skate park lease
By Jesse Phelps
Untamable skate punks briefly
ruled the City Council chambers at an unusual session on Tuesday
night. At issue was the extension of a lease of the downtown
land used for Ojai's skate park facility.
The school district leases the land, which also includes a bus
stop and parking lot, the so-called Park & Ride, to the city.
The council unanimously agreed to approve a new agreement extending
that lease for a third time.
A gaggle of Air-Walk- and beanie-clad youngsters descended on
the chambers prior to the start of the meeting, prompting the
council to move their item nearer to the top of the agenda and
Mayor Joe DeVito to ask for hats to be removed during the pledge
Several short speeches and outbreaks of hearty applause from
the group only enhanced the positive outlook shared by the council
members toward the facility, which offers youthful members of
the community an inexpensive option for exercise, culture and
"The skate park gives these kids somewhere to go. It's needed,"
said John Riddell, the facility's manager.
Carol Belser of city Parks and Recreation also displayed conceptual
drawings of a newer, more comprehensive facility she hoped the
council would support in the near future.
The terms of the 20-year extension include an annual payment
of $4,268 per year to the Ojai Unified School District, pending
It was a busy night. The skate park item followed a redevelopment
item, which followed a special workshop on a new zoning ordinance,
which followed a closed session. When they were done with all
of that, the council also found time to release funds to the
hospital, support a new open space resolution, discuss a second
reading of the coming growth ordinance, award a contract for
construction at Sarzotti Park and establish a district to move
utilities underground on South Montgomery Street.
The first order of business was the officially adoption of an
ordinance that will permit the redevelopment department more
leeway to establish debt. This will allow the city the opportunity
to continue embarking on major projects, rather then forcing
a virtual halt to infrastructure improvements while old projects
are paid in full.
The newest project being undertaken by redevelopment, after another
unanimous vote, will be the removal of many above-ground utilities
on Montgomery. The project, a joint effort between the city and
the owners of the Los Arboles luxury condominium project currently
under construction on the block, will also be partially funded
Council unanimously approved the release of $30,000 to the Ojai
Valley Community Hospital for material upgrades - specifically,
lifting equipment - that hospital representative Victoria Alexander
said would "protect both employees and patients from injury."
The funds, which will allow the hospital to access grant monies
totaling roughly $75,000, will be paid back to the city interest
free within a couple of months, Alexander said.
The Sarzotti Park project will include a new restroom building
and major improvements to the score booth building behind the
backstop on the southern baseball diamond. The bid was awarded
to T.J. Construction in the amount of $326, 026.
The environment also received a lift when the council unanimously
agreed to support the consensus recommendations of the Ventura
Open Space District Advisory Committee as they go before county
The committee, made up of 41 members including Ojai representatives
John Broesamle and Jim Engel, worked over the last five years
to put together a document to support the wishes of the voters
who passed two major environmental initiatives in the late 1990s.
Filmmaker and activist Dulanie Ellis, who said she's been making
a documentary about land use in the county over the last year,
addressed the council, urging them to support the findings of
the committee. "This is one of those exquisite moments in
time where we have the opportunity to make sure we keep the quality
of life that we enjoy in Ventura County," she said.
Evidently, the council agreed.
The final item of the night, a second reading of the new growth
management ordinance, had to be postponed until December because,
by law, no second reading, which serves as the passage of the
ordinance if voted upon in the affirmative, can be conducted
at a special meeting. The council earlier elected to consolidate
their two regularly scheduled November meetings into a single
They may not have had the power to vote on it but that didn't
stop discussion. Most of the talk centered on how they thought
their earlier 3-2 split vote was perceived by the public.
Councilman David Bury sought to clarify his position, reiterating
that he hadn't voted against the ordinance because he opposed
growth restrictions. Rather, he said, he was uncomfortable with
a lack of resolution concerning a concept of potentially borrowing
future allocations when constructing larger projects.
Near the close of the meeting, in what may have been his last
diatribe before ceding the title of Mayor to Sue Horgan in December,
DeVito chose to lash out at the media over the coverage of the
"Most newspapers are written at a fourth- to sixth-grade
level," he said. In an attempt to clarify without specifying,
he said, "I really didn't like that letter to the editor."
On this night, DeVito and company decided as one that the ordinance,
as written, should be approved without further ado. As such,
it will be brought back as a consent calendar item, no further
discussion intended, at the regularly scheduled Dec. 9 meeting.
The Ojai Valley News
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