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Ventura County 1992 : The Major Stories

January 01, 1993|Gary Gorman | Times staff writer

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

It has been said that journalism is history on the run.

Whether or not everything we publish is history in the making, I do know that journalists here at The Times were certainly kept on the run in that news marathon known as 1992.

For that reason, I asked staff writer Gary Gorman to take a deep breath and give us a thoughtful look at Ventura County and the events that affected us here in the last 12 months.

I also asked Gary to give us a preview of what we might look for in this New Year. His work is on B2 and B3 today, along with key images of the past year.

On behalf of all of us at The Times Ventura County Edition, let me wish you the best of news in 1993.

Julia C. Wilson

Times Ventura County Editor

* ECONOMY: Hitting Bottom

Unemployment hits a nine-year high. Home sales fall more than 6%. Two major employers announce plans to leave the county, taking 1,000 jobs. One in seven county residents is on welfare. Ventura has so many vacant storefronts, the City Council waives permit fees for new businesses.

Now for the good news, such as it is: We seem to have hit bottom.

"We've definitely reached the turnaround place," said Richard L. Ball, who oversees Ventura County National Bank's semiannual survey of 558 business leaders. Nearly half of the respondents in the most recent poll said sales and profits dropped in the first half of 1992. But that was fewer than in the previous year.

The county lost 3,600 jobs in the 12 months ending in November, according to state figures, including 500 at the closed Everest-Jennings wheelchair plant in Camarillo. At year's end, unemployment stood at 10% and more than 38,900 residents were looking for work.

The lack of jobs increased strains on local governments, which were already slashing staff because of cuts in state aid. By December, 13,000 county households were receiving food stamps--up from 7,000 only three years ago. For the third straight year, the county had to hire more workers--61 this time--to handle new welfare cases.

OUTLOOK: Although a busy Christmas shopping season suggested increased consumer confidence, few business leaders expect a rapid recovery. And some of 1992's economic blows such as the loss of 450 jobs with the closing of Abex Aerospace in Oxnard--will not be felt until this year. But entrepreneurs remain optimistic about the longer term: Owners of Buenaventura Mall in Ventura have submitted plans to double its size, and construction of two new shopping centers is expected to begin in northeast Oxnard.

* GROWTH: East County Gains

Though slowed by recession, growth in the east county continued to make the area an ever more significant force in county politics, business and culture. With 14,000 residents in 1960, the east county now has 251,000--more than 37% of the county's population and 43% of its registered voters. Its residents also have above-average household incomes and education levels higher than the county average.

And there's no end in sight. In December, the Board of Supervisors approved the $1-billion Ahmanson Ranch project, which will transform 2,800 acres of the Simi Hills into a mini-city of 8,700 residences and dozens of commercial sites. Critics complained that its adverse environmental effects will include 37,000 more cars a day on local roads, but backers liked the nearly 10,000 acres of parkland that the deal provides.

Simi Valley, meanwhile, annexed more than 2,600 acres north of the city for the Whiteface project, which will include nearly 1,500 homes.

Camarillo, at the geographical center of the county, continued to face competing pressures from developers and preservationists.

Construction has begun on the $115-million Spanish Hills country club development on the city's western edge.

As Camarillo runs out of space, some are calling for development of the scenic farmland on the east and west sides of the city.

Oxnard--never a hostile environment for developers--approved construction of the nearly 600,000-square-foot Shopping at the Rose retail center, to be built on the city's northeast side. And the City Council began preliminary talks with landowners about developing a 1,000-acre expanse in the same area.

OUTLOOK: In Moorpark, the county's fastest-growing city during the 1980s, the City Council in January will discuss annexing 4,000 acres northeast of the city enough land for the 3,000 homes that a developer wants to build. In the west county, Oxnard and Ventura are expected to continue discussions with landowners aimed at preserving a 4,800-acre agricultural greenbelt between the two cities.

* WATER: Finally, the Deluge

An 11-day series of storms in February dropped more than 10 inches of rain on parts of the county, causing floods that killed three people, damaged more than $5 million worth of crops and prompted the President to declare a disaster area.

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