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Mall Plan Would Add Cars, Smog : Ventura: Environmental report says congestion would increase and air quality decline if the Buenaventura shopping center doubles in size.


A preliminary environmental impact report on the proposed Buenaventura Mall expansion says that doubling the mall's size would draw more than 14,000 additional cars to the area every day, worsening traffic and pollution problems.

The report details the impacts of developer MaceRich's plans to expand the mall into the largest retail shopping center in Ventura County. It also addresses a proposed expansion of the adjacent Montgomery Ward property, also owned by the MaceRich Co, based in Santa Monica.

The Buenaventura Mall, bordered by Main Street, Mills Road and Telegraph Road, is now anchored by a JCPenney store on the north and a Broadway department store on the south.

Those stores would remain as anchors, along with a Montgomery Ward store, which would be moved from across the street. Mall officials said they are negotiating with other department stores for two other anchor spots.

Plans also call for renovating the 28-year-old building, adding a second level and building two multilevel parking structures.

Across Mills Road, on the site of the Montgomery Ward store, mall officials plan to raze that store and an associated auto center. They propose moving the Circuit City store from its site near the mall and constructing a 5,800-square-foot building that may serve as a restaurant. Another store--possibly a grocery store--also would be built on the property.

City officials say they do not expect the developer to encounter major hurdles gaining approval for the project.

"It's a developed area, there are no endangered species there and the zoning is consistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan," City Planner Mitch Oshinsky said. "The crucial issues will be traffic, air quality and noise."

According to the draft environmental report, traffic problems will be unavoidable. Thousands of additional cars will congest parts of the Ventura Freeway, Main and Mills streets and hem in surrounding residential streets in midtown, the report said.

According to a city ordinance, MaceRich would have to pay more than $2.4 million in traffic-mitigation fees. Some of that money would be used to add lanes and provide turn signals to major streets near the mall.

"There are a significant amount of traffic mitigation measures that are going to be very expensive," Lori Gatto, vice president of the company, said. "We've known from day one that traffic was going to be one of the major issues."

Air quality would also worsen, but not to the extent that pollution would be hazardous, city officials said.

"It's enough to be concerned about, but I don't think anyone's going to collapse walking down the street," Senior Planner Mark Stephens said. "It's not like people won't be able to see to the Channel Islands because of the mall."

Other concerns detailed in the draft report suggest improving the architectural design of the mall and improving the proposed landscape plan. The report consultant called the mall "somewhat bland."

The report also calls for the developer to add a large area for bike racks and move the bus terminal to another site. The farmers market, which is held Wednesday mornings in the parking lot of the Montgomery Ward store, may be displaced during construction.

The report was done by Ventura-based Fugro-McClelland. City officials said the draft cost about $200,000, paid for by MaceRich, the second-largest mall operator in California.

The report estimated the mall expansion would create as many as 637 temporary construction jobs and as many as 1,500 more jobs, most of them low- to moderate-income retail positions. Most of the new jobs would probably be filled by Ventura and Oxnard residents, so it would not be necessary to add new housing in the city to accommodate them, the report said.

Some residents who live near the mall have voiced objections to the proposed expansion. About a month ago, Dunning Street residents unsuccessfully attempted to have their street declared a historic district as a way to halt or delay the mall expansion.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Karen Mayer, a Dunning Street resident who led the campaign. "No one's shopping there. I don't know where they think the shoppers will come from to support it."

Gatto said company officials are confident the expansion would attract more shoppers. "We wouldn't build it otherwise," she said. "It's a $70-million to $100-million project."

The Buenaventura Mall opened in 1965 as an open-air shopping center. It was remodeled and enclosed in the mid-1980s.

The city receives about $14 million annually in sales tax revenue, and at $1.04 million,??? the mall is one of the largest revenue generators in the city. The draft report did not estimate how much additional sales tax revenue would be generated as a result of the expansion.

After the report is released Thursday, residents will have 45 days to comment on the findings. A public hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 9 to gather residents' comments.

After the 45-day period has passed, a final environmental report that includes public comments will be released and the Planning Commission will consider the project. The City Council is expected to vote on the proposal early next year.

If the project is approved by the City Council, mall officials expect it to be completed by the end of 1995.

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