Bill Fulton, a nationally recognized urban planning expert who joined in a successful campaign against a hillside development initiative in Ventura in November, announced his candidacy for City Council on Tuesday.
Standing on the steps of Ventura City Hall and flanked by supporters, Fulton vowed to continue the fight to preserve the city's hillsides if he is victorious in November.
"I believe it's time for stronger, more creative leadership," said Fulton, 47, a former hillside resident. "If I am elected, I will work
Fulton, a 16-year resident of Ventura and author of several books on urban planning, was a staunch opponent of Measure A, an initiative that would have allowed 1,390 homes to be built on the hills north of Ventura. The complicated deal would have also included a 3,050-acre gift of public open space.
Although Measure A was defeated by voters, the battle was expensive and divisive. On Tuesday, Fulton said he recognized the polarizing effect of the campaign and called for residents to work together to resolve the hillside development issue.
"I don't really want to re-fight the Measure A debate," Fulton said in response to questions about his longtime residence in the hillsides. "I opposed one particular development because no alternatives were given by anyone."
Fulton, who recently moved to midtown Ventura, said he lived in a hilltop neighborhood built in the 1970s and that his concern now is how to best preserve the city's remaining hillsides.
That would most likely require a compromise between current landowners and a newly established land conservancy, which hopes to raise enough money to buy their hillside property. But it is unclear where the money would come from.
"It's not going to be possible on cookie sales and car washes," said Mayor Ray Di Guilio, who on Monday announced he would not run and said he is interested in brokering a compromise between the two parties. "There are no magic sugar daddies out there to give $20 [million] to $30 million so that the people of Ventura" can have a nice view.
Fulton, who is frequently quoted in the media and who has taught urban planning at Cal Poly Pomona, USC and UC Santa Barbara, said he decided talking about the issues was no longer enough and that is why he decided to enter the race.
"For me, it's time to take a more direct and active role," he said. "I write about this all the time and I have all my life. Now, I'm less interested in just talking about things and more interested in getting things done."
But some community activists and Measure A proponents are not sure how Fulton will make the transition to the political arena.
"I look forward to seeing how Mr. Fulton brings his academic experience to the real world," said Margaret Merryman, a community activist and Measure A supporter. "Mr. Fulton is a journalist and a researcher. It'll be interesting to see how he goes about this."
In addition to protecting the hillsides, Fulton said he wants to ensure that the city continues to deliver basic services, encourage neighborhoods to play a larger role in decisions that affect them, and stress safety and sound economic planning.
There are three seats on the seven-member council up for grabs in November. Councilmen Jim Friedman and Carl Morehouse hold the other two.
Morehouse said he expects to announce his candidacy today and Friedman said he is still considering running. Ed Summers, a Ventura banker and chairman of the Ventura County Economic Development Assn., said he also is seriously considering running.
But for those in attendance at Tuesday's announcement, Fulton was their choice.
"I've always been disenchanted with ... politics in this town," said Suz Montgomery Hart, a commissioner for the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "There's too much of a status quo. Too much of that means we're going backward."