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Ventura County Perspective

Ahmanson a Marvel of Development--So Let It Develop

The plan is environmentally progressive and will stimulate the economy. And our burgeoning work force needs a place to live.

March 26, 2000|PENNY BOHANNON BOEHM | Penny Bohannon Boehm is immediate past president and current director of legislative affairs of the Ventura County Economic Development Assn

It is not by accident that the proposed Ahmanson Ranch development in the southeast corner of Ventura County received the American Planning Assn.'s Comprehensive Planning Award in 1995 or the Building Industry Assn. of America's Best New Town Award in 1993.

This planned community of 3,050 homes, a village center with retail and office space, a hotel, two golf courses and more than 900 acres of community open space took years and years of work and dedication by planners, environmentalists, interested citizens and government before it was approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in 1992.

The approval of the project was contingent upon 10,000 acres of undeveloped land being dedicated to, or acquired by, the public as permanent open space. This dedication was completed in 1998. The result is the largest addition to the park system in Southern California in 100 years. The dedicated land fills in key pieces of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area so that a wildlife corridor and trail system now stretch from the Simi Hills to the sea, assuring recreation and open space preservation in perpetuity.

The design of the environmentally progressive Ahmanson Ranch community reaches back to the early decades of the last century to the kind of town planning that created some of California's most livable communities. The pedestrian-friendly plan is not predominantly dependent upon the automobile for access to services, schools, jobs and community activities.

When Ahmanson Ranch is completed over 10 years, 20% of the development will provide affordable housing for low- to moderate-income residents. Housing prices in the development will be keyed to the area's salary structure to ensure an affordable fit with the income of its residents.

The community will also provide for:

* Environmental protection. The Las Virgenes Institute for Resource Management has been created to ensure that environmental protection remains an integral part of the development, as well as to provide educational and research programs on resource management and conservation techniques.

* Conservation. On-site water reclamation and treatment are planned to conserve regional supplies and to minimize energy required to reuse this scarce resource. Careful choice of plant materials for landscaping will assure water conservation. State-of-the-art waste minimization techniques will produce 50% less solid waste than contemporary communities without such measures. There will be an estimated 40% to 60% reduction in energy consumption compared with conventional housing in the area.

* Air quality. Through clustering of development and land use diversity, the project provides innovative solutions to issues that typically surround the auto-based urban communities--pollution and sprawl. Compared to traditional suburban developments of similar size, Ahmanson Ranch expects to reduce vehicular emissions by 40% by utilizing clean-fuel shuttles to urban centers, on-site shuttles for transit within the community and a comprehensive system of pathways to encourage biking, hiking and walking.

* Economic stimulus, consisting of approximately $1.2 billion over 10 years of building, 500 construction jobs per year and 1,700 permanent jobs. Sales tax revenues in Ventura and Los Angeles counties will be boosted an estimated $25 million during the build-out period alone.

*

With Ventura County's growth mostly due to its birth rate and its tremendous job creation (approximately 9,500 new nonagricultural jobs were added last year alone), there is a compelling need for housing. Virtually every approval needed to bring this community to fruition has been received. A high level of sensitivity to community needs and community input has marked more than 12 years of review and planning.

As an environmentally progressive development that helped to set aside 10,000 acres of open space (another 900 acres within the project), affordable housing, new jobs and a design plan important to Southern California, the project must be allowed to move forward.

If we allow out-of-county residents to turn the political tides into a tsunami, we should be prepared for the lifestyle and economic changes brought about by a lack of housing and jobs.

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