Livable Communities Newsletter
Vol. 11, No. 44
November 2017
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Welcome to Our Fall 2017 Livable Communities Newsletter! 
This year, affordable housing has been recognized by many as the biggest challenge to the sustainability of Ventura County.  The issues with housing cut across all of the 3 E (Economy, Environment, and Equity) foundations upon which the Ventura County Civic Alliance was founded.
This year's Ventura County Housing Conference  presented panel discussions that clearly reviewed both causes and potential remedies for the housing crisis that the County is now facing. 

In this edition of our Livable Communities Newsletter Stacy Roscoe reviews highlights from two of these panels, "Compelled Coalitions: New Partnerships" and "Regional and Local Issues and Challenges."  These discussions were very direct and unfiltered, and offer clear direction for the future of housing in Ventura County.
The last article goes to the very soul of our 11 year old enterprise known as the Ventura County Civic Alliance Livable Communities Newsletter.  Dao Doan has been an incredible partner producing this newsletter and has been our chief technical expert when it comes to what really are livable communities.  This quarter, as Dao continues his all consuming battle against cancer, he writes an article from his heart that puts new emphasis on the importance of all we have been advocating.  Looking back to his early childhood, Dao reminisces about life in a pedestrian friendly city that contrasts dramatically with where he finds himself right now, reminding us all how important urban design is to the quality of our lives.
Let us know what you think by contacting us at
Stacy Roscoe 

16th Annual Ventura County Housing Conference
Panel #1 - Compelled Coalitions: New Partnerships
Review of Key Points
by Stacy A. Roscoe

Ray Pearl - Executive Director, California Housing Consortium - Moderator
Dave Mullinax - Regional Public Affairs Manager, League of California Cities
Ma'Ayn Johnson , AICP - SCAG Housing & Land Use Planner / Compliance & Performance Monitoring
Richard Bruckner - Land Use and Development Strategies Consultant
Jeanette Sanchez - Communications Director for Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin
Here are key points from this excellent panel discussion:
180,000 homes per year are required to keep up with California's need for housing, and only 80,000 per year are being built.
Housing dominated the Legislature this year as it looked at both funding and process.  The primary reason for the bills is that some communities have not been meeting the needs of their people.  Legislation was passed to finance housing, streamline the process, secure local accountability, and preserve affordable housing:
SB 2 - Bond on the 2018 ballot; Money released 2019
SB 3 - Fees on real estate transactions - will vary as refinancing varies
SB 35 - Process streamlining
SB 540 - Incentives for cities to plan neighborhoods for new development.
Some say that streamlining without funding will not work.  Many developers say that the problem is not money; it is the process.  Process changes initiated by SB 35 are very complicated, and are burdened with many legislative "ornaments" such as labor requirements that were necessary to get support for the bill.  It will take time and a lot of work to see if the process will really be streamlined.
Some believe that the two big causes for the lack of building were the last recession and the elimination of redevelopment districts.  Others believe that anti-growth activities are the biggest killers of affordable housing.  The strength of the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) efforts kill good projects that meet zoning requirements.
Government tries to zone for housing, but the development may not "pencil out."  There are also infrastructure issues that must be addressed.  In addition, the local area may see what it considers to be unfunded mandates such as solar installation and use of prevailing wages. 
RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) numbers generated by SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) for local allocations to define housing needs come from local input regarding population growth solicited by SCAG, but the ability to implement is not always there.  The point was made that local government does not build housing.
Richard Bruckner brought up what he thinks is "the elephant in the room"...CEQA (California Environment Quality Act) .  Richard stated that  local people abuse CEQA.  With a specific interest in stopping development rather than in protecting the environment, litigation is often filed against projects at the end of the CEQA process that delays project implementation for years or kills it.  It can be used as a "stick-up" or "shakedown."
It was noted that the way to combat abuse of CEQA is the use of honest dialogue in the planning and zoning process so that once the defined  planning and zoning criteria is met, the right to build is granted.  The criteria can continue to be tough, but once it is met, permits should be granted "over the counter."
SB 540 was approved to spur housing development for the next five years.  This bill authorizes cities and counties to create a Workforce Housing Opportunity Zone by preparing an environmental impact report initially for the zone which would, in effect, eliminate the need for project-specific reviews. 
What is needed now?  Many believe that the uncertainty list is too long and complex.  Legislation tries to force us to do the right thing, but there is no certainty. 
There is strong belief that the elimination of redevelopment districts was a bad idea, and that we need to reinstitute districts that have stronger safeguards than districts had in the past.  Time will tell!

16th Annual Ventura County Housing Conference
Panel #3 - Regional and Local Issues and Challenges

Review of Key Points
by Stacy A. Roscoe

Bruce Stenslie  - President and CEO, EDC-VC - Moderator
Richard Bruckner - Land Use and Development Strategies Consultant
Matthew Fienup - Executive Director, Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, California Lutheran University
Margarita De Escontrias - CEO, Cabrillo Economic Development Association
Stephanie Caldwell - President and CEO, Ventura Chamber of Commerce
Here are key points expressed in this excellent panel discussion:
Richard Bruckner - 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.
Matthew Fienup - 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.
Stephanie Caldwell - 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
Buying right
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!!!!!

Reminiscence of a Simpler Time

by Dao Doan

Often we don't fully appreciate things until we no longer have them.  That is certainly very true in my case.  Allow me to explain.

In the early 60s, I grew up in a city that only much later did I realize was one of my all-time favorites of all the ones I've lived in or visited over a lifetime of some 60 years.  This was not because it was a spectacularly beautiful city, or happened to be near a world-renowned natural landmark, but because it held many of my best childhood memories.  The city was Saigon, now officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the North Vietnamese leader who headed a regime which adopted a brutal Communist dictatorial political system, and completed their military conquest in a 30 year civil war against South Vietnam.

The city was loosely labeled as the "Pearl of South East Asia" in many pre-war travel books and flyers about Saigon, perhaps more of a marketing ploy by travel agencies to attract tourists to this capital of the former French colony than a true reflection of realities on the ground.

Indeed, Saigon was planned and built by the French during their almost century-long occupation according to planning principles at the time:  large boulevards for important thoroughfares with signature focal points at one end or the other, usually a monumental civic building in nature or sometimes a large park full of trees.  In the case of Saigon, these monuments included the all white French Governor's Palace, which later was converted into the South Vietnamese Presidential Palace, and the city's Notre Dame Cathedral.   The rest of the city was laid out as a grid occasionally cut by a diagonal boulevard.  The city blocks were very small, fronted by very narrow streets.  All streets and boulevards were lined with tamarind trees, which, in a tropical climate, eventually grew up to 80-100 feet.   Even though some of their roots eventually also grew very big, the 20-25 foot wide sidewalks allowed them plenty of room to grow without creating too much disruption.

I didn't realize it at the time, but the French had planned a highly pedestrian-friendly city.  Private individual cars hardly existed, and didn't start to make their appearances until the late 60s-early 70s.

During that period, transportation in Saigon came in a wide variety of modes:

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
California Lutheran University
California State University Channel Islands
County of Ventura
Gene Haas Foundation
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
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