Santa Paula Council: West Expansion Project Approved

By Sheryl Hamlin

Santa Paula Business Park West (SPBPW)

The SPBPW was previously reviewed by the Planning Commission. Read that report here. The Planning Commission article includes architectural renderings.

No Cost/Benefit Analysis

According to Director Mason, the EIR makes the following premise:

…It is possible to efficiently and effectively expand City services and infrastructure, including police, sewer and water infrastructure, road improvements, City park facilities, and school district capacity to accommodate the development of Santa Paula West Business Park Specific Plan….

Because the issue of developer fees was omitted from the documents given to the Planning Commission, Director Mason included the collection of impact fees in the errata prepared for the council. ”Development carries its weight”, said Mason, speaking of impact fees. But there was no attempt to quantify these costs or fees in the staff documents. At what point will the developer and the city know the true costs of the project?

Council Member Crosswhite revisited the topic of cost/benefit. Director Mason said that staff had done no evaluation from an economic benefit or risks. Staff assumes, he said, that the owner/developer has made these calculations. Mason feels that the 1500 employees projected by SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) will spend money which will increase sales tax and that people buying homes in East Area 1 could potentially move businesses to this location. Note that the previous consultant to the Ventura College Community District (VCCCD) stated that SCAG tends to overstate its estimates.

Is SPBPW Speculative Project?

Council Member Sobel asked to clarify the discussion about the speculative nature of the project. He asked if this were a “spec project” or does final construction occur as purchases go through the planning process? Director Mason said yes, some would go through the process others would not need to go through the planning process.

However, both missed the point that the speculative nature of the project is the site preparation and infrastructure development which must be constructed before any sales are made. This mirrors the development in East Area 1 where infrastructure construction is underway prior to the end sales of the units. In SPBPW, the city is providing the infrastructure improvements up to and around the project site. How/when does Santa Paula recoup the expenses from the developer? There was no discussion about pre-building and then trying to lease the units. Essentially the financial model of the project was not discussed nor the timing of the impact fees.

Benefits Enumerated versus Unmitigated Conditions

As the slide below shows, there are four conditions which cannot be mitigated and are the end result of this project.

Source: Staff Presentation

As Mr. Loccacio said, when moving from an agricultural situation to an urban environment, there are certain changes and losses which must be expected.

Director Mason said that the city hopes to benefit from job capture meaning that residents could live and work in Santa Paula. He also stated the sales tax benefit from the employee spending as well as the property tax increase, although he did remind the council of the split with county fire. The Assistant City Manager said that the city has been receiving calls from interested parties as word of this project has started to reach the public.

Next Steps

The project will next be heard by LAFCO who will approve the annexation. Director Mason said that one option from LAFCO could be a compensatory measure to designate unmutable agricultural land in exchange for this project’s conversion of prime agricultural land to commercial.

The project was unanimously approved.

To watch the video, click here.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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