Santa Paula Development: Aero Lofts-Yes Sparkuhl-Maybe

By Sheryl Hamlin

Two development projects came before the Santa Paula City Council on December 18, 2017, both of which originated prior to the formation of the existing council and prior to The Great Recession of 2007-2008.

Aero Lofts

This project was described as a way to own a “piece of the airport” in the LA Daily News in October 2008 and there is a letter in the city’s files dated 2006. The owner at the time was Bob Banman, who obtained an easement in 2001 with The Nature Conservancy for encroachment into the river, an easement that must now be quitclaimed and recreated between the new owner.

The project is now owned by Mr. Stephen Wolpin, Three Fliers, LLC (the applicant). Mr. Wolpin is a realtor, a pilot and has an address in Santa Paula per this bio.

Aero Lofts Architectural Renderings

The project was given a continuance in March of 2017.

According to Deputy Planning Director Mason, this version makes three improvements to the river issue. Although the project did receive an approval in 2005 through FEMA with a CLOMR (Conditional Letter of Map Revision), the project now sits primarily outside the 100 year flood plain and it will be elevated one foot and will increase the levee.

This modification adds aviation related businesses, extends height to 45’, and adds an additional lot. Architect Weinstein of Ojai, who met the applicant in August, spoke saying these 37 units would be a great economic addition to town. The contemporary design, he said, blends with the environment, calling it a “forward looking project”. No one spoke against the project. The Santa Paula Airport Association wrote in favor of the project via Rowena Martin, manager.

The project will pay an Affordable Housing in lieu fee of $356,253, rather than build affordable units on the site.

Because the residential units are on the second floor, there is less danger to occupants in the event of a flood, according to Mr. Mason in response to a question from Council Member Procter. Council Member Hernandez asked if all agencies have approved this plan, to which Mr. Mason replied affirmatively.

The staff recommendation was moved, second and approved.

Sparkuhl Ranch

The Sparkuhl project has been a vision for almost two decades. There is an article dated February 2001 in the Santa Paula Times. The project was owned by the Sparkuhl family initially. In 2001 neighbors from the Oaks expressed many concerns, concerns that were reiterated at the December 18, 2017 council meeting. The project is now owned by the Mansi family, both Ruth and her father addressed council.

The project progressed through the city’s planning process and a set of Conditions of Approval was attached to the project. View those conditions here. The 2005 MND (Mitigated Negative Declaration) is posted on the city’s website. A detailed timeline of the project is shown in the Planning Commission Agenda Packet for October 2016, when the owner requested a one year extension.

The item before the December 18, 2017 council was simply to approve the Tract Map. Neighbors spoke enumerating a litany of complaints, items missing or errors. It was staff’s contention that these items would be considered as part of the next phase, when the Improvements are established.

The city’s website was down during the notification period, so the new information was not distributed in a timely manner. However, City Attorny Cotti explaned that a Tentative Tract map (which exists) requires notice of all near neighbors, but a Final Tract Map approval is a regular item and is often just a Consent Calendar item.

Two neighbors have retained lawyers. The Harrisons have retained Lowthorp, Richards, McMillan, Miller & Templeman, while Gena Mathwin has retained Chatten Brown, land use attorneys. It was not clear if the latter representation included a group of people.

One of the disputed items is access to the Santa Paula Creek. Council Member Hernandez stated that “no one has rights to go in to the creek…private property…”. However, it is common knowledge that camps of homeless live in the creek, presumably without permission. This was not discussed. Below is a picture taken by someone who has obtained permission to enter the creek from the Watershed Protection District.

Santa Paula Creek Encampment, source: Pam Murphy

Council Member Crosswhite asked if concerns apply to the map or to the next step. There was clearly confusion on this point. Council Member Hernandez said they are continuing because residents say their relationship is not positive and all concerns must be addressed before approval. The council voted to continue the project on a voice vote.

Approving the Final Tract Map of 19 homes on 11.3 acres will be revisited at a future meeting. The owners said that a delay into 2018 would cause them financial hardship to which Mr. Cotti said that the city is not responsible for such.

To read the staff report for this project, click here.

To read a previous report on this meeting, click here and here.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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