment to facilitate the purchase of the old
Oak View School - their very efforts are being heralded as a
model of community spirit.
1980 was a bittersweet year for Vince France. The then-Ojai police
chief was elected to the Ojai Unified School District board the
same day Ojai voters turned over their policing to the Ventura
County Sheriff's Department.
"I got the school board seat and they did away with the
police department," he said. So after nearly 23 years on
the board, France is calling it quits. "It's time for new
blood on the board," he said. "I need a break.
After soul-searching prompted by the recent relocation of his
architectural firm, David Bury will seek a second term on the
Ojai City Council.
"This is an important time in our city - it's a time for
experience, continuity, perspective." It wasn't a sure thing.
He did consider opting out of the race, which pits a growing
list of contenders for three open seats. Bury and Joe Devito
are seeking re-election, while four-termer Steve Olsen is not.
A 21-year-old Oak View woman with a reported criminal history
in Antioch, Calif. was arrested on several charges Monday afternoon
after she allegedly tried to escape pursuing sheriff's deputies.
Heather Arriola was taken into custody at gunpoint after the
pursuit, which reached high speeds on Creek Road, Highway 33
and the Ojai Freeway when Deputy Joe Preciado "t-boned"
her 1988 Toyota near the Casitas Vista Road off-ramp to stop
her from heading back on to the rush-hour traffic on the northbound
lanes of the Ojai Freeway.
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors denied an appeal by
William Kaddis Tuesday morning and upheld the Planning Commission's
April decision that the Los Angeles man is responsible for the
removal of 301 oak trees and illegal grading on a 44-acre property
that he owns adjacent to Rancho Matilija on Baldwin Road.
He ran in 1994 and again two years ago, now Bruce Roland is
driving his shoot-from-the-hip sensibility onto the City Council
racetrack again. Living in Ojai since 1966, Roland holds that
Ojai is not the mythic and mystic Shangri-La it's been purported
to be in legend. Instead, he sees it and wants to keep it as
the bedroom community he's come to know and enjoy.
Pending actual construction permits, Rains Department Store
will soon begin remodeling their downtown location thanks to
a nod from the Ojai Planning Commission Wednesday evening. Back
for yet another architectural review, Alan Rains, with representatives
Jeff Rains and architect Jon Dieges, received mostly positive
feedback from the commissioners. A dilemma over roofing tile,
however, took some additional consideration and thought by the
commission before they granted their approval for the store's
A Sheriff's Ford Crown Victoria cruiser was damaged Monday
night as a short but high-speed pursuit ended in the 10400 block
of Santa Ana Road in Oak View. Neither the deputies involved
or the suspect, 33-year-old Lance Anderson, of Ojai, were reportedly
The Ventura County Sheriff's Department has released its semi-annual
list of reported crimes within the Ojai city limits, and both
misdemeanor and property crimes show a substantial increase.
And, violent and property crimes reported in the unincorporated
areas of the Ojai Valley for the first half of this year showed
a moderate 6.9 percent increase.
Ojai's local government and environmental group Citizens to
Preserve the Ojai faced off over three different issues in Ventura
County Superior Court Friday.
While a handful of valley residents waited in Judge Melinda Johnson's
courtroom for the bundled Los Arboles and Housing Element proceedings
to begin, in another courtroom, Judge Steven Hintz was hearing
Traffic Initiative arguments that had been filed just days before.
Local attorney Leonard Klaif in his bid for City Council wants
to avoid what he sees as a potential disaster for Ojai.
In his recollection, he said, he doesn't remember any community
members coming forward in a public forum and suggesting that
townhouses on South Montgomery Street were a good idea for the
city. Defeating Los Arboles, before it is built, is one of his
A Casitas Springs man, 43-year-old Michael Back, succumbed
to injuries suffered in an accidental shooting Tuesday night.
Back, after hearing noises outside his Park View Drive home,
placed a .22 caliber handgun in his waistband and stepped outside
to investigate. According to a preliminary report filed by Ventura
County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Ron Nelson, the gun accidentally
Enthusiastic developers, architects, artists and residents
packed the city chambers at Tuesday night's City Council meeting
to support the Public Arts Ordinance. The new ordinance proposes
a Public Arts Program that will increase art in public places
in coordination with new development projects. A Public Arts
Fund financed by new development projects will fund this art.
When artist/book maker Bobbi Boschan's trip to France last
September was canceled because of the tragedies of Sept. 11,
she created a photo-essay of the people, places and things in
Ojai that were affected by the attacks. Judges at the Ventura
County Fair awarded her first place in their non-fabric bound
album competition this summer for the book she created that featured
these memorable photos.
