Ojai: Historic Preservation, Trolley fares and Second Residential Units

By Jay Murphy

Ojai Valley City Council Meeting – Tuesday July 25th 2017

This Tuesday evening the Ojai City Council held its bi-monthly meeting at Ojai City Hall. Council members present were Mayor Johnny Johnston, Mayor Pro-Tem William Weirick, Council Members Paul Blatz, Suza Francina, and Randy Haney, as well as City Manager Steve McCreary and Legal Council Matt Summers.The meeting was held in the council chambers and was filled close to its capacity with around sixty members of the public attending.

The meeting began with a warm tribute to “Mr Ojai” David Mason who recently passed away. Ojai residents, members of the Council and Mr Mason’s brother all spoke, remembering the man who dedicated himself to preserving Ojai’s history and character. Ojai will miss Mr. Mason.

Speakers then weighed in on the Bentley Oil and Gas Project with concern about its proximity to Ojai. During the discussion, both sides addressed the pros and cons of the project. Environmental concerns and the amount of traffic that the project would bring to Ojai seemed to be the major concerns. Nothing was resolved and the project will be moved forward on the future agenda.

Among other items during the public comment period were concerns about:

  • Moe discussed Low Income Housing. Consensus seemed to be that Ojai needs to pick up the pace and refine its low income housing plans.
  • The Police are not using their blinkers apparently. Complaints were addressed and the Sheriff’s office will be notified about the situation.
  • Elise stated that she thinks the Ojai Valley Cleaners located downtown is in disrepair and needs upgrading, since the building was the first gas station in Ojai and was constructed in 1939.

After a number of unanimous consent approvals, the council moved on to the area of Accessory Dwelling Units, The discussion has been on the agenda for some time. Mayor Pro Tem Weirick brought up a motion to resolve the issue as it stands; additional dwelling units can be up to 1200 sq ft in size. Councilperson Francina thought it should be smaller, suggesting a cap of 850 sq ft but her motion was defeated. Weirick’s motion was passed by a 3 to 2 vote.

Next on the agenda was Special Events Permits. The council seemed unanimous that this issue of noise and congestion from private parties and events on residents property should be handled by the residents themselves with no need for an ordinance to define what a “special event” is.

Trolley fares were discussed. The suggestion by the committee looking into cost viability of the trolley via price increases was met with much resistance. Both the council and the residents attending agreed that the trolley was vital to the community but that the increases to bridge the costs would betoo high. General fares as well as senior and Medicare fares in some cases were to increase between 50% and 100%. All thought this was not workable for the poorer members of the community who rely most on the trolley. Councilperson Blatz put forth the suggestion that advertising (or sponsorship) might generate a sizable revenue stream and the committee will look into that possibility.

What seemed to be a sleepy item on the agenda, historic designation of the old Nordhoff grammar school downtown, turned into a tense and angry back and forth between the Council and the School Board who actually owns the property. The School Board claims that they weren’t  notified of this agenda item and only found about it through social media. One speaker implied that the Council was trying an “end run” around the school board which was quickly denied by the Council. It was resolved that a new hearing jointly between the Council and the Board was the best way to advance the issue.

The “Complete Streets” master plan along with the issue of sizing and numbers of business signs were both pushed forward to their own special meeting. No time was set for that meeting.

Finally, CFROG (Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas) received a unanimous vote from the Council to commit $25000 of city funds. Since CFROG has hired an outside law firm to assist them in their goal of $100,000 total, some concern was expressed that Ojai’s contribution was in effect, paying attorney fees.

The meeting adjourned at 11:00 and the next meeting is scheduled for Tues Aug 8 at seven pm. A complete Council Agenda is available on the Ojai City website (www.ojaicity.org). The meeting will also  be shown on Channel 10 in Ojai. Here is a link to the meeting video.:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw3Dpzij4lo&feature=youtu.be

Mayor Johnny Johnson, former CEO of the County of Ventura


Jay Murphy is retired in Ojai

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