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Our View: Ventura is on the right track when it comes to housing

By   /   Friday, September 10th, 2021  /   Comments Off on Our View: Ventura is on the right track when it comes to housing

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For the first time in decades, there is a bit of a building boom going on in Ventura, and construction appears to be happening where it is urgently needed: in housing for the city’s current and future workforce.

As Staff Writer Brooke Holland wrote in the Sept. 3 edition of the Business Times, the burst of residential construction activity is partly a reflection of what’s been happening for the past decades. Projects are proposed, they go through myriad approvals and revisions, and perhaps a decade later they get entitlements.

Those entitlements are not a guarantee. Financing must be lined up and contracts must be signed. But for Ventura right now, there is a positive alignment of the stars when it comes to housing.

For one thing, developers are finally finding that at current low interest rates it makes sense to pull the trigger and build now. Housing markets are strong enough to reduce the risk on new construction. And, while labor is tight, contractors have become adept at managing resources and there is still enough talent around to get projects built.

What appears to be happening in Ventura is that entitlements are coming just a bit faster. Infill opportunities abound in a city that was long overlooked by developers and where there are still some large, vacant tracts within the city limits.

New housing mandates coming down from Sacramento are going to stretch many cities’ capacity to meet the targets set in legislation. And there may be plenty of pushback.

But for cities that for years have resisted building even a trickle of housing to supply their internal needs, Ventura should be looked to as an example of what is possible. The community is not talking about the new housing projects disrupting neighborhoods or adding to traffic congestion.

Instead, the population is largely applauding efforts to find creative, relatively low-impact ways to upgrade neighborhoods like the Ventura Avenue area that was in economic decline until a few pioneers took the plunge on new projects.

Development does not take place without a degree of risk, and in the case of many Central Coast cities, the overwhelming risk has been that of regulatory barriers and delays. Ventura has shown how one city can provide a path to developers out of the regulatory risk trap.

Other cities that are locked into a vicious cycle of entitlement delay and project denial should wake up to the fact that they are the risk factor that’s driving the affordability crisis. It’s time for a change.

GOODBYE TO ODD-YEAR VOTING

The city of Santa Barbara is holding an election this fall for mayor and city council. And while it is late to do so, it is time to bid good riddance to a quirk of the electoral calendar that tends to suppress turnout.

Beginning in 2024, Santa Barbara will join virtually every other jurisdiction in the tri-county region and hold its elections in even-numbered years.

The age of the odd-year election has long passed. Voters increasingly want bundled elections and combining city, county and congressional elections in odd years makes sense. The voters have spoked all over the state when they turn out in much greater numbers for even-year elections.

An opinion from California’s attorney general in 2015 pressed cities to switch to even-year voting if turnout was lower in odd years. And Santa Barbara ratified the change in 2018 with the passage of Measure B.

The odd-year election is dead — or at least dying. That’s not a bad thing at all.

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