Thursday, August 23, 2012
By Tiobe Barron
When the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa sought permission to remodel and expand back in 2003, a condition of approval was that the Inn must also build 10 low-income housing units somewhere in the city. The Inn originally hoped to do this on a 2.39-acre parcel it owns on the northwest corner of West Ojai Avenue and Hermosa Road.
The agreement requires the Inn to bear the entire cost of the project; no public funds can be used. It was an attempt to reduce commuter traffic and air pollution in the valley and provide affordable housing for those working in the valley. According to city staff reports, the Inn has more than 250 employees who live in Ventura and Oxnard.
The Inn will present a plan at Tuesday’s meeting of the Ojai City Council that proposes 24 units be built across the street from the original site.
That proposal also includes the involvement of the Area Housing Authority (AHA) of the County of Ventura
Working with the AHA, the Inn determined the original site was not suitable for the development.
The two groups instead selected the three-acre parcel and bumped the number of units to 24 units.
“In order to have the project be viable, it had to be bigger,” says Ojai community development director Rob Mullane. “A 10-unit project didn’t pencil out” for the AHA and desired tax credit for the project.
According to city manager Rob Clark, “Our priority (in this arrangement) is Inn employees. The bottom line goal was to connect workers and their housing so they don’t have to commute on the highway every day.”
The Ojai Planning Commission reviewed the project July 18.
Commission vice president Marleen Luckman, said her group had concerns about the frontage view of the proposed project and whether there is adequate screening and landscaping Other concerns included the lack of a sidewalk along the project’s Highway 33 frontage and the lack of a left-turn option from the project parking lot onto Ventura Avenue.
“Although the project could potentially increase traffic a bit, hopefully this will actually reduce vehicle miles traveled by providing housing for Inn staff, some of whom commute to the Ojai Valley,” said Luckman. “There are plans for walkways to connect the apartments and the Inn so employees could walk to work.”
“One of the things I want to explore are design alternatives,” said Clark.
Those interested can comment on the project Tuesday at 7 pm. at City Hall.
Visit www.ci.ojai.ca.us for more information.