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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / VENTURA

Redevelopment Plan Draft Wins Approval

July 29, 1998|PAMELA J. JOHNSON

Despite opposition from a handful of landlords and tenants, the Ventura City Council, acting as the city's Redevelopment Agency, has approved an early draft of a plan meant to enhance the image of midtown and encourage property improvements.

Agency Chairman Ray Di Guilio, who owns property within the redevelopment area, abstained from the vote.

By a 5-1 count, with James Monahan dissenting, the agency Monday night adopted the preliminary Midtown Redevelopment Plan and decided to begin workshops at which residents will be able to express ideas and concerns.

The plan is tentatively scheduled to return to the council for consideration, after those public workshops, during a public hearing Nov. 9.

The redevelopment plan affects an area resembling a giant pair of scissors along Main Street and Thompson Boulevard from Ash Street east to Mills Road. It also includes the Buenaventura Mall and portions of Loma Vista and Telegraph roads.

On Monday night, city-hired consultants from Santa Ana told the council that 331 of the 673 properties in the redevelopment area--or about 49%--have problems that include unpainted facades, defective roofs, exterior damage and little or no landscaping.

In part, the plan calls for correcting the problems as well as increasing the community's supply of moderate- to very-low-income housing by creating programs to provide mortgage assistance and loans for housing rehabilitation.

It also calls for infrastructure and landscaping improvements on Seaward Avenue, Thompson Boulevard, Mills and Telegraph roads and East Main Street, and for many storm drain, sewer and water system improvements.

Catherine Nebron and her husband, Phillip Gorin, of Los Angeles, who own 14 storefronts along East Main Street, were among those who objected to the plan. They said such a move would put longtime tenants, some of whose enterprises have thrived for 50 years, out of business.

"This would force me to be a certain kind of landlord," Nebron said. "My property taxes would go up because my property value would go up. I would have to pass that along to my tenants."

She said she surveyed all 14 of her tenants and no one supported the plan.

"Nobody wants the redevelopment plan, nobody," she said.

Gorin questioned the way the improvements would be funded. The process is called tax increment financing, in which cities can set aside a portion of property tax revenues collected in designated areas that would otherwise go toward general city services and programs.

"There's no pot of gold here," Gorin told the council. "The money comes out of the pockets of vital public services such as schools, libraries and police departments."

Monahan dissented from the vote because he said decisions regarding midtown improvements should be left to business and property owners rather than a redevelopment agency.

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