Santa Paula: Planning Commission Approves Pollution, Traffic, Aesthetic Depletion on Prime Ag Land

By Sheryl Hamlin

With a full complement of Commissioners, the item “Santa Paula West Business Park (SPWBP) Specific Plan” was reviewed as presented by Tony Locasio of Meridian Consulting. Below is a summary from the Notice of Availability (NOA) of the EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

From the staff report: The Specific Plan Area consists of approximately 53.81 acres of the 125-acre West Area 2 Expansion Area. The General Plan’s anticipated buildout of this expansion area of 1,905,750 square feet with a floor area ratio (FAR) of up to 0.35 would be permitted. Such development would provide a range of economic, fiscal and quality of life benefits to the City of Santa Paula.

Freeway Aerial

View in relation to Kmart

The SBWBP consists of pre-built offices in varying sizes designed for commercial and industrial uses. The following list would be acceptable tenants. Note that most of these types of businesses exist in Santa Paula currently.

Accessory buildings, animal hospitals, kennels and veterinary clinics, assembly (large and small scale), catering, commercial retail, commercial services, day care, distribution, drive-through, equipment rental, new farm vehicle sales, storage, repair, food processing, furniture sales, rentals or repairs, health clubs, laboratories, manufacturing (large and small), motion ppicture studio, nurseries, offices,processing(large and small), public facilities (governmental), public storage, public utility, recycling facility, R&D, restaurants (with alcohol), storage, telecommunication, trade school, utility distribution, vehicle parts and equipment store, vehicle sale (whole sale and retail and rental), warehouse (non-distribution), wholesaling.

Benefits Per EIR/Staff Report

The EIR projects jobs of 1510 for the entire project. It also projects increased sales taxes due to employee and business spending, as well as increased property taxes when the property is upzoned from AE (agricultural exclusive) to commercial/industrial. However, no actual projections other than jobs were included in EIR.

Unavoidable Adverse Affects

The EIR lists several unavoidable adverse affects of the project:

1. Pollution in the form of ROG (reactive organic gases). “The Project would generate average daily operational emissions that exceed the thresholds of significance recommended by the VCAPCD for ROG.”
2. Traffic on both Telegraph and Peck will be worsened requiring a rebuilding of the Telegraph/Peck/Harvard intersection.
3. Light Glare in an area where there is very feint night light.
4. Aesthetic depletion for the area occurs when the producing, prime agricultural land is converted to office buildings. This also affects the “Santa Clara Rural Historic District”.
5. Destruction of biological resources and riparian habitat.

Railroad Crossing

The EIR states that the railroad is not operating. This is not true. There is a commercial customer who receives deliveries several times a week. Additionally the Fillmore & Western uses the track across the county several times a year for special events. The project must obtain CPUC approval for an at-grade crossing like Limoneira did previously in 2015. Read about that crossing here.

Public Comments

Mary Anne Krause, who lives across from the project, said she has known about this for 17 years. The elevations shown are very generic SoCal and do not fit Santa Paula. She suggested mitigating the damage to the historic district with a double row of trees along Telegraph. Telegraph traffic is so bad that at times they cannot leave their gate. She said a traffic signal would be beneficial. She is not opposed to the project with improvements.

Staff Report: “This style integrates historical Italian Tuscan features with modern materials and details.”

Sisters Rosa and Sara Ruiz who live near the project with their family oppose the project. Rosa mentioned existinbg empty spaces around town. With bad air quality, the city is better off with ag land, she said. Sara Ruiz reminded the commission of Santa Paula’s uniqueness. This project looks like Oxnard or Orange County. Empty space at Calavo and soon to be Kmart would compete. She said, but it you want to “ruin it (the ciy), go for it”.

Gayle Washburn said she previously was a member of the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, which sets enforcement for county. This project pollutes. Simple. For loss of prime land, there will be empty buildings. Packing houses will be impacted when the trees are removed. It would be more beneficial to repurpose/retrofit existing buildings rather than build a speculative project.

Sheryl Hamlin questioned the 1510 jobs calculation, the sales tax projection and the property tax projection. All are impossible to calculate without knowing mix of tenants. Furthermore, small to medium sized companies (SME) tend to run lean on employees. SME businesses are the first to close/fail in a downturn.The EIR mentioned the SPFD, so the consultants were not aware of the annexation to VCFPD which will affect the property tax. Hamlin also said that the city will never recoup the costs to fix the intersection, extend the water and extend the sewer.

Commission Discussion

Commission Chair Bangs asked what is the benefit of the concentrated area when Santa Paula already has a lot of empty spaces. What is the benefit?

Director Mason replied saying that the existing stock needs too much work to rehabilitate, driving up the rental costs, so many prospective tenants back away from such projects.

Commissioner Bangs asked if the commission were voting on the elevations tonight.

Director Mason said yes voting on elevations. The commercial would be 35’ high with the industrial 45’ high in response to Commissioner Herber. Mr. Mason said there is still the design review to occur, which is performed by staff.

Additional Public Comments

Commissioner Ikerd asked for Mr. Osht who wrote a letter to the commission to speak. Mr. Osht, who owns one of the nearby office condominiums, spoke of a replacement for the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) called the EIFD (Enterprise Infrastructure Funding District), saying that the creation of such a district would allow a stream of revenue to finance bonds (like the RDA) and generate cash to pay for improvements.

This is not a new topic. At the request of Council Member Procter in 2015, Mr. Kosmont, a consultant who has been managing the city’s Designated Local Authority (agency formerly known as RDA), presented the EIFD to the city. Read about this here. Checking with the county, there are no EIFD’s in Ventura County. The formation of an EIFD is described here. Government Code Section 53398.50 et seq

Commissioner Ikerd said he felt there is potential for the city, but there is risk in approving a project that might fail. But he is in favor of the project, he said.

With a 4-1 vote, the project passed with Commissioner Bangs opposing.

CURB (City Urban Boundary) Change Not Identified

The staff report said that the project was in the CURB, but did not give the date or the type of inclusion. There does not appear to be a formal document describing this CURB change. A CURB may be changed by council or by a vote of the electorate. This is part of the SOAR (Save Our Open Space Resources) legislation which was recently renewed until 2050, a contentious election that pitted farmers against residents who preferred the open spaces of agriculture.

This article will continue when the CURB changes are identified.

New Officers

Commissioner Earl McPhail, former Agricultural Commissioner, was elected chair with Commissioner Vasquez as Vice-Chair.

To watch the entire meeting and download the materials, click here.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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Dr Edo McGowan

There seems to be no mention that volume of sewage from this area may be impressive, potentially toxic and going to a sewer plant that is now under court order because of its inability to control pollution. This sewer plant seems to already be troubled because of bureaucratic non-action. Ignoring these impacts would merely add to the currently demonstrated bureaucratic incompetence. Adding more sewage influent to an already troubled system would not be easily mitigated and absent such mitigation would be an adverse public health and environmental impact of considerable significance . This non-action does not bode well for clearing additional waste material from being discharged to an existing overburdened human and natural environment. The documents do not discuss the through-put and generation of multi-antibiotic resistant pathogens as generated by typical sewer plants, how to mitigate this type of assault on the public health or suggesting a series of valid tests to determine the level of risk that has been demonstrated to occur.

Sheryl Hamlin

There are at least 10 reasons this decision should be appealed to council, but SP makes such citizen actions impossible by an absurd fee of $5,000, ensuring no such appeals will be filed except by rich developers. Just like the fee for filing a historic designation request of $3500 is another obstruction of citizen rights.