In what could be the prelude to a fight over Oxnard's future, an Oxnard group has launched a slow-growth campaign in a city renowned for its fervent courting of development.
Citizens to Protect Oxnard, a five-member organization begun earlier this month, is scheduled to appear today before the Oxnard Planning Commission to oppose a draft of the city's new general plan--which it says fails to set any growth limits.
"The issue with the general plan is a fire that has to be put out immediately," said Scott Weiss, organization chairman.
As it stands, the general plan says that from now until the year 2020, only 13,464 units, can be built.
From 1980 to 1987, Oxnard experienced a growth of 3,122 dwelling units, or about 446 units per year, said Richard Maggio, Oxnard's community development director.
However, the general plan would set no annual cap for growth.
Citizens to Protect Oxnard has not developed official figures, but it has discussed a limit of about 400 houses per year, estimating that each household represents 3.5 people, Weiss said.
"In the city approach, there's nothing that says no more people," Weiss said. "I call that approach more houses, more jobs, more smog."
While the group is in its formative stages, it has slow-growth plans that extend beyond a challenge to the new general plan.
Weiss said he has solicited advice--and in the future may ask for financial backing--from community leaders, including Patagonia Inc., Ventura's third-largest employer and its most environmentally active firm.
Patagonia donated funds to three slow-growth candidates who subsequently won seats in last fall's Ventura City Council election.
"My overall perception is that slow growth will continue moving in the county," said Paul Tebble of Patagonia's public affairs department.
"We're concerned that development needs to happen slowly and carefully," he said. "It's something that we've been looking for."
Weiss said his organization hopes to stay in the public eye to educate people about growth issues, possibly going so far as to hold demonstrations and protests.
The group also plans to promote political candidates who espouse slow growth for the city, he said. The group will start by sending members of the City Council questionnaires asking their views on city growth.
Organization members include Jean Harris, who sat on the general plan advisory committee, and Stewart Mimm, who unsuccessfully ran for the City Council and attempted two years ago to solicit support for a slow-growth initiative.
The Oxnard Planning Commission has scheduled several more public hearings during February. Then, the general plan will be presented to the City Council, which will hold more public hearings in March and April, before adopting a final plan.