Limoneira Can’t Make it Work

capsule arial, vcialis 40mg sans-serif;”>By Sheryl Hamlin

dosage arial,sans-serif;”>In a stunning admission at the August 25, 2015 Santa Paula Planning Commission, Mike Penrod of The Parkstone Companies who has been working with the East Area I project in Santa Paula for a decade, told the commission that the current specifications in the approved Development Agreement for East Area 1 produce less than 1000 units which may not work for Limoneira.

eai_eir_pic_revised

According to Planning Director Janna Minsk, as Limoneira has begun its due diligence with potential partners, they have learned that the original specifications for setbacks “do not satisfy the needs of potential partners” and, in fact, according to Mr. Penrod only produce 956 units.

Fred Robinson, Planning Commissioner and former council member, said that the city viewed this project as its financial “savior” and that this was the “first time” he has heard that the project would be less than 1500 units approved by the voters and the city. He asked: how can we have gone this far without knowing this?

Commissioner Sommer reiterated his “concern” for accepting the new terms (shown below), as did Commissioner Demers.

setbacks_limoneira

Note the wording “limited range of residential products”. According to the consultant Glen Crosby, who spoke at the meeting, there are now 10 product lines ranging from New York style lofts to single family view lots. He said they can’t lock in standards at this point and need more flexibility.

Mr. Penrod said he “understands concerns” but they could only get 1000 units with approved plan so had to request the change. With changes in the economy, smaller homes and smaller lots are needed, such as may seen at The Riverpark, whose homes are selling well, he said. In fact, with the currently approved development standards, only 956 units could be configured. With the proposed, denser standards, 1490 can be configured.

Mr. Sommer continued to express concerns because the language appeared to apply the new, dense criteria to the entire project. Sensing a negative vote, Planning Director Minsk asked for a break to study a change in the language.

Upon return, new language was proposed that “not more than 35% of the residential units” can be built with the minimum setbacks. Based on the 1490 units as stated, this would equate to 522 units that would look like The Riverpark in Oxnard.  A site plan was shown to the commission (not included in the public distribution) where these Riverpark-like units could be placed, but it is important to note that these would be nearest to highway 126 and most visible.

Another requested change by Limoneira was language involving landscaping. Limoneira is requesting to remove turf from the front yards, as shown below:

landscape_changes

The commissioners and the planners failed to include the Governor’s Executive order prohibiting landscaping with potable water: “Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used, and ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.”

And in fact, Limoneira was granted a reprieve from providing non-potable water for landscaping purposes in the Development Agreement due to “economic infeasibility” as shown below. This reprieve was never mentioned during the public hearings by the council, the commission or the staff. Section 3.7 of the Development Agreement should have been updated to reflect the Governor’s Executive Order.

non_potable_water

Finally, Limoneira has asked for a third change to the process. They want to avoid these types of meetings for some changes so have requested the following change. Director Minsk said this was a “positive step” presumably to speed up the process by allowing the Director to approve changes without going to the commission.

admin_changes

Clearly Limoneira was holding a gun to Santa Paula’s head at this meeting in requesting these changes, particularly the setbacks. It was mentioned that Santa Paula would lose the lucrative per unit development fees if the project were reduced to less than 1000 units. And, as Commissioner Robinson said, this project was to be the “savior” of the city financially. At what point in time did Limoneira and its army of consultants know that they could not produce 1500 units from the approved plan? Was the project misrepresented when it was approved? Who in the city will ask these hard questions?

So, once again, development has proved to be a Faustian bargain: accept a lower quality product or forgo the revenue which had been promised for the last decade or more.

All three requests were approved unanimously with a voice vote as modified.

Other Planning Agenda Items

Two Conditional Use Permits were approved: one for a caretaker’s apartment in a contractor’s storage on Santa Maria and the other for a beer and wine for the new Café Verona on Harvard.

The contractors storage facility was a pre-crash project that is being revisited.

CUP_Santa_Maria

Café Verona plans a family friendly restaurant with great food as evidenced by the other facility. They plan an October opening pending approval by the State Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC).

cafe_verona

Other Planning Issues

  • No permits have been pulled for East Area I
  • Anderson Haag (Foothill/Peck) will go to city council in September and then to LAFCO
  • Williams Homes will provide environmental reports for the Ojai Road/Hardison Ranch project
  • West Area II plan by year end

Not part of the meeting

  • A dentist has bought the Fria restaurant on Main Street and plans to remodel. This project did not have to go before the commission because dentistry is an allowed use. A dentist provides no sales tax, no foot traffic and closes early, so why would this be an appropriate use for Main Street, particularly when there are several other dentists on Main Street? How does this help local merchants?
  • The Adams Canyon preliminary project request, which was mentioned in the council meeting, was not made by a new owner, but rather by the current owner to clarify his options for a potential new owner.

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For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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Steven Nash
Steven Nash
5 years ago

The Santa Paula Planning Commission has to take ownership of this one. They could have continued the item in order to perform their due diligence on the proposed project changes which is near impossible while a meeting is in progress.

The Planning Director has nothing to be proud of, either, in the callous way her Commissioners were thrown under the bus.