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    Two Visions of America by Don Jans

    Meiners Oaks And Lane Reduction On Maricopa Hwy

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    LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Jeffrey Weinstein, AIA

    FACTS: The City of Ojai contains less than 7,400 inhabitants within 4.4 square miles, or approximately 1,680 persons per square mile.  Meiners Oaks, adjacent to the City of Ojai, contains 3,600 inhabitants in 1.4 square miles, or 2,570 persons per square mile, making Meiners Oaks 50% more densely populated than the City.  The website Nextdoor says 5,263 residents live in Meiners Oaks, or 3,760 residents per square mile, making Meiners Oaks more than twice (2x) as densely populated than the City of Ojai.  Meiners Oaks, part of Unincorporated Ventura County (Ojai Valley has approximately 30,000 residents), lacks basic infrastructure; no sidewalks, no sewers, and no fire hydrants (unlike the City of Ojai).

    Meiners Oaks Trailer Park25 manufactured homes on a corner lot with 2 means of access adjacent to Maricopa Hwy.

    Ojai Valley Estates, 1975 Maricopa Hwy, newer trailer park with 90 residences on another very densely packed lot with 1 means of access onto Maricopa Hwy.

    Oak Haven, 1885 Maricopa Hwy, new trailer park with 24 homes alongside Ojai Valley Estates, the 2 newer trailer parks totaling 114 homes on very tight sites both with direct access onto Maricopa Hwy.

    Ojai Valley Hospital Continuing Care Center, brand new $21 million, 75-bed facility with fire access to Cuyama Road and Maricopa Hwy.

    The Artesian, a new 72-bed independent/assisted care facility near the intersection of Maricopa Hwy and El Roblar.

    Roth Apartments, 290 El Roblar, 36 affordable family-style units near intersection with Maricopa Hwy (“5-Stop”). 

    Hitching Post Estates, 410 Church Lane, 66 detached condo residences on Church Road adjacent to Maricopa Hwy.

    These densely packed residential areas all access Maricopa Hwy.  In the event of an emergency evacuation, each senior care resident of The Artesian and Ojai Valley Hospital’s Continuing Care Center (147 patients with little or no mobility) will need to be evacuated by ambulance.  In addition to providing access for residents and workers at the above facilities, Maricopa Hwy provides the only access to the Vons Shopping Center and adjacent shopping centers, multi-tenant office buildings, banks, gas station, 3 Churches and Day Care Facilities, Ojai Valley Hospital, numerous medical and dental offices, and outpatient facilities.  Having watched (while bike riding) a firetruck with lights flashing stuck behind a full lane of vehicles unable to pull over due to parking down the middle of Maricopa Hwy, do you really believe a single vehicle lane in each direction on Maricopa Hwy will not impact delivery of emergency services and fire evacuation?

    From Wikipedia: “A Butte County civil grand jury report concluded that roads leading from Paradise and Upper Ridge communities had “significant constraints” and “capacity limitations” on their use as evacuation routes.  Based on these reports, there had been warnings to Paradise city planners that they were not including study results in new plans. For example, in 2009, the town of Paradise proposed a reduced number of travel lanes on the roadways and received state funding from the California Department of Transportation to implement a road diet along Skyway, Pearson Road, and Clark Road, three of the town’s main thoroughfares and evacuation routes.”

    Paradise CA eliminated vehicle lanes in a fire-prone region with limited capacity and constraints for evacuation, and 85 persons perished during the November 2018 Camp Fire, many (if not most) in their cars while trying to escape.  Having spoken with David Hawks, Butte County Fire Chief, serving the town of Paradise during the Camp Fire (who will testify in court, if necessary), he explained the worst case scenario is to divide an evacuation route into more than 3 lanes separated by medians (Lane Reduction on Maricopa Hwy currently has 4 lanes separated by medians) because this requires additional personnel to direct traffic who would otherwise be fighting the fire and/or aiding residents.  

    With extreme heat and drought (common conditions in Ojai) generating the current Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire currently burning in Northern California, Caltrans and the Ojai City Council must literally be out of their minds eliminating vehicle lanes, creating significant constraints, and reducing evacuation capacity in our fire-prone region.  We urge Caltrans (based in DTLA) to visit Meiners Oaks and see for yourself how Lane Reduction on Maricopa Hwy has the very real potential to become another Paradise CA (see Maricopa Hwy Map).  

    Besides destroying the rural character of our community by utilizing a Santa Monica-like (urban) bike lane design template, spoiling the expansive views into the Los Padres National Forest and surrounding hills by filling the roadway with parked cars, and delaying emergency response vehicles, the Demonstration Project has cause numerous accidents involving bicycles and cars, the most recent of which on June 1 (please see NHS accident photo attached below) directly opposite Nordhoff High School, resulted in the immediate termination of Greg Grant, former Director of Public Works and originator of Lane Reduction on Maricopa Hwy.  

    3,916 persons voted for those City Council members in support of Lane Reduction out of 30,000 Ojai Valley residents (13%).  Those most affected by Lane Reduction on Maricopa Hwy live outside City Limits in Meiners Oaks and Unincorporated Ventura County, so our opinions don’t count, we have no voice because we cannot vote in the City.  As many as 95% of responses to the City’s own survey on its website are strongly opposed to the current plan.  The current Lane Reduction Plan does not represent the interests of those living outside City Limits and puts us at immediate risk. 

    In August 2017, I first learned of the Lane Reduction Plan reading the Ojai Valley News (which due to their support of project refuses to publish Letters to the Editor opposed to Lane Reduction).  The Lane Reduction Plan was developed in partnership with the Mob Shop (a local bicycle shop) and bicycle advocates at 2:30pm on the first Wednesday of the month, when most of us are at work.  The City Council has defended Lane Reduction as “aspirational” intended to fight Climate Change, but if the voices of those living outside City Limits continue to be ignored, if common sense and facts do not prevail, if there is no effort toward compromise on behalf of the City Council, then the matter will be decided elsewhere.  

    On 8/24/2017, Suza Francina (“lifelong bicycle advocate”) emailed me (please see her email below) stating “I greatly appreciate you taking the time to reach out with your concerns–we definitely want to address them!”  To date, not even one of my concerns have been addressed.  Our family left Santa Monica many years ago for the natural beauty and quality of life in the Ojai Valley, and that beauty and quality is being threatened by the eyesore of the Demonstration Project and permanent plan for Lane Reduction on Maricopa Hwy.  Consequently, we will continue to make every effort to oppose the current Lane Reduction plan until there is either a compromise or litigation to settle/resolve the matter.

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    Sheila Cohn
    Sheila Cohn
    11 months ago

    What Bruno says may be correct however no other stretch has so many important facilities-hospital, CCC, Von’s, Nordoff etc. A fire truck behind a string of cars had to go in the opposing lane to pass .

    Bruno Macgursky
    Bruno Macgursky
    11 months ago

    It is .7 of a mile from the single lane exit of Meiners Osks to the single lane exit from Ojai on Highway 33. That is the only 4 lane stretch of road in the Ojai Valley except for another half mile stretch through Oak View . To assume that the road in front of the high school MUST be 4 lane begs the question. Why not 4 lane all the roads? There are choke points everywhere you travel.

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