The Ojai Valley League of Women Voters held a closed meeting
Tuesday morning at the Ojai United Methodist Church as they heard
arguments for and against Measure C - the Traffic Initiative,
which will go before the voters of Ojai on Nov. 5.
The Ojai Valley News has won two national awards, taking first
place for best sports column and for best serious column in its
circulation category for all non-daily newspapers between 3,000
and 6,000 circulation. The awards will be presented today at
the National Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest ceremony
in Portland, Ore., during their 116th annual convention.
There were no big surprises at Tuesday night's presentation
on test scores at the Ojai Unified School District board meeting;
Ojai students continue to outpace their peers in the state and
A 61-year-old Ojai man was killed Sept. 10 after he lost control
of his motorcycle in clear and dry conditions on Ojai-Santa Paula
Road, according to the California Highway Patrol. Earl Thomas
Jones had just come out of a curve westbound on Highway 150 just
east of Osborne Road at 6:50 p.m. at an unknown rate of speed
as 74-year-old Barbara Jane Cullisson was turning left onto Osborne
Road at a slow rate of speed, according to the report.
Having been at the center of many an "upstream"
battle, the alternative swimming facility proposed for the recreation
area at Lake Casitas has earned the right to relax - or to at
least become a Lazy River.
At its Sept. 11 meeting, Casitas Municipal Water District's board
of directors voted unanimously in favor of the project, "finding
no significant environmental impact," adopting a formal
resolution (negative declaration of environmental impact report)
to that effect, and authorizing General Manager John Johnson
"to release the project for bid."
Bruce Wallace, longtime Ojai resident and Amgen pioneer, the
world-renowned biotechnology firm headquartered in Thousand Oaks,
died in a paragliding accident Friday in Inyo County. He was
After a couple of years of not finding any marijuana plants
in forest areas north of town, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department
began eradicating several cultivation sites in the Los Padres
National Forest Tuesday afternoon in what authorities are describing
as two unrelated incidents.
The Ojai Unit of the League of Women Voters of Ventura County
has announced its opposition to the Traffic Initiative or Measure
C that will be on Ojai's ballot on the Nov. 5 election.
A crowd of 532 people attended the second annual "Taste
of Ojai" event at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa Saturday
With more than 20 chefs serving up specialties of every kind,
it was likely that no one went away hungry, except the host.
Despite the brisk weather, speakers and listeners filled the
terrace of the Ojai House on North Montgomery Street Wednesday
evening to hear about a proposed independent police oversight
commission to examine police behavior and over-enforcement.
Some people have a knack for being where the action is. Dwayne
Hall, longtime Ojai resident known affectionately as "Long
Ball" to his golf buddies, was the man of the hour Sept.
22 while vacationing in Anchorage with his family. Hall, 54,
was credited with recovering $33,000 in jewelry allegedly stolen
from Captain Cook Fine Jewelry when he chased down a suspected
Once again, City Chambers were bursting with supporters for
the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa at Tuesday night's City Council
meeting when the council overwhelming approved the inn's expansion
plans. And also once again, Ivor Benci-Woodward, president of
the Citizens to Preserve the Ojai was the sole dissenter.
The Nordhoff High School flag was lowered to half-mast Tuesday
morning after word spread around campus that longtime favorite
teacher Deno Lepas had died.
Diagnosed with a liver ailment two years ago, the 58-year-old,
35-year NHS veteran metal shop, auto shop and sculpture arts
teacher died at the University of Southern California at Los
Angeles Medical Center Monday after it was learned that he had
developed pancreatic cancer last week, according to assistant
principal Susana Arce.
Two crying infants competed with City Council member Rae Hanstad
while their foster mothers hugged them tightly at Tuesday evening's
City Council meeting. Hanstad was presenting a proclamation signed
by Mayor Steve Olsen affirming Ojai as a city that cares for
its children and recognizes the important contribution of 38
Ventura County foster families who take care of the county's
abused and neglected children.
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.
In what local attorneys Cathy Elliot Jones and David Jones
called a "a good day for the good guys," Superior Court
Judge David Long ruled on Oct. 15 that "the city's challenges
to five of six causes of action" (in their client, Lisa
Clark's, complaint for damages against the city of Ojai, Dan
Singer, et al) "were without merit." Basically, said
Jones, "The City had asked the court to dismiss Clark's
complaint in its entirety."
Rolling away from Ojai's west and north flanks in rippling
valleys of green and gold, Ojai's largest remaining privately
owned open space will remain open space "in perpetuity,"
it was announced Monday.
The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, after seven months of negotiations
and 16 years of planning, has entered into a purchase agreement
with Intell Management and Investment Company for 1,416 acres
with an additional 150 acres protected with conservation easements.
