Two new town home
projects in planning
By Jesse Phelps
In a city which planning commissioners
say is suffering from a lack of affordable housing, two more
town house projects may be the latest developments.
The commission heard about conceptual plans for the new developments
at their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday night and greeted
the two applicants with decidedly different reactions.
On the one hand is a 10-unit development to be located a couple
of blocks north of the downtown area, at 604 Montgomery Street.
Applicant Joan English Thompson said it has been a dream to redevelop
The commissioners, while lauding her attempt to redevelop the
lot with the inclusion of two affordable units, met the plans
and designs themselves with far less enthusiasm.
On the other hand, they unanimously gave a thumbs-up to the designs
for a project designed by local architect Marc Whitman, tentatively
titled "The Bungalows of Ojai."
The Bungalows would replace 25 units on a lot located at 412
Mallory Way, also near downtown, with 25 newer, larger units,
designed in a Craftsman style inspired by Ojai's famous Pratt
The designers hope to purchase part of an adjoining street from
the city to expand the lot size, and as such, have a couple of
different ideas on how the finished project would look.
But the main idea is a set of two-story multiplexes with interior
access to several viewing decks above, situated to provide views
of the surrounding mountains and natural landscape without infringing
upon the privacy of neighbors.
The buildings would surround a common walking area with streams
and bridges and the property could be reached not only from Mallory
Way, but also from Eucalyptus Street to the east and Summer Street
to the north.
That through access and the possibility of increased traffic
for the adjacent neighborhoods was the topic of discussion by
the commissioners and several neighbors who elected to attend
the meeting and speak.
While a traffic study commissioned by the builders determined
that the new projects would produce a decrease in overall traffic,
partly due to the planned-upon furnishing of electric vehicles
to the new residents, the neighbors expressed concern that by
creating a throughway where a dead-end street exists currently
could create an increase in their neighborhood.
"Will this become a thoroughfare from Foothill (for traffic
bound for downtown)," questioned Sally McNaughton, who lives
And Bob Bride, who lives on the same street, said, in reference
to the traffic study's claim of fewer trips, "I can't quite
get my mind around that."
Community development director Robert Casias was equally pessimistic
about the traffic study findings and also expressed concerns
about the layout of the driveway, which he said might be tough
for fire engines to reach.
Still, both neighbors and commissioners were enthused about the
plans. Commissioner Paul Blatz described them as "very imaginative"
and Craig Brown said the project "is a gem."
Brown said he had doubts about Whitman's design for the Emerald
Iguana initially as well but that the finished product turned
out so nicely that he's reluctant to question Whitman's vision
John Mirk brought up the issue of affordable housing and said,
"What we're doing is essentially trading 25 affordable housing
units for market-rate ones." But, he said, he very much
liked the design and was happy to see that the neighbors were
supportive, despite their concerns.
Chair Tucker Adams said she was mainly concerned about the scale
(the new units are as big as 2,900 square feet, as opposed to
the maximum size of 1,000 for the current units) but liked the
way Whitman will use the topography.
"I like the meandering streams and the village feel,"
"We wanted to create a real sense of place with artful places
for people to live," Whitman said.
The other project garnered far fewer positive comments from the
commission. They suggested to architect Roy Clobert that he come
back for a second concept review, bringing several sets of plans.
Commissioner Marge Fay said she wanted to see on-site parking
incorporated, even it meant fewer units could be included.
Said Mirk, "When I first opened up the packet I thought,
oh, this is in the wrong place. It should be in Oxnard."
Adams disagreed with that assessment, saying she thought it was
the right place for the project but also agreed with her fellow
commissioners that the plans needed to be reworked. "I encourage
you to try this again," she said to Colbert. "We need
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