Growth plan submitted
By Jesse Phelps
Take your time with those blueprints
for your new Ojai low-income skyscraper.
For while Ojai city planners unanimously agreed on a new growth
management plan with loopholes that could allow a large increase
in construction of low-income or senior housing, city officials
said history suggests that won't happen.
The new plan replaces the city's original 20-year growth management
ordinance, adopted in March of 1979. The old plan was initiated
by planners in response to what was then a 2.2 percent growth
rate within the city limits, according to City Attorney Monte
While Widders said that growth rate was in line with the rest
of the state, planners in the late 1970s felt that Ojai needed
to slow things down and with the adoption of the original ordinance,
they achieved their goal.
Under the old ordinance, Ojai's growth declined to 0.594 percent
per year, a number that fell to .3 percent over the last decade,
according to Widders. Allocations of housing were limited and
a "banking" system - whereby individual living unit
allocations from previous years were, in essence, rolled over
- made sure the city's growth never exceeded certain limits.
If a new development came before planners, they would look to
see how many banked units were available and limit the size of
the complex accordingly.
Under the new plan, strict limits still apply on the number of
single- and multi-family residences, based on a formula calculated
yearly which takes into account both total population and density
per household. However, exemptions exist for low-income and senior
housing and the banking system has been eliminated, opening the
door for extensive development.
However, Widders and City Manager Dan Singer were among those
suggesting that the likelihood of such an outcome is small. Widders
pointed out that only two significant low-income housing complexes
have been built in Ojai since the city's original growth management
plan, created in 1978, was enacted.
"I just don't see the floodgates opening," he said.
This argument failed to convince concerned citizen Stan Greene,
the only representative of the public to speak at, or even attend,
Wednesday night's regularly scheduled planning meeting.
Greene said he feels that air-quality, not yearly population
counts, should be the determining factor in development and encouraged
the commission to consider reinstating the banking system.
Commissioner Paul Blatz suggested that allocations be taken from
other types of housing or from future allocations, should any
multi-unit complexes be built. Widders didn't seem convinced
of the legality of such a plan.
Eventually, the commission elected unanimously to forward the
plan as written to the city council for its approval. Marge Fay
was the lone dissenter on an addition put forth by commissioner
Craig Brown that recommended that the council allow staff to
track and measure unused allocations against exempted projects
and explore the practice of borrowing allocations from future
years to account for units used for those projects.
As a meeting with two significant discussion items stretched
well into its second hour, the commission expeditiously attended
to a new zoning ordinance, voting unanimously to recommend it
to the city council.
The new ordinance brings zoning requirements more in line with
the general plan, with new provisions for second dwelling units.
A state law created this year requires cities to process requests
for these units, commonly referred to as granny flats, with a
ministerial checklist as opposed to a public hearing.
The Ojai Valley News
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