POSTS ARE NO LONGER BEING ACCEPTED FOR THIS REPORT.
By Chris T Wilson
Plans are approved and under way to transform a shuttered and abandoned gas station into a hub of cycling and green community transportation.
If all proceeds according to schedule, The MOB Shop, a bicycle sales and repair shop in Meiners Oaks, will relocate to the presently fenced property at the corner of West Ojai Avenue and North Ventura Street.
This past Wednesday the Ojai Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve plans that will see the dilapidated property improved, redesigned and opened for business by as early as February 2012, MOB Shop co-owner Kelly Pasco said.
Among the offerings planned for the building that has been vacant for about 16 years, will be retail sales, bicycle repairs, an electric car charging station and an extensive rental fleet of conventional and electric cycles.
Pasco, a former physical education teacher at Oak Grove School, is an avid cyclist with a bent for activism and alternative transportation. Along with visionary business partners, Greg Prinz and Tim Rhone, The MOB Shop plans to revolutionize how tourists and commuters move in and around the Ojai Valley.
Pasco says he sees this as a perfect opportunity to promote Ojai as a green tourist destination that will likely help local business in the process.
“The beauty of it is that we take this old defunct gas station and turn into a green transportation store,” Pasco said. “We want to really promote people getting around Ojai by bike and not by car. We’re adding a lot of cool bikes to our rental and electric fleet. So you can cruise up here from L.A. in your electric car, get around town on a bike while your car charges and then drive back.”
Planning Commissioner Kathleen Nolan said she likes how The MOB Shop plans coincide with the Complete Streets program being created for Ojai. Complete Streets will reconsider the bike and pedestrian master plan and circulation element to comply with state and federal regulations that require streets be designed for safer use by walkers, cyclists and vehicles, she said. Nolan praised Pasco’s input on the Complete Streets and the sustainable elements of the business plans.
“I love the fact that they are planning to install solar, capture rainwater on-site and have charging stations for electric cars,” Nolan said. “That site has a been a blight for years.”
Fellow Planning Commissioner John Mirk, who commutes twice a week by bicycle to work at Patagonia in Ventura, agreed.
“I’m really excited to see this happen,” Mirk said. “This will be a wonderful gathering place for people. The shop in Meiners Oaks has become that way and the new shop will be like that but even more so.”
Mirk and Nolan both quoted Commissioner Paul Crabtree who referred to the Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of The MOB Shop plans as a “love fest,” at the Wednesday evening meeting.
Behind-the-scenes landscape architect and contractor John Lamar has worked closely with the MOB Shop partners in creating and revising the plans to meet with city approval. He said a lot of the credit goes to the city officials who green-lighted the plans and helped it move through easily.
Lamar also said that the building, which has been closed since the mid-1990s from a leaking fuel tank, has been fully remediated and signed off for new business use.
“The county’s Department of Environmental Health has said that the building is ready for commercial use,” Lamar said. “We will continue to work closely with Environmental Health to monitor the situation.”
Lamar and Pasco both said that as the plans come together in the coming months that Lamar will become a partner in The MOB Shop as well.
MOB Shop co-owners Prinz and Rhone both said they’re pleased to see this big move coming together. Prinz has a vision to redefine how people see cycling.
“Our ultimate goal is get people out of cars onto bikes,” Prinz said. “It’s easy to accomplish everything in Ojai on a bike. For the most part the valley is flat. Our goal is to become known in the world of commuter cycling; to be the authority on commuter bicycles.”
Rhone brings years of retail sales experience to the team and an equal measure of vision and enthusiasm.
“This is a perfect spot for us to stage the revolution here and make this a real cycling town,” Rhone said. “If you compare to someplace like Portland, which grew its cycling community by 31 percent in the last five years, we’re pretty far away. But, I think given the availability of safe bike lanes and we’re about one-third of the way there.”
For now the MOB Shop team is seeking funds from community support, local banking and investors to help move the project forward. The new space in downtown Ojai will more than double retail, repair and rental space.
Currently located at 445 W. El Roblar Drive, The MOB Shop also maintains rental fleets of bicycles at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Casa Ojai and Su Nido Inn.