- Land Use and Development Strategies Consultant
- Executive Director, Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, California Lutheran University
Margarita De Escontrias
- CEO, Cabrillo Economic Development Association
- President and CEO, Ventura Chamber of Commerce
Here are key points expressed in this excellent panel discussion:
- We have lost the dialogue about where the community is going. Over the last 20 years we have just been throwing the developer into the crowd. We don't need more regional planning; we need neighborhood by neighborhood planning. RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) from SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) is necessary for the broad view, but we need planning on a neighborhood scale.
- SOAR is our land use policy. Lack of building has had a large impact on the economy of Ventura County.
Margarita De Escontrias
- To build housing, we have gone from $350,000 per unit to $550,000 per unit. We cannot build infrastructure at the cost of affordable housing.
- Ventura County is an attractive place to live, but we are not building housing for our workforce. The #1 impediment to the economy is lack of all types of housing.
The question was asked, "Are we killing the 'Golden Goose' of Ventura County?" The responses to this question included the following information:
For 2016, economic growth was down 3%, and the last 3 years have yielded the slowest growth on record. This is worse than the impact of the recession.
Focusing on how broadly Ventura County quality of life is shared through the County, the Brookings Institute has ranked Ventura County as 90 of 100 for economic growth. (There are only 10 peer counties with lower growth!) Ventura County is 82 of 100 for economic inclusivity. We need to have more shared quality of life.
The state of California is leading the country in poverty with 20% of the population rated as living in poverty; 8 million are at or below poverty in California. Housing is a big piece of this rating. To afford the median $1900 monthly rent, a person must make $34/hour. Farm workers, laborers, cleaners, and other service employees make $11/hour.
Ideas for what can be done at the local level to deal with all of this include:
Affordability overlay zones
Receiving donated land
Streamlining the housing process
Fast-tracking affordable housing (like other communities do now).
Reducing parking requirements
Building micro units (over 1000 micro units are now in Seattle).
The Ventura Chamber has established a special housing sub-committee to review how the process works now. Developer input is invited and specifics for improving the process have been gleaned.
Density does not need to mean tall. 2-3 and 3-4 story structures have already been successfully added.
Legal issues are now eliminated with the passage of AB 1505 which reauthorizes cities and counties to implement inclusionary low-income housing requirements for new housing developments. Inclusionary housing has been heavily used historically, and has been responsible for a large spread of affordable housing.
Right now there are 120,000 "cross Ventura County line" auto trips per day.
40,000 of these trips come from people who can't afford to live in Ventura County and who live in the inland counties, driving to Ventura County for work. Trips like this undermine environmental plans for improvement of air quality.
SOAR is the most restrictive land use policy in the country. In light of this we must convince voters that we will better protect the environment, and not trade off the environment to preserve open space.
Ventura County is losing its children who cannot afford to live in the County. Police, teachers, nurses, and fire fighters create the local face for housing that needs to be presented to our community. We are talking affordable housing, not skid row housing!!!!!