Livable Communities Newsletter
Vol. 11, No. 43
August 2017
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Welcome to Our Summer 2017 Livable Communities Newsletter! 
 
While data is essential, data by itself will never initiate change and improve our communities.
 
This year's Ventura County Civic Alliance State of the Region Report roll-out events presented two panel discussions that clearly started "connecting the dots" when it comes to converting data into meaningful options for action.
 
In the following four short summaries, panelists share their thinking at the end of some very enlightening discussion:
 
Jamshid Damooei offers an overview from both panels.
 
Bruce Stenslie provides a business and economic perspective.

Joseph Briglio shares a government perspective.
 
Elena Brokaw sumarizes a non-profit perspective.
 
Let us know what you think by contacting us at info@CivicAlliance.org.
 
Thanks, 
  
Stacy Roscoe 


State of the Region Report Panel Discussion

An Overview 

by Jamshid Damooei

Having participated in both panels, I was quite impressed with how well the discussion among the panelists, and between them and the audience, took place.  The subject matters transitioned from one area to the next almost seamlessly and in a pertinent and cohesive manner.  Here is how I can summarize my observations:

Issues of the report that received sufficient attention:
  • Disparity among various groups of the county population in a manner that could be argued as impeding factors for a more prosperous community in the years to come. The emphasis on children was well articulated and received by the audiences.
  • Housing and its challenges for the present and the near future.
  • Affordability in general and its debilitating impact on the near future economic growth and development.  (We could spend more time on this very important issue.)
  • Overall prevalence of slow recovery and bringing some attention on what can be done regionally to overcome this lingering obstacle.
Issues that were discussed but could have used slightly more time:
  • Challenges of non-profits and their inability to take full advantage of the existing potentials.  This subject was covered rather dismissively in the Thousand Oaks event but much better in the West County event.
  • Low pay jobs and the challenges that they present within the county.  As a potentially rather complicated discussion, more attention may be needed.
  • The challenges of regulations within the prevailing county and city ordinances.  Again, this is a difficult subject and politically sensitive.  Nonetheless, a good, orderly and logical discussion could be interesting and relevant. 
Topics that received little or no attention:
  • Environmental challenges of keeping our community prosperous and environmentally sustainable. The issues of environmental justice and wildlife corridors and much more could have had a place. Again, PLEASE keep in mind that with the little time we had we could not possibly have all that I am suggesting. However, we could put them on the table and see how we might trade various topics within the time allotted. 
  • Workforce and the county occupational education, training, and skill sets needed for a thriving regional economy.  This is a substantive topic in multiple ways. It addresses the fast changing environment of relevant occupational skills and creation of high paying jobs.  It can also address the relevance and importance of the current curriculum of our existing adult schools and junior colleges.  This is very important and we should have spent more time on this topic.
My overall concluding remarks:
I think that David Maron and the panels did really well given the time frame and the wide areas of significant topics.  It is really hard to make a strong case for a definitive change between what we paid attention to and what we did not with any level of certainly and confidence.  However, we may put the competing topics on the table for the next time around and see where we can go with it. 

State of the Region Report Panel Discussion

A Business & Economic Perspective

by Bruce Stenslie
 

From our perspective at the Economic Development Collaborative--that is, with a concentration on business development and entrepreneurship, for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life throughout Ventura County--we'd like to concentrate our comments on four points:
 
First, we know that collectively we all bear an enormous responsibility for maintaining and enhancing our regional quality of life.  Effective contributions to that responsibility presume that we know who we are, what our condition is, and what needs attention.  On that front, the State of the Region Report and these convenings provide two enormous contributions.  The first, of course, is the extraordinary breadth and depth of data.  The second is how the Report responds to the adage, "it's not what you know; it's who you know it with." The point being, the Report doesn't just report on our condition; it builds community and contributes to the shared knowledge essential for collective action. For that, we owe a great thanks to the Civic Alliance and Community Foundation.
 
Second, in our role in looking at the economic data, we enormously appreciate that the data is integrated into and presented in this larger information context, not in isolation.  We have plenty of economic reports.  We have only one community indicator report.  This larger context helps assure that we approach our economic condition as an element of a triple bottom line consideration, that is, how we are doing, not just in terms of economic indicators, but also in terms of social equity and environmental balance--all three essential to a holistic quality of life.
 
Third and fourth, more on substance, two key issues pop out of the data:
 
The first is a highlight of our local housing crisis.  The problem is real.  Employers struggle to attract skilled workers that can afford to live here.  An over-concentration of personal spending on housing harms families and the larger economy.  Our kids take their educations and talents and move away for more affordable opportunity. Encouragingly, with the spotlight on the problem we see the emergence of healthy discussions on solutions: increased density, creative public/private partnerships, innovations for investing in infrastructure and incentivizing investment, and a chill-out on parking requirements.  Housing stock and affordability are problems that won't solve themselves and won't be fixed by a single solution.  The good news is with the data in hand we can agree that there's a problem to be solved.
 
