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West County Issue / RV Park Site : The Feb. 12 flooding of the Ventura River washed away the Ventura Beach RV Resort, leaving hundreds homeless and destroying dozens of motor homes. City officials were warned of the flooding potential during the permit process, but nonetheless approved the development. Should the park be allowed to reopen at the same site?

March 02, 1992

Todd Collart, Deputy mayor, Ventura

I have not made a decision, nor has the council, on the future of the park. We have asked the city staff to give us a full report on the matter, so we know exactly what options the city has regarding future dealings with the RV park. We need to see copies of the present permit conditions, whether or not they've been adhered to, and what it would take to amend the conditions, or to close the park down. There should be a discussion of flood plains, flood channels and 100-year storms. We also need some clarification of what kind of warning system is in effect. Did it meet all of the requirements? Was it sufficient? There have been all sorts of allegations, so right now what we're looking for is some good, solid background before deciding what ought to be done. If the warning system needs enhancement, we will instruct the staff to tell us how those changes might occur. It is all very tentative, so we should not be passing judgments until we know what the facts are.

Alex Sheydayi, Ventura County deputy director of public works, flood control

Whether the park should be reopened is really the city's decision. We are neutral in that debate. However, our position on the flooding risk has not changed. The RV Park is in a flood plain, and there was always a risk in developing it. We have held this position since the mid-1970s. The only thing that could ensure that the park is safe would be to build a wall, or a levee, or a dike around it, but we cannot allow that. There are ordinances that prohibit this sort of construction in the flood plain. Constructing the facility in the flood plain includes accepting the risk of flooding, and accepting the responsibility for what happens next. As far as changes in the flood-warning system to avert tragedy in the future, that will have to come from their end. We will continue issuing flood warnings. The question is, how will they implement it to their residents?

Arnold Hubbard, Owner, Ventura Beach RV Resort

We definitely intend to reopen. We went through the due process to obtain the permits to build. We got all the necessary approval. Our plans were checked, the construction site inspected and everything was built according to the rules. Since that time we have been operating according to the rules. We don't think there should be any reason why we shouldn't open again. If the riverbed were properly maintained, and if all the brush and trees were eliminated from the riverbed, there would be no danger. As it is now, though, the river can only operate at 30% capacity because of the lack of maintenance. When the project was first approved there were steps taken to mitigate flood hazards. The proper thing to do is maintain the channel better. We are evaluating our warning system. We have asked for suggestions on how we can improve communication with the county flood control system, to get a warning of the conditions sooner than we got it this time.

Paul Tebbel, Spokesman, Friends of the Ventura River

I don't think they should be allowed to rebuild at all. The simplest reason for this position is that the park is in the middle of a river channel. Every time the river decides to switch channels,like it did on Feb. 12, there is a strong chance of significant floods flowing through the east end of the RV park. Keeping the park there is just way too dangerous. We were so, so lucky that no one died there this time. The bulk of the responsibility for the flooding lies with the political entities that gave the permission to build. That would be the Ventura City Council and the California Coastal Commission. We are actively lobbying against the reopening. There may be alternative uses for the land. There may be ways Mr. Hubbard can be bought out. If he wants to continue using the land for an RV park, perhaps the only thing that would be safe is closing the park between December and March. Early-warning systems will never make that area safe enough.

Steve Patterson, Former resident, Ventura Beach RV Resort

I think they should definitely reopen the park. I was staying at another RV park when the flood hit, so I was lucky enough not to lose everything. I got flooded there too, though. The RVResort is a business, and it serves people like me who have no other place to stay. There's two reasons to let it reopen. If it doesn't, where else are people in my situation going to go? I remember seeing a televised City Council hearing on the issue of flooding years ago, when the park was approved. People know this park was built in the flood plain. You just have to look and see if the water level rises. If it floods, it floods. This was simply an act of God. Lightning could have struck too. Good God, what are you going to do when a disaster strikes? You want to hold God responsible? Do you know who his insurance carrier is?

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