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Ventura County

Hillside Plan Sent to Voters

Growth: Ventura council members approve a ballot initiative that would allow 1,390 homes to be built north of the city's downtown.


Saying they had no alternative, Ventura City Council members have voted to place an initiative for hillside development on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The Open 80 plan seeks to build up to 1,390 homes north of Ventura's downtown while setting aside more than 3,000 acres of open space. An ordinance adopted last year prohibits extending city services onto the hillsides without voter approval.

"Voters, go for it," Mayor Ray Di Guilio told the crowd after the council vote.

Though Di Guilio told Monday's audience that the council would take no further action on the initiative, 25 residents still signed up to speak. "After this evening, we're out of the loop," Di Guilio said. "This is not the forum where the discussion will take place."

Opponents of the initiative again criticized putting a development agreement on the ballot without a completed environmental impact report. Supporters called the proposed open space a great gift.

The initiative came to the City Council after a successful petition drive sponsored by the owners of the hillside land. Both sides, and some members of the council, noted that the measure is historic--it is the first time in California that a development agreement has been placed on a ballot by citizens, they said.

After listening to more than two hours of public comments, council members peppered City Atty. Robert Boehm with questions about his legal analysis of the initiative. Boehm told the council that he was surprised by how much discretion the city would retain over the proposed development, should the measure pass.

The council can write arguments for or against the initiative, but won't decide whether to do so until July 15.

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