Santa Paula City Council: Public Works and Planning

By Sheryl Hamlin

Third in a three part series, this article will summarize major Public Works and Planning projects underway in Santa Paula. The first article in the series featured notable volunteerism in Santa Paula as well as regional statistics from the Ventura County Civic Alliance. The second article highlighted issues citizens brought to the attention of the City Council at the August 17, 2015 council meeting.

Chloride Compliance Strategy

Recall that Santa Paula’s water has been plagued with excessive chloride and other salts. The goal is 110 mg/L. Progress has been made as households switch from the use of Self-Regenerating Water Softeners (SRWS) to water services, as the chart below shows.


Brian Yanez, Interim Public Works Director, reported on several programs underway to continue the chloride reduction. A previously described buyback program for SRWS units will roll out soon. Now the Public Works department is working with the State to certify the effluent from the Santa Paula Waste Water System for use as non-potable water around the city. Once this certification is achieved, residents can truck away this water and use it for landscaping or dust control. The concept is that by reducing the heavily chloride laden water into the groundwater, the goal of 110 mg/L will be met.

At the present time, Mr. Yanez mentioned that the water would be free. Why wouldn’t the city want to charge commercial users to fill up trucks equipped with large water tanks? Details will be refined in the upcoming RFP under development by Larry Walker & Associates.

Note that other, capital intensive measures may be considered in the future. It is the goal at this point to meet the 110 mg/L in a cost effective manner.

General Plan Update

The current General Plan was updated in 1998 with the Housing Element updated in 2013. The current planning horizon is 2020 for the General Plan which allows for a four year window for the plan development and the EIR required for the new plan.  According to the Planning Director, Jana Minsk, and the Deputy Planning Director, Stratis Perros, the development of the new plan will take 24 months. At a previous council meeting, the Planning Department was given the approval to hire a planner specifically to interface with the consulting firm chosen to develop the new plan.

For a history of city master plans (General Plans), click here.

The city posted an RFP for the new General Plan stating that a budget of $335,000 had been approved. Three firms responded: John Douglas & Associates, Rincon Consultants Inc, Kimley Horn. Based on a point system, the top two were close in points. But although the bid from John Douglas & Associates was the highest in price, the staff recommended them for the job.

Council Member Tovias asked why the council was not considered in selecting the categories of the General Plan. This was a fair question but such input increases the time and cost, according to the Planning Director. The county of Ventura has hired a firm just to help develop the elements and topics and write the RFP. This process has included citizen input in the creation of the elements. The State requires seven topical elements: Conservation, Open Space, Housing, Land Use, Noise, Safety, and Circulation. Additionally there are dozens of optional elements and topics that can be included, including water and environmental sustainability, neither of which was mentioned.

Council Member Gherardi asked if the plan would include Economic Development and the Downtown, both of which should be highlighted. The Planning Director said it was covered. The RFP says the plan should include “long term fiscal stability and economic development”.  There is nothing specifically about the downtown in the RFP, but Director Minsk said they were “covered”.

The council approved the selection of John Douglas & Associates.

LAFCO Challenges Santa Paula

LAFCO (Local Area Formation Commission) is a state agency locally managed at the county level charged with managing agency boundaries. For example, LAFCO just met to adjudicate boundaries of Ventura County transit systems.

LAFCO last reviewed Santa Paula’s Sphere of Influence (SOI) in 2013, at which time LAFCO expressed concerns about the lack of planning for Adams and Fagan canyons which had been incorporated in the Santa Paula SOI. At the time LAFCO did not remove the canyons from the SOI. Generally LAFCO reviews occur every five years. However in 2015, Santa Paula received notice that LAFCO would review the SOI. Santa Paula wrote requesting an extension which was granted until September 2015. At this point, the city is considering a response for LAFCO.

The city feels this 2015 review is “legally premature” and without merit. In 2007, the voters approved the Adams Canyon project which moved the CURB (City Urban Restriction Boundaries) line coterminous with the SOI.

The discussion at the council ranged from anger to annoyance, particularly because it appears that Santa Paula is the only city singled out by LAFCO for premature boundary review. Oddly enough, there was no reason given for this irregularly timed review.

Council Member Tovias said that Adams would “double the General Fund”. How 495 homes and a resort would accomplish this feat was not developed. Council Member Hernandez said that LAFCO had the legal right to change the boundaries and that the city should not spend too much money helping a developer with private property. He said that the Adams plan was developed pre-crash in a “different time”. Council Member Gherardi felt this is a “political issue” related to SOAR.

City Manager Fontes suggested there might be “something arbitrary or capricious in nature” which must be flushed out tactically and suggested the council charge himself and the staff with the preservation of the SOI at a “reasonable cost”. Council Member Tovias said that “this is worth fighting for”, while Council Member Hernandez said why spend staff dollars on something with a low probability of occurrence? It had been noted earlier that a preliminary application had been submitted to the Planning Department by the new owner of Adams Canyon. No details were given on this application. Council Member Gherardi agreed with Mr. Fontes and said it was counter-productive to attack LAFCO’s ability to have a hearing.  All agreed on the approach. Council Member Hernandez suggested City Manager Fontes work directly with the Mayor to streamline the process and to include other city managers. It was moved and seconded to accept the City Manager’s approach and approved unanimously with a voice vote.

To watch this entire meeting, click here. To read the complete staff reports, click here.

Part three of this series will conclude with two important planning issues discussed at the August 17th 2015 Santa Paula City Council meeting.


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