“Clean Air — Or No Growth, City Told,” a recent OVN headline proclaimed.
Thanks for the choice. But we’ll take both.
Here’s the situation as it now stands. Because Ojai’s City Council and the county board of supervisors have proved themselves shamefully unwilling to halt rampant growth and air pollution in our valley, the big-brother federal bureaucracy is going to do it for us.
The means they’ll use is through our outmoded sewage treatment plant which has long been fouling the Ventura River in violation of federal health standards. If the plant is not upgraded soon, we could be fined $15,000 a day. In order to get the job done, a large federal grant must be approved.
BUT THE FEDS seem to be more concerned about the quality of our air than our own elected officials have been. They know that an upgraded sewer plant opens the gates to new development and overpopulation with inevitably increased air pollution.
Because we have failed to meet the standards set forth in the federal Clean Air Act, our valley has been designated as a “non-attainment area” — bureaucratic jargon which means that our air is unsafe to breathe during 98% of summer days. So the federal government is saying that it’s not about to give us money to make our air even more unhealthy.
Their hand so forced, the Ojai city council responded by postponing the final decision on the all-important general plan which will set the limits of future growth. They had hoped to push through their version of the plan before March 7 when the people will have a chance to elect a more environmentally aware council. This change again underscores the importance of this crucial election in determining the future of the entire valley.
MEANWHILE, the city planning commission and the county Air Pollution Control District are pointing their fingers at each other in a pointless dispute over where the air pollution comes from. APCD officials, who live outside the valley, say we make our own. Commissioners, who live inside the valley, say it blows in from elsewhere. Both sides seem to be clouding the issue and protecting their own interests.
The APCD, which is responsible for controlling air pollution on a countywide basis, has inexplicably been playing a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t game with Petrochem’s nitrogen oxide emissions. One wonders about their motivations for so compromising the health of the citizenry it is enjoined to protect. Perhaps they are covering the incredible mistakes of the board of supervisors in allowing Petrochem and oil drilling to exist in the first place.
The city planning commission, which now faces a mandate to halt new sources of air pollution within the valley, prefers to believe that there are no polluting industries here (ignoring the oil-drilling industry), and that “all we have is traffic and homes” (as if traffic were not the single major source of smog).
The truth is that there is too much pollution coming from both inside and outside the valley. Each side in the dispute seems to be engineering a monumental cop-out designed to relieve themselves from responsibility in dealing with the problem. Such thinking hardly seems worthy of the great challenge created by our ever-mounting smog hazard.
The solution to this problem lies in a vigorous effort from both agencies not just to keep our air from getting worse, but to clean up the already unacceptable levels of disease-producing smog. This column calls upon the APCD to increase its monitoring of Petrochem and oil-drilling sites, and to publish weekly reports on its activities. The Ojai Planning Commission must likewise do their part by halting all population growth now. The recent public outcry which resulted in the denial of an ill-conceived tract development clearly indicates that this is the will of the people.
FORTUNATELY, the voters of the City of Ojai will on March 7 have an opportunity to seat a majority of environmentally committed councilpersons who will do more than wait for Washington to tell them how to preserve our valley. The candidates have been crystallizing their stands, and our choices are becoming clear. Look for an update on this crucial election in a future column.
The following article was first seen in the Thursday, May 24, 1962 edition of the “OJAI VALLEY NEWS” on the “OPINION PAGE” (Page A-2). It is reprinted here with their permission. It was an “EDITORIAL”, and the author is unknown.
Our problem: growth
A recent population analysis issued by the Ventura county planning staff revealed that the “Ojai planning area,” comprising Ojai, Meiners Oaks and Oak View, was growing slightly faster in the period April 1, 1961 – April 1, 1962, than the county average and about twice the rate of growth of the State of California.
Figures showed the county rate of growth as just over seven percent. This compares with an average of six percent the previous year. This is in line with recently-released statistics which told that Ventura had become the second-fastest growing county in the Los Angeles complex, second only to Orange. Its jump of over one percent in a year presages an increase year by year.
In the Ojai planning area the trend was slightly higher than the county average. We inched upwards to an eight-plus population increase this year. With plenty of land and water available, no slackening in this trend is in sight. No impenetrable barricades will be stretched across Highway 399 on the Arnaz grad or across other access, the Upper Ojai. Employees of the industries moving into the Tri-Cities, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks area will drive here some Sunday afternoon, fall in love with the valley and buy a home. Father will join the roughly 50 percent of the present commuters who live here and work elsewhere.
Another pertinent statistic came to light in the county survey. The highest rate of growth in the county was in the Simi planning area — a remarkable 27 percent increase. Second was Camarillo with 15 percent. Ojai was third at eight-plus.