More than 70 people came to hear the six candidates running
for Ojai City Council at Wednesday night's forums at the Ojai
Valley Inn & Spa.
On Oct. 15, Ventura County Judge Melinda Johnson rejected
the Citizens to Preserve the Ojai's case challenging the city's
five-year housing plan, and their demand requiring an EIR on
the proposed Housing Element.
She ruled that the Ojai City Council complied with the law when
it adopted its state-mandated Housing Element, which had been
approved by the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
Legendary singer and actress Shirley Jones will be one of
the film professionals whose works are celebrated at this year's
Ojai Film Festival.
One of her seminal films, "The Music Man," will be
screened in Ojai's Libbey Bowl on Saturday and Jones will be
on hand to answer questions from the audience.
As Casitas Municipal Water District reviewed bids submitted
for the construction of an approved alternative swimming facility
- the "Lazy River" - the Ventura Audubon Society, with
support from the Ventura-based Environmental Defense Center,
was appealing to Superintendent Steve Bennett's office for "timely
It began with Jocelyn Somers' interest in Colby Chapman, the
Ojai boy stricken with bone-marrow leukemia. Somers, an Ojai
Property Shoppe real estate agent, has been visiting Chapman
at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, where he has been receiving
treatment for his illness.
While there, Somers learned that there is a major need for games
of interest to the scores of kids who, hopefully, are making
the institution, their temporary home. By this edition of the
OVN, Chapman, a 9-year-old San Antonio School student, should
be back in Los Angeles for more chemotherapy after a few days
Disappointed yet optimistic. That's how Ojai City Council
candidate Bruce Roland summed it up the day after he finished
fourth out of six contestants for the three available seats on
Ojai's governing board.
"I guess I'm not going to Disneyland," he said.
But is he really out of the race? Only time will tell - specifically
the time it takes for the Ventura Registrar of Voters Office
to count absentee and provisional ballots, which they have set
at Nov. 26.
Harry Bodell, executive secretary of the Ojai Basin Groundwater
Management Agency, has some good news and some bad news concerning
groundwater levels and upcoming water bills for ranchers and
growers in Ojai.
Extraction charges are being dropped nearly 17 percent for local
growers, from $6 to $5 per acre-foot, though the latest agency
figures show the static water level at Southern California Water
Company's Ojai Mutual No. 4 well is down to 152 acre-feet, a
record low for the past 10 years.
Excessive speed has apparently claimed the life of a Camarillo
motorcyclist who died Saturday on Santa Ana Road near the entrance
to Lake Casitas.
California Highway Patrol investigators said that Alan Daniel
Black, 26, lost control of his 2001 Suzuki before it failed to
negotiate a right-hand curve at an estimated 80 mph.
For insight into Joan Kemper's life, you merely need to witness
the teetering stack of bulging file folders, blueprints and correspondence
piling up on and around her kitchen counter. It's no wonder then
that on Nov. 15, National Philanthropy Day, Kemper will be honored
by the Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties Association of Fundraising
Professionals as its volunteer of the year, along with her friend,
Marion Stewart, who will represent Santa Barbara County.
Despite being $1.2 million short because of higher-than-expected
bids, the Ojai Unified School District voted unanimously Tuesday
to proceed with construction of the $6.2 million Nordhoff High
The recent passage of state Proposition 47, which puts the district
in line for $14.8 million in construction bond money, was the
deciding factor. "We will know the afternoon of Dec. 11
exactly when our checks will arrive," said Superintendent
Van Riley. That's when the bond committee meets, and it has already
voted to fund the entire list of construction projects.
With Mayor Steve Olsen casting the sole "no" vote
at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, the council again approved
the Los Arboles project.
The Planning Commission had unanimously approved the project
on Nov. 5.
The 23-unit mixed-use Los Arboles condominiums are located on
3.13. acres on the east and west sides of South Montgomery Street,
at 203 to 307 S. Montgomery Street , approximately 500 feet south
of Ojai Avenue.
The Los Arboles condominium saga continued at Wednesday night's
Planning Commission meeting. Once more the commission voted unanimously
to approve the project and sent it off to the City Council for
Again, City Chambers were full to capacity with those supporting
Lance Smigel's redevelopment of the former blighted area on South
Montgomery Street, as well as the ever-faithful opponents to
the project, the Citizens to Preserve the Ojai and the Environmental
Coalition of Ventura County.
An 18-year-old Ojai man was arrested Saturday night following
what authorities described as a dangerous pursuit down Ojai Avenue
and through the Arbolada that ended when a deputy forced the
suspect's 1980 blue Mercedes off the road in the 200 block of
Cameren Brand Kahler was taken into custody and charged with
brandishing a weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, evading arrest
and driving on a suspended license, according to the police report.
