The vision of Ventura in 2010 that has emerged from two weeks of marathon late-night hearings by the Ventura City Council is not all that different from the Ventura of today--just bigger by about 21,000 people, with more hillside homes and less development in the flatlands.
In a series of tough choices pitting environmentalists and no-growth advocates against land developers and most of the business community, the council made some concessions to both sides while holding a political middle ground.
The council formally adopted a moderate growth plan that would permit a population of 115,000 by the year 2010, contingent on the availability of extra water and other resources needed to make such a population viable.
To keep population growth at a steady pace, the council set an interim limit of 105,000 for the year 2000, an increase of 11,000 people over the city's anticipated population of 94,000 by next year.
In the event that the city cannot obtain more water, the council also agreed on a smaller population goal of 102,000 over the next decade--a rate of about 900 new residents annually that is roughly half the growth rate of the last 10 years.
The council's actions followed prolonged public debate over population options presented by the Ventura Planning Commission. Those options ranged from 102,000 to 147,000 by 2010.
Highlights of the council's growth hearings--spread over a two-week period--included a vote against developing almost 1,000 acres of farmland in East Ventura for housing tracts that could eventually hold up to 12,000 people.
While that was a victory for residents urging protection of Ventura's inner-city greenbelt, the council rejected the arguments of environmentalists on another key issue--the rezoning of 500 acres of Taylor Ranch hillside to pave the way for a new California State University campus.
Other decisions by the council as it walked a political tightrope on the city's controversial growth issue included a vote against developers in further expansion of the Ventura Harbor area, a vote encouraging some future "upscale" hillside growth and a vote for "affordable" housing units in East Ventura.
Even as the council continued its deliberations, council members themselves were divided on whether their actions could be viewed as an endorsement of either pro-growth or no-growth philosophies.
"I think it's a moderate no-growth vote," said Councilman Richard Francis, who unsuccessfully tried to limit population to 112,000 by 2010. "It's a pretty good result of seven concerned people having to deal with a lot of tough issues."
"I would consider it to be more pro-growth than not," countered Mayor Jim Monahan, who had favored a larger population goal of 122,000 by 2010 and consistently voted for more development.
Monahan, the only council member to vote for development of the inner-city greenbelt, said he was particularly concerned about the council's veto of future development on the city's farmlands in East Ventura and near Ventura Harbor.
"The farmers were the first to lose," Monahan said. "Most Venturans will be the next. I'm sorry we took the action against further development of the harbor. I think there were going to be a lot of nice facilities built there. Some kind of a community center. Maybe a theater."
Councilman John McWherter, who had joined Francis in favoring a 112,000 population limit, called the series of growth votes a "good compromise" that he views as politically acceptable.
'Too Many People'
"This provides for a growth rate almost half of what we've been experiencing," McWherter said. "If we can keep it at that, we won't be in too much trouble. It's still too many people in my view. But some people don't know we had a study here once back in 1964 that said we had enough room in Ventura between the hills and the ocean for 250,000 people."
As the council began its deliberations last week after a series of late-night public hearings, the first key vote was against a coalition of local farmers and developers favoring development in the city's East End greenbelt area.
"I have listened to a great number of speakers say the land isn't farmable," said Francis, who introduced the motion to preserve the greenbelt. "We have 20 feet of topsoil, three crops a year and some of the best farmland in the nation. It's an extremely productive area."
Reacting to the council's greenbelt vote, Rex. S. Laird, executive director of the Ventura County Farm Bureau, said he was "extremely disappointed" and accused council members of taking a cavalier attitude toward farmers.
'No True Recognition'
"They speak of it as any other industry, but they don't ask any other industry to serve a separate function for the city such as providing open spaces," Laird said. "There is no true recognition by the council of what they're doing to those people directly involved."