|Ventura County Civic Alliance
Livable Communities Newsletter
|2016 1st Quarter, Number 37
Welcome to Our Winter 2016 Livable Communities Newsletter!
This edition starts our 10th year of quarterly publication, and the Ventura County Civic Alliance Livable Communities Committee is proud to continue bringing you discussions of important issues that impact the sustainability of Ventura County.
In our first article we bring to closure a topic introduced in November regarding EDC-VC's effort to explore whether Ventura County could benefit from a more diversified food systems strategy. The report that we review in this issue was completed for EDC-VC by Applied Development Economics and The Hatamiya Group. It addresses the need and opportunity to increase the level of value-added processing to better support regional farmers and a comprehensive food systems strategy. The discussion of this opportunity is also a part of the upcoming efforts to renew the current SOAR initiatives in the county.
Our next article reports key points from the annual weather/drought update given to the Association of Water Agencies (AWA) in January. A core piece of sustainability for Ventura County is a reliable water supply, and the presentation given by Eric Boldt of the NOAA/National Weather Service, Oxnard/Los Angeles helped put the state of water reliability in context with El Nino, the drought, and global warming.
Our last two articles discuss a fascinating charrette conducted in Oxnard from January 29th through February 2 to develop a more vibrant and relevant downtown community. The first is written by Dao Doan, who was instrumental in getting the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) to provide a pro-bono study. The next article, by Kerry Roscoe, shares the perspective of a community participant interested in furthering the artistic base of the downtown area. The charrette may be a turning point for increased application of livable community concepts in Downtown Oxnard.
As always, we ask for your feedback on what we are presenting. We would like to incorporate this feedback into further coverage of these topics.
Food Processing in Ventura County
Findings and Recommendations Summarized from the EDC-VC Report Completed by Applied Development Economics and The Hatamiya Group.
(The Full Report is Linked Below)
1. Food processing employment in Ventura County is 2/3 lower and less than 15% of the concentration of farm production compared to state averages.
2. 1480 jobs are currently supported by food processing in Ventura County. Based on data from the rest of California, the range of possible expansion is between 2680 to 5450 jobs.
3. If new food processing activity was placed in new construction, it would require between 223 and 453 acres of industrial development which is equal to only 0.2 to 0.4% of Ventura farmland farmed in 2014.
4. The available urban industrial land is estimated to be 2,110 acres, but only 495 acres are really suited to the scale of most food processing. Therefore, the new food processing activity possible for Ventura County could consume between 45% and 91% of this suitable industrial land.
5. Farmland produces an average of $19,330 per acre for the crops grown in Ventura County. Food processing generates $835,000 of per acre added value. (For comparison, non agriculture industrial development generates $7.2 million of per acre added value.)
6. Average food processing wages are over $14,000 higher than average agricultural production wages ($44,294 versus $30,206 annually).
7. Capturing the economic benefit from value-added food processing is critical to the long-term economic stability of the farming community. The trade-off in land use that allows food processing on agricultural land would generate net gain for the farming community of Ventura County. In contrast, using urban industrial land for food processing would result in lower levels of higher value industrial growth.
8. The lower value of farmland compared to urban industrial land can provide a cost advantage that is sometimes necessary to achieve the feasibility of new food processing facilities.
Recommended Ventura County Policies to be Made Part of an Overall Farmland Land Use Policy:
1. Expand the list of allowable operations for farmland to include cooking processes, farm education and research, and ancillary office space (setting maximums based on percent of total facility space). Relevant SOAR vote requirements for land use changes would remain in effect.
2. Concentrate new processing on marginal farm land as determined by soil, water, access to transportation and/or urban markets, parcel size, and suitability for high-value crop production.
3. Require on site wastewater treatment.
El Nino Is Here: So What Does This Mean for the Drought, for Our California Reservoirs, and for the Rest of the Winter and Beyond?
A Review of a Presentation to the Association of Water Agencies (AWA) by Eric Boldt of NOAA/National Weather Service, Oxnard/Los Angeles
El Nino is not a storm. It is a condition that influences storms. El Nino works in the tropics, where the West Pacific normally has thundershowers and the East Pacific is cooler that the western waters. El Nino is responsible for moving warm water in the Pacific that is hundreds of feet deep to the east where the warmer water has a huge ability to change normal North American weather patterns.
Our current El Nino started last March and we saw summer impacts such as tropical cyclones (hurricanes). There were a record-setting 9 hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific, the biggest number on record since tracking started in 1970. (We had a tornado in Fillmore on 1/6/16 with 85 mph winds.) El Ninos typically last 10-14 months, and it looks like we will see the end of this one in May. Southern California has had warm and humid weather, but the expected drier weather to the North has not been experienced as it normally would be with El Nino. This time, so far, the North has been wetter.
El Nino is now strong. There are more storms just a few 100 miles to the north. There is great snow pack. Most experts expect the rain to drop south over the next few months bringing water to Southern California.
This current El Nino is comparable to the two most powerful El Ninos measured since 1950 when records started: the 97/98 and 82/83 events. To date, our 15/16 El Nino best matches the 97/98 one. Ocean temperatures have already peaked at 3.2 degrees above normal, but the warming will stay because of the depth. There are 70 buoys in critical areas of the Pacific Ocean that measure these temperature changes that come with El Nino.
