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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Population Growth Need Questioned In Ventura
Cities balk at adding 28,000 housing units in county

VENTURA COUNTY: Local council might redistribute regional numbers

By Sam Richard, Ventura County Star, January 8, 2007

A requirement that Ventura County cities plan for more than 28,000 new dwelling units within the next seven years has some city officials balking.

A recent assessment of regional housing needs, drafted by the Southern California Association of Governments, would require cities in six counties, including Ventura County, to create plans to accommodate specific numbers of housing units by 2014.

Ventura County would be required to develop zoning plans to accommodate 28,481 dwellings. Construction of new developments would be based on four household income categories: very low, low, moderate and above moderate.

That has prompted the Ventura Council of Governments to look at proposals to redistribute the numbers.

The council wants to come up with numbers that "make sense for everyone," and three or four proposals could be introduced when the council meets Tuesday, said Wally Bobkiewicz, interim executive director. The council plans to meet at 3 p.m. at the Camarillo Police Department, 3701 E. Las Posas Road.

The cities have a problem with the state government telling them the amount of housing they must accommodate, rather than letting them determine "their own destiny," he said.

Number upsets Camarillo

Camarillo, for example, objects to the number it was assigned: 4,853.

Mayor Jan McDonald said in a recent interview that the city could build no more than 3,000 units during that period.

"We're stretching as far as we can go to stretch it," she said.

SCAG based its Regional Housing Needs Assessment on surveys from cities, an official said.

The Ventura Council of Governments has representatives from each of the county's 10 cities and one from the unincorporated areas.

If the council reaches consensus on one of the proposals to revise the numbers, it would likely sign an agreement with SCAG that would give the council responsibility to redistribute the numbers, Bobkiewicz said.Whether consensus means a majority or unanimous vote will be determined by the board, he said.If the council and SCAG sign such a "delegation agreement," it would address such issues as the council's responsibility to administer appeals if they are made by cities, said Joe Carreras, project manager for the Regional Housing Needs Assessment.

City near end of growth

Thousand Oaks, which was assigned 1,072 units, is nearing the end of its planned growth, City Manager Scott Mitnick said. Further development is "very limited," but the city could accommodate some additional population, he said.He said he is willing to recommend to the City Council that Thousand Oaks take more units so other cities could have fewer.He said cities should respect the "integrity" of one another's general plans, which are state-mandated blueprints for cities' growth and land use. The number of housing units assigned to a city should not exceed what its general plan allows, he said."For years, Thousand Oaks was one of the — if not the most — rapidly developing cities," Mitnick said, noting that the city added thousands of dwellings during the 1970s and '80s. Now, he said, "Thousand Oaks is at the end of its cycle of residential development."

Bruce Smith, a manager in the Ventura County Planning Division, said "one of the conundrums that we're facing is that under existing state law, SCAG is not supposed to consider local general plans."

The numbers do not represent units that must be built but ones that need to be accommodated for, he said. If an agreement is signed, the 28,481 units allocated to the county could not be lowered or added to, Smith said.

If the council decides not to sign a delegation agreement, cities that object to their numbers must appeal individually to SCAG.

The council is trying to deal with the cities' concerns, Bobkiewicz said. "We're trying to deal with fairness," he said. "It's a tall order. We haven't succeeded yet."

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