Housing and Oxnard

Oxnard has a severe housing shortage. Earlier this year SB 827 attempted to help communities build more housing. If the direction of SB 827 is correct the “fixes” relate mostly to zoning that incentives sprawl and makes it almost impossible to build in city cores. I will not go into the failure of SB 827 here but making zoning changes that incentivize the building, making the building of housing easy instead of almost impossible, housing in downtown (Oxnard) was the main thrust of the legislation.

Housing will happen eventually. Oxnard is working on Development Standards and Design Guidelines that, if handled properly, will make it far easier for developers to building housing in downtown Oxnard. I expect that a draft copy of the new Development Standards and Design Guidelines will be available to the public in a September/October time frame, and perhaps, if we are lucky, go to the Council for approval early next year. There are still obstacles to better zoning in Oxnard. They are the NIMBY’s under nearby rocks. I am hoping that the City can come together with excellent Development Standards and Design Guidelines that will make Oxnard a leading builder of housing in Ventura County. Oxnard has the potential to reclaim the center of commerce of VC, but only if it manages the planning of housing and mixed-use infill opportunities well.

As a bit of an aside. I have always seen enormous opportunity in downtown Oxnard, and Oxnard in general for infill mixed-use housing and commercial. It has been hard for me to understand why local people and developers have bought into the meme that Oxnard is not a safe place to live. Oxnard is a safer community that much of VC and the City of Santa Barbara (yes there is a gang problem, but it’s similar everywhere). Oxnard has the best weather. Oxnard is the least expensive SoCal coastal city between the Boarder and the Bay Area. Many other places are roasting with temps of over 100 degrees more than 100 days each year – and they will be coming to Oxnard. Oxnard is the over ripe for the development of housing and business. Don’t hold your breadth – once it starts it will explode with vitality.

A question in my mind is whether Oxnard can get over being so underfunded that City staff cannot deal with the work volume. If Oxnard can staff up with creative competent people and it gets the Development Standards and Design Guidelines right, it has a chance to properly manage the growth. Do not kid yourself, Oxnard will grow. The big question is whether Oxnard can properly plan the coming growth, or will developers eat Oxnard alive and continue to build ugly (think the RiverPark hotels) and leave the community poorer than ever? And then there is the issue of old time Oxnardians who grew up in a very different small town Oxnard being able to wrap their minds around, and more importantly embrace, a vastly changed 21st century Oxnard.

The City and the Council and City staff, must have the courage to do the right thing and not bend under the pressure of these that do not want change and do not want more housing in Oxnard. They are out there – why do you think Oxnard lacks housing?

The beauty of the new Development Standards and Design Guidelines is that they can carefully overlay chosen areas to encourage neighborhood development. Oxnard is large enough today to have a number of denser transit oriented neighborhoods. I see these potential new transit oriented neighborhood areas as the Esplanade, the downtown, the area around the CenterPoint Mall, the area at the intersection of Saviers and Pleasant Valley Roads. And finally terminating at Saviers and Hueneme Roads as a carefully designed gateway to support and develop the unique tourist area that will be Ormond Beach Wetlands.

There are grants for less wealthy cities geared to infill housing development in transit oriented developments. In the past grant funding is not been applied for because we did not have staff to apply or administer grant funding. I find that particularly irksome. Is Oxnard that ignorant? I hope not going forward.

South Oxnard has been largely abandoned for far too long. There is as much need for housing in South Oxnard as in the downtown. Don’t get me wrong, both are unique urban design challenges, but similar ideas (while not precisely the same) may be applied to both areas. Once the downtown gets going, 3 to 5 years, I believe the same recognition of potential will move south towards the Pacific Ocean. Overlaying specifically recreated Development Standards and Design Guidelines (with architectural review) for the Saviers Road intersections of Channel Islands Blvd, Pleasant Valley Road (maybe Bard), and as a carefully designed gateway to support and develop the unique tourist area that will be Ormond Beach Wetlands.

I vision each of these “nodes” as thriving neighborhoods with density to supporting a lively public realm and transportation. We need to start thinking about getting out public transportation onto Oxnard Blvd and Saviors Road. And perhaps different modes, rail, bicycle, the full length from Hueneme Road to the Esplanade, and finally to The Collection and RiverPark.