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VENTURA COUNTY

Annexation of 441 Acres for RiverPark Development OKd

State panel's action appending land to Oxnard is final major hurdle for the $750-million mini-city project.

October 17, 2002|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

A state planning group Wednesday approved annexation of 441 acres of county land to the city of Oxnard for the construction of RiverPark, a $750-million mini-city that represents the largest mixed-use project in Ventura County history.

The decision by the Local Agency Formation Commission to annex the remainder of the 701-acre development to Oxnard was the project's last major hurdle before developers can break ground.

Approvals and permits will now come from the Oxnard City Council, which has already approved the project.

The city, however, must meet several conditions before it can claim the former sand and gravel mine area as its own, LAFCO officials said.

One of the conditions mandates that Oxnard ante up $500,000 to ensure the preservation of ground water. The city must also file a request to annex a 35-acre residential area in El Rio.

Everett Millais, executive officer of LAFCO, said support for annexation was unanimous; city leaders, developers and local school officials all spoke in favor of the project, he said.

"There really wasn't any controversy," Millais said. "From my experience with developments even close to this size, there are always a whole lot of issues, but all of those issues have been resolved to pretty much everyone's satisfaction.

"The city and developer have really done their homework."

The RiverPark development, at the intersection of the Ventura Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway, calls for about 2,800 living units centered on village greens. It would also include a vintage town square, a movie theater and restaurants, a first-class hotel and convention center, three schools, sports fields and a food-and-wine exposition.

"This will bring all kinds of benefits to Oxnard and will really help change the image of the city," Mayor Manuel Lopez said.

For a project of its size, RiverPark has run into little opposition, mainly because developers have given most of the affected parties exactly what they want.

The local school districts will get three new schools; affordable housing advocates will receive 15% of the project's dwellings for low- and very-low-income households; and environmentalists say the project might boost ground water supplies.

RiverPark's partners -- including a $12-billion pension investment fund, a noted Los Angeles builder and the county's top real estate deal-maker -- say they have agreed to spend $99 million in upfront costs on schools, off-site roads, El Rio storm drains, relocation of a county maintenance yard and construction of a new fire station, to be operated jointly by the city and county.

"This is extraordinary," Rio School District Supt. Yolanda Benitez said. "As soon as the community is built, they'll have their schools as opposed to waiting for the state to build. That's the way to do it."

Developers hope to break ground by late summer and open the first of five phases for occupancy by early 2004, after construction of a new freeway interchange and the widening of the adjacent Santa Clara River bridge.

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