The second point of substance is the emerging evidence that suggests we're stalling in our post-recession recovery.  Wages aren't increasing; we're creating very few new jobs, and we're losing mostly high paying jobs and gaining jobs in lower paying sectors.  While the unemployment rate is encouragingly low, our labor force growth is barely positive over ten years and our overall economic growth lags nearly every region of the state.  The burdens from the declining opportunity fall disproportionately on our lower income families.
 
Our motivation for taking on these problems is buoyed by our confidence that Ventura County leadership won't settle for less than an optimal quality of life, equitably distributed, with considerations for economic growth and opportunity balanced with attention to social justice and environmental health.
 
With the 2017 State of Region Report in hand, we are collectively informed, collectively responsible.  You can't ask for more than that.


State of the Region Report Panel Discussion

A Government Perspective

by Joseph Briglio





Housing
The good news is that Ventura County is not alone when it comes to this issue.  Housing inventory, development, and affordability is by-and-large a California issue.  

If I were to reduce the causes to a few ideas, then I would say:  
  1. Lack of funding incentives for affordable housing (i.e. redevelopment is gone)
  2. Regulatory Barriers (i.e. CEQA can delay, add costs, and kill projects fairly easily)
  3. Local Zoning Requirements (i.e. strict parking requirements, no infill development policy)
  4. Not In My Backyard - NIMBYism
 
However, what I think is unique to Ventura County is the brand of NIMBY-ism that we (including myself) have adopted.  I believe that a large part of the solution requires a change in our thinking, as well as some education.  Here's what I mean:
 
Ventura County has some of the strictest growth regulations in the nation due to SOAR.  I've been a proponent of SOAR, but also realize that it does have shortcomings, limitations, and burdens.   SOAR has protected our open-space and Ag lands, but I think it's even gone deeper into our psyche.  I believe that SOAR has helped develop a no-growth, no development in-general, mentality for Ventura County, consciously and subconsciously.   Our desire to preserve our green belts has manifested further into preserving our empty lots and current housing stock.
 
What I want to propose is that we need to separate the idea that growth and development are absolutely the same.  I think we need to understand that growth and development are actually two different things.  Growth is finite (you can only expand so far), but development is unlimited as we can always redevelop sites and/or repurpose existing buildings to meet our community's changing needs.  To use an analogy, I am limited in my capacity to grow.  I'm 5'9" and not going any higher than that.  However, I am unlimited in my capacity to learn and personally develop myself into a better human being.  Therefore, I think we need to accept and get excited about infill development which can offer unlimited possibilities for making our communities better and providing housing units that are desperately needed.  This is also why NIMBY-ism and local zoning requirements are linked.
 
We need to start having real conversations about development with our electeds and support them in having conversations with their constituents.  We also have to be open to the idea of development and separate it from our current idea of growth.  Yes, adding infill development will increase housing units and potentially grow the population, but it doesn't need to grow our building envelopes.
 
Nonprofit
We have a lot of great non-profits in Ventura County doing great work in trying to solve major problems, including housing, homelessness, and social equity.  However, my experience, while sitting on boards and helping fundraise, is that Ventura County's pool of high-earners and donation providers is small and many non-profits end up fighting over the same donors.  This is a great example of how all the issues in the report are connected.  If we can create more housing options and an entrepreneurial ecosystem that draws in talent and business leaders from all over, then our base donor lists can expand and non-profits can do more work to find solutions and less work slogging through the trenches of fund raising.



State of the Region Report Panel Discussion

A Non-Profit Perspective

By Elena Brokaw


Our County is at a precipice where we can either go up or down, and it will take a robust, collaborative, and intentional effort to ensure the healthy growth of our communities.  While it is difficult to break out of our own discrete worlds--be they defined by geography, interest area, or socio-economic factors--the assurance of a diverse ecosystem with opportunities for all residents will require that we do just that.  We need to stop thinking of our own individual communities and think of the holistic Community. This will require all sectors--governmental, non-profit, and private agencies and organizations--to work together to refine efforts and combine strengths to achieve greater impact.




A Special Thank You Goes to Our State of the Region Report Sponsors:

Research Sponsor - 
Ventura County Community Foundation

Presenting Sponsor - 
Ventura County Community College District


Domain Sponsors - 

Aera Energy
AT&T
California Lutheran University
California State University Channel Islands
County of Ventura
Gene Haas Foundation
Limoneira
Montecito Bank & Trust
Southern California Edison
United Staffing Associates
VCDSA - Ventura County Deputy Sheriff's Association


Supporting Sponsors -

The Port of Hueneme
Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors
Ventura County Office of Education

Contributing Sponsors -

City of Ventura Community Development Department
Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP
Gold Coast Transit
Maron Computer Services
Procter & Gamble Paper Products Company
SESPE CONSULTING INC.
Stacy and Kerry Roscoe
Ventura County Transportation Commission

Friend Sponsors -

California Lutheran University Center for Nonprofit Leadership
Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc.
Friends of the Santa Clara River
Kate McLean
Sherie and Joe Gibson
Slover Memorial Fund
United Way of Ventura County
Ventura College Foundation

Media Sponsor -

Pacific Coast Business Times