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UPDATE: Developer to host Jan. 6 workshop online to discuss OUSD property proposal

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Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News reporter

An online community workshop is being organized by SVS DEV LLC on Jan. 6 to gain additional public insight on the proposed development of Ojai Unified School District offices at 414 E. Ojai Ave. 

Those interested in attending can RSVP to the event on the Ojai Town Square website at https://bit.ly/3EGbX5l. On Jan. 5 at 3:20 p.m., an email was sent to people who had RSVP’s for the workshop, stating: “We are looking forward to a productive conversation to investigate the opportunities, challenges and potential uses for this special site. due to the rise in COVID-19, we will be hosting the entire forum online. you can find a link to join via google meet on our website: https://www.ojaitownsquare.com/participate.

“Our goal has been to have an open process to build a project that is right for the community and school district,” said SVS DEV LLC design partner Bradley Schnell at the Dec. 15 school board meeting. “The key part of this plan has been to hold public workshops and forums in order to come up with the best solutions together. … This process has not yet even occurred. We’re just getting started.”

SVS DEV LLC is also in the process of vetting and selecting a community advisory group for the project.

“It’s something we’ve been working on for about a month now,” said developer partner Kristine Overacre, noting the people in the group will work as a steering committee for the development process. “I think it will be really helpful in facilitating this process in a more open and public manner,” she said.

Information from the Jan. 6 community meeting could potentially be integrated into a new design proposal. The OUSD school board will consider whether to extend its exclusive right to negotiate agreement with the developer at its Jan. 12 meeting.

“Everything is on the table still,” said Overacre. “The plans that we’ve seen are specifically driven by the RFP that was put out by the school requesting highest and best use and highest revenue to the school district. That’s what our plans currently reflect. I don’t think that is anyone’s intention in terms of what we will actually build.” 

When the Ojai Valley News attempted to contact all five school board members and the superintendent about the Jan. 6 meeting, the only person to respond was Trustee Kevin Ruf. "I am aware of the meeting," he said, “but I believe that threshold matters regarding the options going forward should be discussed by the board before a community meeting with this developer would be helpful.”

Overacre noted that the communication process has been difficult. “It’s made it more challenging because we don’t have a direct line of communication with the board,” said Overacre. 

Additional concepts, mentioned by Overacre, being discussed as potential additions to the proposal include housing specifically for OUSD staff, micro-retail and artist spaces that can potentially be rented to community members, and additional parking for the city, all of which would stay within the current height limit of 35 feet, with the exception of a possible restoration of the bell tower to 48 feet. 

Additional information on the development project can be viewed on the FAQ released by OUSD at
https://bit.ly/3EH39vV