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Dueling meetings about Ojai Unified School District on Nov. 17

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Image Courtesy SVS DEV LLC 

A concept design featured in the proposed plan for the Ojai Town Square project.  

 

Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News reporter

The city of Ojai will host a meeting at the Boyd Center in Sarzotti Park related to the proposed Ojai Town Square project on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. The meeting coincides with its regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting and will feature a presentation from the Ojai Unified School District on its proposed development of the site located at 414 E. Ojai Avenue.

On that same day, the Ojai Unified School District is also slated to have a school board meeting, set to take place at the same time at the district office site. There has not yet been an agenda released for the meeting. 

OUSD has not yet responded as to whether or not the OUSD board meeting will be rescheduled or if a representative will attend the Planning Commission meeting. 

The District Office Site Development Conceptual Design plan was first presented to the public in January during a school board meeting. The full plan proposal can be viewed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iB_TyzDzsPUVUPTvnO5fTrfP9gzWMFYW/view

The comprehensive plan consists of several potential developments at the district office site, including an approximate 200-room hotel, affordable housing for both market and senior residents, dedicated commercial space, vegetable and community garden space, recreational space, and a multilevel parking structure.

The plan includes a restoration of the bell tower as well, which would be expanded to 48 feet, beyond the current zoned 35-foot limit. The expansion would require a variance approval.

San Antonio Elementary School has been mentioned at previous school board meetings as one possible location to house the district offices, although the school board has not voted on where different operations currently on Ojai Avenue would be moved to. 

The development is a partnership between OUSD and SVS DEV LLC, and will consist of two parcels, totaling 8.34 acres.

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Photo courtesy SVS DEV LLC 

A map and outline of the prpoposed project on the current OUSD office site.

 

“The ultimate goal of this project is to balance a range of sometimes seemingly competing constraints into a place,” according to SVS DEV LLC in its project narrative document. “To make money for the district in perpetuity without being solely about money. To house local people who need housing without being solely residential. To balance adding access to visitors and their vital part in our local economy while adding vitality for locals. To represent Ojai while also being for Ojai.”

Water has been a main concern among residents, as noted by SVS DEV LLC in its initial plan. The development group proposed several water-conservation measures for the project such as a site-wide drought-tolerate landscaping plan, water-efficient and low-flow fixtures, rainwater collection, and a grey water recycling program.

In an effort to mitigate potential traffic congestion, the program proposed a layered approach, citing public transportation via the park-and-ride, a project-sponsored electric vehicle shuttle for local trips to and from the site, and future prospects such as “self-driving cars” with the plan stating: “This is a 100-year project and will need to be designed and programmed to meet demands today and in the future.”

Parking has also been a subject of concern. Currently, the total proposed parking spaces are listed at 277, with roughly 100 subterranean spaces, 100 surface spaces, and 100 structured spaces, with adjustment options for all three depending on layout and design. The proposed structure would abide by the current 35-foot site height requirement currently in place.

A group of residents and locals has already voiced concern over the project, signing a petition created by Upper Ojai resident Trevor Quirk. The petition has received more than 700 signatures by Nov. 8 opposing the development, citing reasons related to preserving Ojai’s small-town charm, increased congestion, pollution, and potential noise and crime.

According to city staff, OUSD and its developer have applied for a concept review. This is an early review of the proposed project, which will result in feedback from the community as well as the city’s Planning Commission. The next steps will depend on the feedback from the concept review and how the developer and OUSD plan to proceed.

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Image courtesy SVS DEV LLC 

A concept design of the proposed plan. 

 

The city’s Nov. 17 meeting on the design proposal can be attended in-person or via Zoom. The meeting will also be streamed on the city’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/user/ojaicity.

 

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