Ventura County supervisors this week approved smog guidelines that will require more developers to scale down projects or offset polluting emissions.
The guidelines, which will take effect in 1991, divide the county into two areas, with stricter measures in the Ojai Valley and most of the areas that pump pollutants into the valley air.
Air Pollution Control District officials believe that the measures will significantly reduce the polluting emissions in the county, which has the sixth worse ozone pollution problem in the United States.
"I can't quantify how much improvement there will be because I can't predict future development," said Richard Baldwin, air pollution control officer. "And the jurisdictions can still override the guidelines. I can only say there will be an improvement."
While division of the county in two is a victory of sorts for Ojai Valley environmentalists and the Ojai City Council, Russ Baggerly of the Environmental Coalition said the guidelines are a disappointment.
"We tried to make a difference for the whole county," he said.
For most of the county, the guidelines state that any residential, commercial or industrial development that will generate more than 25 pounds per day of either of two pollutants that contribute to ozone will be found to have negative impacts on the air quality.
That finding will send the projects into the environmental review process. At that juncture, developers can scale down their projects or institute measures such as van-pooling and bicycle paths to reduce expected emissions.
For the Ojai Valley and the Rincon area, projects producing more than five pounds per day of either of the two emissions would have negative impacts. Sea breezes sweep pollutants from traffic and oil production along the Rincon into the valley.
Projects expected to produce five pounds per day include a 23-bed hospital, a three-pump gasoline station, a walk-in bank and a two-screen movie theater.
Projects expected to produce 25 pounds include a 12-pump service station, a 10-screen theater or a 113-bed hospital.
According to the guidelines, projects must also be consistent with the Air Quality Management Plan, which sets maximum population predictions for each area. If new projects would boost the population beyond that maximum, they would be ruled inconsistent and face the same environmental review process.
"All the guidelines have been greatly expanded," Baldwin said. "They will take us a lot farther than the current plan toward mitigating emissions."