Rainfall timing is a bit behind 82/83 and 97/98 but we can catch up. Historically we get a large amount of rain in February and/or March with this kind of El Nino. Locally, the mountain areas in LA / Ventura are ahead of average rainfall but the low lands are below normal. Last year was the worst snow pack ever at 5%. In mid-December the measured rain was over 20 inches in the northern mountains which is 7-8 inches above normal. We see 125% of normal in Sierras versus 31% last year.
Normal conditions usually bring 5-6 rain storms while El Nino conditions will usually bring 10-12 storms. There will be more storms, not necessarily more intense storms.
Click Here to See What This Team Accomplished in Oxnard
The Congress of the New Urbanism Facilitates a Bold Vision for Oxnard
By Dao Doan
Last year the City of Oxnard hired a traffic consultant to help it figure out what to do with Oxnard Boulevard now that the City has full possession of the thoroughfare after decades of use as a State Highway (part of PCH). Roy Prince, a local architect/activist friend, and I had numerous conversations about the Boulevard re-envisioning effort for several months after we both attended the early workshops on it. The conversations eventually grew to include several others most of whom were residents of Oxnard. The group coalesced into the Oxnard Community Planning Group (OCPG). Our recurring talks centered on the same questions:
- How do we add significantly more housing along the Boulevard or around Downtown Oxnard?
- Would the proposed solutions from the consultant encourage more walking and biking?
- What does it take to bring back robust commerce?
- Are six-story mixed use buildings appropriate there?
As the series of questions gnawed at me, the thought occurred to me to engaging a "shock troop" of urban designers, architects, planners, economists, traffic planners, engineers, and to drop them into the area to help us figure out what may be best for Oxnard.
In 2013 and 2014, I had participated in Design Charrettes in Livingston (a small town in the California central valley) and Newport Beach (the California version of the Riviera), led by the Congress of New Urbanism, California Chapter (CNU-CA). Both occurred over 5 days consisting of highly intense sessions of design, sketching, debating what should go where, and presentations.
In both cities, by the end of the fifth day many good solutions emerged from consensus discussions with community stakeholders, from city officials to regular citizens. Strategies, concepts, and ideas were organized in a final document that the members of the CNU-CA delivered to the cities a few months later. This was an event I wanted to see repeated in Oxnard.
My "eureka" moment led to a conversation with CNU-CA in December of 2015. Once they gave the green light, a quickly arranged meeting with new Oxnard City Manager (CM) Greg Nyhoff just before the Christmas Holidays provided an immediate thumbs-up to move the process forward. Faced with putting the affairs of the City back in order after many years of "challenges," the CM seemed eager for advice from professional designers and planners. Furthermore, the City had just received a judgment of about $6 Million to spend in the Downtown area. The CM wanted to have a plan to help him decide where to allocate that money. CNU-CA could be just that vehicle.
A Charrette Participant's Perspective
by Kerry Roscoe
The tenets of livable communities are being embraced in Ventura County. The California chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) California Chapter conducted a 5 day charrette on Downtown Oxnard that culminated in a well received presentation to the City Council on Tuesday, February 2. Mayor Tim Flynn said he was "electrified" by the proposals.
Prompted by the forced sale of properties that were part of the former Redevelopment Agency, the City of Oxnard, at the urging of Dao Doan, applied and was selected for the one pro-bono charrette the CNU does each year. CNU brought a team of architects, urban planners, economists, utility and infrastructure specialists, landscape architects, and several local professionals whose focus was:
- Listening to public input
- Assessing the assets and deficits in the current cityscape
- Creating a vision of what Downtown Oxnard could become consistent with economy, environment and the need for social equity.
CNU presented an introduction and overview; conducted interviews with dozens of downtown stakeholders; interfaced with city management; led a walking tour of the area; showed films that illustrated successful implementation of similar plans; and integrated community input from several sessions into their concluding presentation. On a daily basis they were adjusting drawings as input and ideas percolated, and displayed the concepts in a Monday evening "pin-up."
While no plan, much less one created in 5 days, can solve all the problems, this approach was a magnificent start. The team was able to utilize previous parking studies and a prior Oxnard Blvd. charrette in support of some of its recommendations. Ideas were presented that addressed traffic, pedestrian and cyclist issues on Oxnard Blvd. and A Street, the connection of those streets to downtown, and intersection problems at 5-Points. The growing demand for smaller housing units by younger singles and childless couples in professions and trades, and the need for restaurants and venues sought by this group, dovetail with a mixed use approach that would create vibrant atmosphere within a walkable distance. Residential rental prices in the area support this. The team suggested starting with small in-fill projects, 1 to 2 stories less than 7,000 sq. ft., on the numerous vacant lots throughout the core of downtown. These projects "pencil out" monetarily and would create a stepping stone for larger developments.
Thanks to the Following Supporters of the 2015 Ventura County
Civic Alliance State of the Region Report
Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) Fairburn Fund
Ventura County Community College District
Workforce Investment Board of Ventura County
California Lutheran University
California State University Channel Islands
County Commerce Bank
County of Ventura
Gene Haas Foundation
Procter & Gamble
Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs Association (VCDSA)
The Port of Hueneme
Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors
Friends of the Santa Clara River
Kay Faulconer-Boger, Ed.D.
Maron Computer Services
Montecito Bank & Trust
United Staffing Associates
United Way of Ventura County
Brokaw Ranch Company
Cabrillo Economic Development Corp
Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc.
E.J. Harrison & Sons
Sherie & Joe Gibson
Ventura College Foundation
Ventura County Office of Education
Ventura County Transportation Commission
Special thanks go to Kerry Roscoe for detailed editing, photo, and format work required to bring these articles to you in the form that you see them!