CITY OF OJAI | By Keila dos Santos
Council Discusses Housing Crisis in Hard Numbers
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) presented the Reginal Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which is completed every six years and defines local area demands for housing.
This week’s city council meeting was another eventful one, touching on some of Ojai’s most pressing issues. The evening opened up with the Lifetime Achievement Award to local vocal coach and musician Jaye Hersh for her outstanding contribution to the community.
Thereafter, the council invited a presentation by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). SCAG presented the metric that the State of California uses to determine the city’s eligibility for grant funding, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). The RHNA is completed every six years and defines an area’s need for housing; RHNA does not mandate new building but it does specify that a local government must make reasonable accommodation to meet the demand as defined in this analysis.
In their analysis, SCAG pointed to a lack of housing supply as the leading force behind the housing crisis. The peak period for housing construction was in the ‘80s, and there was a dramatic drop off which is obvious and on-going ever since.
Each area requires one unit of housing for every four people, so in order to keep development at pace with population mobility, a new methodology is used for each cycle. In 2011, SCAG initiated the 5th Cycle, and 2018 marks the beginning of the 6th Cycle. The Total RHNA Allocation number varies based on census population trends and local area conditions, such as natural disasters, that may affect the demand on housing. In 2011, the formula included projected Household Growth, Healthy Market Vacancy Need (to allow housing turnover), Housing Replacement Need (replace demolished or destroyed properties), and a unique “Excess Vacancy Credit.”
Methodology for Ojai’s 2011 (Cycle Five) RHNA Allocation:
382 (Household Growth)
+ 11(Healthy Market Vacancy Need)
+ 0 (Housing Replacement Need)
– 22 (Excess Vacancy Credit)
Total RHNA Allocation = 371 homes
Finding a Balance
Interestingly, the City of Ojai has the highest percentage of Very Low and Low-Income housing compared to the rest of Ventura County (50.4 percent compared to 40 percent, respectively). Suza Francina questioned the presenter, “You’re saying that the City of Ojai has a higher percentage of low-income people than anywhere else?” To which the analyst replied, “In Ventura County, Ojai has the highest percentage of low-income housing.”
SCAG then expressed their algorithm for calculating the types of housing distribution and how they take steps to ensure a balance between housing for Very Low Income, Low Income, Moderate Income, Above Moderate Income households stating that, “We don’t want to just keep putting up more of the same. We want to diversify housing opportunities;” these calculations are called, “Equity Adjustments.”
One councilmember stated, “I don’t quite grasp the consequence of not meeting these goals.” SCAG replied saying that whereas there is no technical “enforcement of the numbers, RHNA was designed to spur housing production. It serves as an incentive to qualify for state grants and bond monies” Further, the presenter reinforced that the RHNA was an opportunity for local governments. It was in the local government’s interest to comply, because this essentially deterred the state from stepping in, usurping authority from local jurisdiction.
In coming years, this metric may support the case for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs or “tiny homes”) and Manufactured homes. According to Bill Miley’s comments at the meeting, manufactured homes are allowed by our zoning requirements, and cost around $50,000 for purchase, shipping, and assembly.
Recap of Other Important Matters from This Week’s Meeting
School Donates Water Filling Station to Libbey Park
The next presentation was by a group of students from the self-directed learning community of Rock Tree Sky, who presented the council with a proposed donation. In an effort to promote hydration for children and to reduce the use of single-use plastics, Rock Tree Sky raised $3,000 of the total $3,500 cost to install a bottle filling station at Libbey Park. “We hope that you will join other state and national leaders in banning single-use plastics. We think Ojai should be next.” Councilmember Francina motioned to approve and accept the donation, seconded by Mayor Johnston. The recommendation passed unopposed
New Library Program features Surfing Memoir “Barbarian Days”
Ojai’s head librarian Ron Solozorano presented the Ventura County Library’s “One County, One Book” reading program, with book events beginning in October. For this program, the library is providing free copies of the William Finnegan’s Pulitzer-prize winning surfing memoir, “Barbarian Days” at libraries all over the county. Area residents may visit their local libraries to pick up their copy on the “Little Free Library” Shelf.
Change of Date for Water Chautauqua
Andy Gilman of The Agora Foundation announced the change of date for the upcoming Chautauqua event on water issues. Originally, the event was planned for Labor Day weekend, but the holiday presented a challenge for many of the speakers. At this meeting, rescheduled for September 30th, Callegas, Ventura and Casitas Water Boards (the three players in the “Three Sisters” plan) will discuss the historical context of their agencies, their current actions, and their plans to connect with interstate water.
Adult-Use Cannabis Dispensary Amendments
Before moving on to vote on an Ordinance Amendment to Title 4, Chapter 26, amending the city’s cannabis policy, the council heard arguments on both sides. “This would be three additional licenses? Are they tied to the dispensaries or … anyone of those end up recreational and drop the medical?” asked Mayor Johnny Johnston. The mayor went on, “If we are issuing it because the medical dispensaries need an additional product to make the business viable…I would be able to drop the medical portion?” Council responded, “This would be licenses granted to the three existing, lawfully operating medical dispensaries … if the desire was to prevent one or the other (only medical or only recreational) then that could be changed.” Councilperson Weirick chimed in, “If I understand, it is possible that we can word it as both only?” Council responded, “Correct.”
