Jan 17, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
Despite a recent drop in the population of Ojai city officials must still prove to the state that it is prepared to allow the construction of 177 new affordable housing units as part of its mandated Housing Element.
The Ojai’s City Council will hear a presentation Tuesday night from consultant Thomas Figg regarding the implementation of the Housing Element it reluctantly adopted last fall.
At that time, Council members each voiced strong objections to the process, including concerns that higher density, dwindling open space and impeding the mountain views will negatively impact Ojai’s tourism-based economy. Despite the prevailing sentiment, they did adopt the Housing Element with a 3 to 2 vote.
The state assesses projected population growth and assigns each community a number it is then responsible for accommodating, Figg told the Council previously. Ojai’s number was 177 units.
The Council now must begin the next phase of the process: detailing to the state where and how these 177 units could be built.
While the state requirement seeks to provide adequate housing for the lowest income bracket, residents and Council members alike have voiced fears that doing so may create massive concentration of residencies evocative of nearby Oxnard or Los Angeles, effectively eradicating the “village feel” that has historically been a distinguishing trait of this community.
“In October the Council adopted the Housing Element,” explained Ojai City Manager Rob Clark. “Now we are starting to discuss the steps that must be taken to implement the Housing Element. These include changes to our zoning ordinances for some of the programs, and the creation of an affordable-housing overlay that must be applied to enough property to cover the new construction goals of the Element.”
“We are only required to zone the properties, not to build the units. This is an early point in the process, and no final decisions are requested or expected. Rather, it gives an overview of what the City will need to do, and some of the options to consider,” Clark added.
“This process is a very large part of Ojai’s future,” said Ojai resident John Broesamle at the Oct. 9 Council meeting. “A huge amount is at stake. Contemplate the issue of resource constraints and the character of the city as clashing values come together and have to be resolved.”
Clark said city staff will recommend that a joint meeting of the Council and Planning Commission be scheduled in February to talk about specific sites that might be appropriate for the housing overlay.
Although nothing will be decided at Tuesday’s Council meeting, public participation is encouraged so citizens can learn about the proposals and have some time to think about them and provide input to Council before decisions are made.
The Ojai City Council meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at 401 S. Ventura St.
Visit www.ci.ojai.ca.us for more information about the Ojai City Council and upcoming agenda topics.