A look at a county map at this point is revealing. Growth, which has been coming in the past from commuters who work in the Ventura area, will soon make a pincer movement into the valley via the Upper Ojai. Planners count on the development of the large ranches of the Casitas lake perimeter, but the Upper Ojai and even East Ojai’s proximity to the 27 percent increase of the planning area is even more startling. This is where growth is spilling over from the San Fernando valley coming this way along a Santa Susana-Simi-Moorpark — Santa Paula line.
Incidentally, great efforts are being made in Santa Paula to obtain industries. And, down the road a few miles in the Tri-Cities of El Rio, Montalvo and Saticoy, vast acreages are zoned industrial. Recently a 133 acre piece was sold to heavy industry.
Far from Ojai? Not really. From the Tri-Cities it is just as close to Ojai via Santa Paula as it is through Ventura. The same goes for Fillmore, which is due for San Fernando growth.
So here is our problem: proximity to growth. And, to a certain extent the cause of our present problems, for the valley has been growing steadily for a number of years. But the rate is accelerating — probably never to runaway proportions — but nevertheless as consistent as the rising sun. The population should inexorably double in ten years.
So, the future is already upon us. What to do about it?
The obvious answer: plan. The not-so-obvious answer: make decisions.
And, we mean make decisions now. Every decision deferred now means time that cannot be retrieved . . . . more pressure on the day when action is overdue, when action will be forced under pressure, perhaps under controversy, and always under haste, and extra expense.
Honestly now, wouldn’t our valley be a better place to live — a better planned community, if governmental bodies had been ready for growth, such as subdivisions, then years ago.
Only fast, massive, intelligent action on Ojai’s master plan, and by the county on the unincorporated sections of the valley (which are exceptionally vulnerable) can save the valley from a fate it does not want — or deserve.
The following article first appeared in the Sunday, February 19, 1978 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on Page 16. It is reprinted here with their permission.
“No action” critics challenged ———————— Our environment ———————– by John E. Nelson, M.D.
This columnist is pleased to note that the Our Environment column has again stimulated a community dialogue on the crucial issue of overdevelopment in our valley.
This time the dialogue has taken the form of letters-to-the-editor from two city councilpersons who chose to speak in rebuttal of last week’s column. That column chided the council for it’s lack of activism which led to the federal government’s seizing the initiative in demanding a halt to increasing air pollution which inevitably follows overdevelopment.
Surprisingly, the author of the letter which most vigorously defended the present council’s inadequate posturings has been its most active force in the struggle to keep The Ojai’s environment both rural and healthy. He has often waged solitary battles against urbanization of Ojai’s streets and the council’s penchant for granting untimely exemptions to the building moratorium. On numerous environmental votes he has found himself to be in a minority of one.
For this reason it is difficult to understand his defense of a council which has been anything but “activist” in pursuit of environmental quality. Other towns with far less to preserve than ours have elected councils who themselves have taken the initiative in improving their environment rather than simply slowing its destruction. They have brought their imaginations to the fore in initiating such measures as litter cleanups, firm population ceiling reinforced by downsizing, tree-planting projects, container laws, bicycle path construction and limitations on driving during smoggy days.
A SECOND LETTER quoted rather dubious statistics which seem to show that the City of Ojai has grown in population by only 400 persons since 1970. Yet during the past seven years there have been 381 single-family dwellings, 113 condominium units and 135 multiple family units built here for a total of 629 new dwellings. Although a few of these are still in construction, it does seem unreasonable to assume that there have been more dwellings constructed than new arrivals to occupy them.
Based on a conservative estimate of 2.5 persons per dwelling, a more realistic figure for this town’s population increase would be 1, 572 persons in the past seven years. Too many by any standards.
From the time Socrates debated his adversaries in the streets of Athens, an unfortunate technique of argument has contaminated political discourse. Later labeled “ad hominum” by the Romans, it is a method of attacking the person who makes a point rather than answering the point itself. Experts in debate consider it a desperation maneuver with little heuristic merit.
Sadly, ad hominum agruments seem to be infiltrating the exchange of legitimate views in our town. The crucial challenge of preserving a healthy and livable environment deserves better.
FOR INSTANCE, this columnist was criticized for not regularly attending city council meetings and thereby missing the opportunities to “get the true facts.” This criticism presupposes that such facts have been available during generally obfuscatory council meetings, a questionable assertion at best. Each of us must arrange our priorities according to our talents and available time, and the four to five hours per week spent on research and preparation of this column leaves little remaining time for attendance of lengthy meetings.
This column has been virtually the only medium to offer any criticism of the city council during the past year on any issue. Yet the community response which has been generated clearly indicates that these views represent those of the majority of environmentally concerned and oft-frustrated valley residents. To remain viable, the democratic process requires vigorous and regular criticism of the humanly imperfect persons who govern us.
The entire issue once more underscores the importance of the upcoming March 7 election in which Ojai voters will have an opportunity to seat a majority of environmental activists who will aggressively pursue the public health interests of this community. This column again calls upon all concerned to keep the ongoing debate high-toned and issue oriented.