Fire Debris Removal and Fate of Carls Jr. – Decisions Made by Ventura City Council

By Kevin Harris

The Ventura City Council added a local fire debris removal option to accompany the CalOES removal program enacted on December 28, 2017, during its City Council meeting Monday night. Also during the meeting, the Council shunned the Design Review Committee’s recommendation to deny Carls Jr. the opportunity to update its flawed drive-through design, and chose instead to allow the restaurant to make the required changes. 

Thomas Fire Debris Removal

As the City Council sought to pass an Emergency Ordinance implementing a local option for debris removal on private property, they were presented with a couple of options, though the description and explanations of these options was non-linear and confusing during the meeting. 

But it appears that Option 1 was for a homeowner to have CalRecycle handle the fire debris removal, and that this option would largely be paid for by the city. Option 2 would have the City clear debris and inspect the property through contractors, but the homeowners would pay for part, or all of this service. After considerable Council discussion and questions to staff, as well as public comments and questions, it was also revealed that Option 2 would present less risk to (the city?), but would take longer to implement than Option 1. 

The presentation was given by Public Works Director, Tulson Clifford. When Council Member Erik Nasarenko asked Clifford for some clarification between the two options, the answer only added more confusion to the issue. 

Council Member Erik Nasarenko

“If we chose Option 1 or Option 2, who goes in and does the actual cleanup to abate the public health hazard? Is that CalRecycle, or the City?” 

Staff’s answer was that the City would do the cleanup, and then the Council would then be asked to place that cleanup cost as a lien on the property. 

Most of the audience members were in attendance for this issue, and some of them spoke during the “public comment” period. Jamie Thornton pointed out that some residents whose homes had complete damage chose to simply leave, instead of cleanup and repair. His concern is that the developers who are coming in to snap up those properties to flip for profits should not get their permits ahead of residents who choose to stay and rebuild. “I hope they make a big profit, but not before I’m living in my house,” he said. 

Jamie Mayer, an industry rep with what he called the “largest scrap recycling firm in the county,” wants to make sure that local contractors (as opposed to CalRecycle) get treated and paid fairly for the work that they do. 

The City Council voted to choose Option 2, unanimously. 

Design Review Committee Says “No” to Carls Jr.; Council Says “Yes”

During a Public Hearing at Monday night’s meeting, the Council was asked to go along with the Design Review Committee’s denial of an appeal by Carls Jr. Restaurant, which would allow the fast food establishment to remodel its drive thru driveway, along with other cosmetic external enhancements. The subject restaurant resides at 2427 E. Thompson Boulevard.  

A very fast presentation was given by a seemingly nervous Jeffrey Lambert, the City’s Community Development Director, where slides went by faster than they could be read. Following the slideshow, Frank Coda, a project architect that works for GreenbergFarrow – the firm which designed and built the Carls Jr., spoke with the Council, and answered questions. 

Frank Coda

Through the Council’s questions to both the Design Review Committee and Mr. Coda, it was revealed that, with the exception of the primary issue of the drive through lanes (which forced pedestrians to walk across them to get to or from the parking lot), and some minor cosmetic requirements for more greenery and a few less parking spaces, the restaurant was largely in compliance with local codes. 

The applicant agreed to do all they can to mitigate the drive through issues by narrowing the lanes and by enhancing pedestrian access by adding walkways with railings across them as well. They will also reduce parking spaces and add green islands where needed. But despite these agreements, the DRC still recommended denying Carls Jr.’s appeal. 

Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere asked the DRC and Mr. Coda if the location has a history of accidents with pedestrians or any other kind. Nobody was able to produce any record of accidents at the location, at which point the DRC suggested that they were trying to prevent future problems, not rectify for past accidents. 

The City Council voted against the DRC’s suggestion, and to allow Carls Jr. to remodel its restaurant, though the City Attorney then explained that with the vote, the issue would then have to formally be brought up again at a future Council meeting and voted on again. 

The next City Council Meeting will be Monday, January 22, 2018, at 6:00 P.M.

You can watch this and other past meetings by going to, then clicking on the “Videos” button, and going to the “available archives” section, where the video can be watched or downloaded.


Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also a Realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks. 

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William Hicks

Very interesting on the debris removal issue. A follow up question by property owners affected by the fire might be……What Federal or State relief are being offered, if at all, to help defray the cost of debris removal?