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Growth/ A Special Report : Residents Sharply Divided on Quality of Life, Poll Finds


The debate over whether growth in Ventura County should be sharply limited could become an even hotter political issue in coming years because of a sharp split among residents on whether the quality of life in the area is getting better or worse, a Los Angeles Times poll suggests.

The survey shows that Ventura County residents are almost equally divided into three groups on the growth issue--those who say the quality of life in the county has declined in the last decade; those who think it has improved, and those who say it has stayed the same.

The sharp division over the quality of life in Ventura County contrasts with an overwhelming view among county residents that there should be limits on the county's growth.

While it was not unexpected to find many Ventura County residents opposed to growth, the sharp dispute over the effects of past growth leaves room for forces on both sides of the issue to push their positions in the future.

During telephone interviews with 818 county residents, The Times asked respondents if they think the quality of life in the county has improved, worsened or stayed the same over the last decade.

The question found that 30% of those polled say life has improved in the last 10 years and another 32% say it has stayed the same. Those who say that the quality of life has deteriorated made up 31% of the respondents, while 7% said they were not sure. The poll has a sampling error of five percentage points in either direction.

That opinion indicates that almost two-thirds of Ventura County residents think life is no worse than it was 10 years ago, despite the growth. Nonetheless, there was a general view that growth should be slowed in the future, even if it means a loss of economic development.

When asked to choose between slowing growth or encouraging growth, 72% of the poll respondents said they favor slowing growth and limiting development, even if it hurts business and results in the loss of some jobs in Ventura County. Forty-five percent said they feel strongly that growth should be limited.

On the other side of the growth issue, 23% of those polled said they favor growth, even if that brings an undesirable effect on living conditions and the quality of life in the county. Those expressing strong feelings in favor of growth constituted an even smaller minority--8% of those questioned.

Some public uncertainty about where the limits of growth should be drawn was reflected when respondents were asked whether the county's current growth rate is too fast, too slow or just about right.

While more than 7 out of 10 respondents had said earlier that they favored limits on growth, only 53% said they believe the county's current growth rate is too fast. About two out of five, or 41%, said the county is growing at a proper rate of speed, while 4% said they think the growth of the county is too slow.

THE TIMES POLL Over the past 10 years or so, has the quality of life in Ventura County gotten better, worse or stayed about the same?

Better: 30%

Same: 32%

Worse: 31%

Not Sure: 7%

Are you in favor of slowing down growth and limiting development, even if that may hurt business, or are you in favor of growth, even if that may have an undesirable effect on living conditions? Do you feel strongly about that or not so strongly?

Favor Limits Strongly: 45%

Favor Limits Not So Strongly: 27%

Favor Growth Not So Strongly: 15%

Favor Growth Strongly: 8%

Not Sure: 5%

Do you think Ventura County is growing too fast, too slowly or at just about the right pace?

Too Fast: 53%

Too Slow: 4%

Right Pace: 41%

Not Sure: 2%

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