Councilperson Blatz concurred, “I’m making my decision without any economic consideration whatsoever… It’s legal. Ojai in its vote was overwhelmingly in support of it. I think it should be available but it has nothing to do with the economic viability…I didn’t even take that into consideration.” Councilperson Francina said, “I would concur with those comments. This is an issue of safety … these are tested products as opposed to black-market products.” By deliberating, and tweaking some wording to allow that licenses be capped to ensure that there are no new stand-alone adult use; only medical facilities and medical plus adult use.
ATP Goes Back for Public Review
On another issue, the Active Transportation Program (ATP), councilperson Randy Haney expressed concern due to a lack of public input. Weirick supported the proposal, while Francina expressed concerns about delaying the timeline, “There has been public input … many people (are) aware of these plans.”
Councilperson Haney reiterated, “I just don’t have a sense that the community has participated at 100 percent. Now, if we have this meeting and 10 people out of 7,500 come, then that makes it easy. But, if we have 100-200 people showing up to express concerns then…I think the community should have the opportunity to weight in.”
Blatz said, “I’m all for getting input, but I don’t think I’m really clear on what we’re getting input on. What are we going to do with the input from the public? I’m just not sure what it is we’re gaining. I think we have to give staff Council agreed that a focused stakeholder outreach had taken place, but that a general public outreach was not yet completed. Staff was directed to take steps for public outreach and to coordinate the necessary administrative meetings.
Staff reviewed the priorities for Ojai’s Planning Commission and Community Development. After a few amendments including the development general plan update strategies, development of parking study scope and strategies, establishing design guidelines east of the Arcade, and term sheet for adaptive reuse ordinance (pertaining to reuse of historical buildings).
Mayor Johnny Johnston asked, “According to this we’re going to start the general plan…when?” The general plan was adopted in 1987 with amendments and updates periodically as stated by Councilmember Weirick, “We’ve never done a comprehensive general plan update.” About which, the mayor went on, “Maybe we should stop doing (the general plan) piecemeal … It would be great help to our planning commissioners who express bewilderment about what we want them to be doing.”
Libbey Bowl Gets Extra Dates, for a Price
When the Libbey Bowl committee requested a few extra dates, Councilperson Blatz gave a little bit of background, “We were quite surprised that they asked for 17 shows. We were fine with it so long as they didn’t affect certain dates … we thought that would leave some dates for other organizations to use the Bowl.” Bill Weirick proposed a flat amount for additional shows of $3,500 to Sterling.
Mayor Pro Tempore Randy Haney responded that, “there are ways of doing it. We want to go by how we would allow anyone else to do it.” Councilperson Blatz calculated, “If there was a commercial show that didn’t conflict with Sterling … at $1,600 to rent the venue and $3 per ticket would be about $4,600.”
Thus, offering a flat rate of $3,500 per show would be a special arrangement with Sterling as the Libbey Bowl’s preferred vendor. The request passed with Francina as the sole dissenter.
“Community Outreach” Budget Allocated to Ojai Valley Green Coalition and Ojai Valley Museum
The next item was concerning money that been allocated, but not approved, for funding the Ojai Valley Green Coalition and the Ojai Valley Museum. City Manager Steve McClary informed the council that “(the) total was based on the recommendation that we’ve earmarked: $60,000 for Museum administration, $50,000 for the Green Coalition, $3,000 for the Ojai July Fourth Program, and $1,000 to the 211 (Health and Human Services) program.”
Councilperson Weirick said the funding these two programs were, “two elements of our community outreach budget … but need to look at community outreach budget on the whole, including the possibility for the council to make a request. We might be interested in making them but we’ve never been given the opportunity.” With that, Weirick motioned to approved the $64,000 budget for the Ojai Valley Museum with a second from the Mayor. All voted “Aye” except for Mayor Pro Tempore Haney, who wanted more money for the Museum.
Tod Coissart of the OVGC presented on-going future plans for the OVGC stating that, “We’re also working with the Ventura Water District to roll out solutions. Restoration and Resilience Council was grassroots responsive group that developed after Thomas. Specifically, how can we create a fire-resilient Ojai Valley—- both water security and fire resilience. It is very similar to the Transition Design program that Carnegie Mellon is proposing for the city.” After a few concerns were addressed, the council approved $50,000 funding to the OVGC.
Off to the Races
Finally, the staff introduced the next election for City Council. The application period will begin on July 16th until August 10th. This election will determine three City Council seats and the Mayor’s Seat. Should an incumbent not file for any of those seats, the application period will extend to August 15th.
On the Future Agenda for August 28th:
- HPC Ordinance
- Public Hearing Planning & Building
- Presentation by Ojai Hub
- Banner Policy
- Building Code Update
- Water Coordinator Position
- Tiny homes
- Solar Guidelines
- Water Wise