New plans may alter
By Jesse Phelps
It's not only conceivable, but
likely, that an Ojai resident could walk through downtown two
years from now and see a whole host of new buildings and other
attractions dotting the landscape.
This resident might park, if space allows, at the lot where the
Farmers' Market sets up on Sundays and walk to the corner of
Montgomery and Aliso.
There, just across from Chaparral High School, could stand a
nine-suite "extended-stay" hotel with a majestic tower
facing the schoolyard and an interior courtyard encompassing
a massive oak tree. Across the street, at the classic church
building known as Nordhoff Hall, a yoga retreat could be in session,
or perhaps a wedding party might emerge.
Up Ojai Avenue a bit, it's less likely, but still within the
realm of possibility, that a multilevel craftsman's complex (home
to a regular street-side artisan's faire) will stand on Fulton
Street, which will now extend past the Avenue to meet up with
And there on Bryant, two years from now, new "affordable"
housing could flank a large storage facility housing recreational
vehicles and forgotten furniture adjacent to the Humane Society.
This vision for the near future has been brought to you from
the chambers occupied by the Ojai Planning Commission, which
on Wednesday night reviewed plans in various stages for all this
and more. Most of above items still lingered somewhere between
the concept and the architectural phases. With varying degrees
of enthusiasm, the commission allowed each of them to proceed.
The self-storage facility was undergoing its third trip through
the concept review stage, having lost out last time on the grounds
that it was too large and needed to incorporate at least one
other use, which turned out to be, potentially, affordable housing.
Applicant William B. Kendall returned with new plans that split
the lot, condensing the storage and creating a 1.82-1.99-acre
panhandle-shaped second parcel, which "may or may not include"
apartments adjacent to the Whispering Oaks retirement community.
The size was determined because any parcel under two acres is
exempt from California environmental review.
Planners were impressed that Kendall had so quickly integrated
changes from the last meeting on June 4, including working in
the suggestions of citizens and the housing authority for the
"We took your comments to heart," he said.
They also expressed amazement at the "magic" way Kendall
had squeezed roughly the same amount of storage into a much smaller
The original design consisted of 74,020 square feet of storage
and approximately 67 parking spaces for recreational vehicles.
The new plans show 73,975 square feet of storage and 62 recreational
vehicle parking spaces.
A number of speakers came forth, including concerned citizen
Stan Greene, who argued that to size the housing parcel based
on a desire not to do environmental review was "the tail
wagging the dog."
The ubiquitous Bill Miley suggested planners extend the timeframe
allowable to the Housing Authority to create plans for the new
housing beyond two years.
Commission chair Tucker Adams agreed with the extended timeframe
for the housing and suggested that the access drive from Bryant
Street be widened to accommodate some landscape buffering from
the storage facility. "I'd like to see a real street, not
an alley," she said, a sentiment echoed by Commissioner
Commissioner Ynez Arce expressed concern about the increase in
density, saying she'd like to see the project be 10 to 15 percent
smaller, more truly "assessing the needs of the community."
Commissioner Craig Brown echoed her sentiment, adding that he'd
like to see more storage for the recreational vehicles.
In the end, the body seemed content with the direction taken
"I think we're heading toward a really good project,"
said commissioner John Mirk.
The extended stay hotel also received encouraging feedback from
the commissioners, whose main complaint was the tower height.
Architect Steven Foster said it would not be a problem to lower
Miley concurred with the commission, saying he didn't approve
of a "non-functional" structure that blocks views from
the street. He also wondered why Foster didn't seem worried about
problems occurring on the block.
The issue Miley was referring to was the parking crunch for some
downtown residents, due, they claimed, to workers and event-goers
at a meeting hall and offices in the recently remodeled classic
church at the corner of Montgomery and Aliso.
The evening's deliberations included discussion and adoption
of a resolution permanently extending a conditional use permit
to one Michael McFerrin, who runs the operation, over objections
voiced by three neighbors.
Cathy Bautista owns a home next door and brought several complaints
before the commission, saying that "noise and parking have
both been problems" and that several neighbors and tenants
had already moved.
One of Bautista's current tenants, Misty Forbes, said that the
people working in the offices park in front of her house daily.
"If I leave," she said, "They move right in."
But the commission didn't seem impressed with the comments, mainly
because Bautista had not lodged any formal complaints in the
two years since McFerrin was originally granted the conditional
use permit that allows him to hold events in the building.
A solution of sorts already exists. An ordinance was created
around the same time that McFerrin was granted his permit to
allow permitted parking in Ojai. The plan was to give residents
of the neighborhood parking permits and signposts were installed.
The signs, however, never went up.
Community Development Director Robert Casias said that Doug Breeze,
the city's new Public Works Director, is looking at that problem.
Breeze, out of town for the evening, was unavailable for comment.
Ultimately, the commission granted a permanent extension of the
permit with the additional requirement that McFerrin issue a
one-time notification to neighboring owners with directives on
how to lodge complaints.
Oddly, this did not make him happy. After the commission explained
that they could reopen that matter and reconsider everything,
including the permit extension, McFerrin elected to walk with
his partial victory.
The commission also granted a conditional use permit extension
to Len Mann, owner of several parcels on Fulton Street, which
he envisions as the craftsman's complex. Local architect Marc
Whitman has designs but nothing can be done without a clean bill
of health from the state.
The site has a history of toxic waste, which Mann insists has
been regularly monitored and cleaned up. The commission granted
him another year to organize.
The Ojai Valley News
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