Our view: Ventura creates model for helping homeless
Amid the turmoil of November’s election results, it was easy to overlook passage of the Measure O sales tax increase for the city of Ventura.
The Business Times took some heat for endorsing Measure O, which clearly struck a chord with voters who rejected a countywide transportation tax measure. A transportation tax initiative in San Luis Obispo County also failed by a razor thin margin.
But in Ventura, Measure O tax revenues and some creative thinking about the homeless problem are putting a bit more spring in the step of officials in the Poinsettia City.
As Mayor Erik Nasarenko stated at the March 9 State of the City Breakfast, Ventura will soon have $11 million to spend on roads and other infrastructure improvements. It will also be able to restore its general fund surplus for the first time since the Great Recession.
And it is looking at a surge in travel and tourism tax revenues that will further lift the city’s fortunes.
But one of the most exciting endeavors in the region — one worth replicating — is the city’s decision to find a suitable location for a 55-unit homeless housing complex that includes essential services to give the homeless the help they need —for which many are already qualified.
Ventura has made impressive progress in reducing its permanent homeless population by half in recent years. In looking at the housing project, it has taken pains to find locations that won’t disrupt established residential neighborhoods.
There’s still more detail to come — including the location of the project and what will be done to make sure its residents are safe and drug free.
But creating a place where homeless people can find more permanent shelter and get access to counseling, veterans services and other assistance will put the city at the forefront of tackling one of urban America’s most difficult problems.
BUDGET SHORTFALLS SELF INDUCED
Not quite so happy is the situation in Santa Barbara County, where the powers that be are floating a 36 percent hike in permit fees to plug a gaping budget shortfall.
That’s a ridiculous solution to a problem that’s been caused in large part by a lack of development.
Housing is more unaffordable than ever, jobs and facilities are being exported to other counties and it is a wonder that Ventura County doesn’t impose a border tax on every Santa Barbara worker who soaks up services in Ojai or Oxnard while earning money on the South Coast.
Santa Barbara County’s anti-business attitude has left the county with a proportionately smaller source of private sector tax revenue and more and more dependent on the public sector — literally a public welfare state.
At the same time, the city of Santa Barbara is cutting its own resources with a crackdown on short term rentals that has sapped its coffers of some $4 million a year in tax revenue.
A lawsuit against the city over the ban on rentals of less than 30 days is headed for a showdown in court. The issue is so heated that the case will be heard in Ventura County.