The city of Ojai has created an art object, a community gathering
place, a rest area, and a center for outdoor dining and concerts.
After five years in planning and $2.5 million, a few finishing
touches are all that remain to be done when the fences come down
on the Arcade Plaza today. According to project manager Neva
Williams, all of the central plaza from Rains Department Store
and the service alley to Rupp Studio will be available to the
public late this afternoon.
More than 125 people packed themselves into city chambers
Thursday night at a special City Council meeting to review a
traffic circulation study prepared by Austin-Foust & Associates,
This public workshop was to be the first of many dealing with
solutions to the traffic and circulation problems besetting Ojai.
The city hadn't anticipated the crowd of neighbors from Creek
Road and Casitas Springs. Although both areas are outside of
the city's jurisdiction, their residents were alarmed that they
would be impacted by any decisions that the city made.
William Kaddis, the Los Angeles man authorities claim illegally
bulldozed 301 oak trees on a 43-acre parcel of land he purchased
in March 2001, has been hit with more charges.
Ventura County Deputy District Attorney Karen Wold said Tuesday
that additional charges of filing a false police report and maintaining
an illegal dog kennel at the Baldwin Road site near Lake Casitas
have been filed.
Wold said the false filing report was based upon an allegation
Kaddis made in July that he had found an envelope on his property
containing a suspicious or threatening letter, which prompted
him to call sheriff's deputies.
Like many an Ojai Valley resident, Jurgen Gramckow was nothing
short of delighted when the fate of 1,566 acres of fertile, undeveloped
land adjacent to Rancho Matilija, the so-called "Farmont
property," was at last decided.
The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, after more than a decade's
worth of hands-on negotiating between two different developers
and the county of Ventura, is now that land's official steward,
having successfully gotten it legally decreed a "conservation
easement, in perpetuity."
The staff of the OVN has devoted many hours conducting interviews
of teens and adults, compiling facts and statistics, and preparing
this detailed report on drug use in the valley. Perhaps the recent
deaths of young people are a lesson from which we all can learn.
Perhaps if just one young person or parent is reached by this
report, the renewed efforts of many to find a solution will not
have been in vain. Ojai is not immune to drug use. In fact, it
is the most drug-active area in Ventura County in which the Sheriff's
Department enforces the law.
The County of Ventura has certified Carol Smith as the winner
in the recent election for the Ojai City Council seat vacated
when Mayor Steve Olsen did not seek re-election. Smith, who finished
behind incumbents Mayor Pro Tem Joe DeVito and fellow council
member David Bury, had garnered 10 more votes than Bruce Roland
before the provisional and absentee ballots had been officially
tabulated. That number increased to 32 votes after all the votes
were certified Monday morning.
A community moved into action Monday night as The Nordhoff
Parent Association convened for its third General Meeting of
the 2002-2003 school year. Students, parents and community members
packed the Nordhoff cafeteria to take part in the discussion
to find some solutions to the drug abuse problem plaguing Ojai's
There weren't quite enough chairs to go around for an estimated
250 to 300 people, who first murmured and applauded the various
presenters and later took part in a lively discussion.
Andy Hernandez, described by those who know him as "full
of energy," is typical of most 13-year-old boys in many
respects. He is also atypical in many respects, because few,
if any, of his friends were born with small, weak kidneys; fewer
still have to connect to a dialysis machine six nights a week
- for up to 10 hours a stretch - which Hernandez has been doing
for the last two years.
Hernandez's last surgery, on Nov. 29, 2000, cleared the way for
him to start the intensive dialysis
Law enforcement officials say identity theft is one of the
fastest growing crimes in the United States, and Ojai residents
are far from immune.
In this report, we examined the ways it occurs, how you can lessen
the odds of becoming a victim, what to do if you suspect that
someone is using your identity, and how much financial responsibility
is yours if you are a victim.
We'll also talk with local victims who will explain how they
The long-awaited traffic signal on Highway 33 at Loma Drive
used daily by nearby Mira Monte Elementary School students should
soon become a reality.
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.
The Casitas Municipal Water District hosted a public forum
Wednesday night at Sunset Elementary in Oak View to discuss the
proposed and planned, but as yet unbuilt, fish ladder at the
Robles Diversion Dam in Meiners Oaks. The cafeteria was packed
with about 175 people, some in the day's work clothes, some in
business suits. The diverse audience included ranchers and farmers,
typical water users, Ojai City Council members Carol Smith and
David Bury, environmental activists and Michael Jackson, an executive
with the Bureau of Reclamation.
The Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce has announced its selection
for youth, Andrew Neslons, educator, Denise Thomas, and citizen,
Larry Hartmann of the year. The following essays about the selectees
are written by people who know them well.
© 2003 The Ojai Valley News
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