Quake Renovation Order Halted for Further Study

Times Staff Writer

A controversial plan approved last month ordering owners of 145 unreinforced masonry buildings in Ventura to upgrade their buildings’ resistance to earthquakes was rescinded by the City Council this week for further environmental study.

The reversal Monday was urged by downtown property owner Virginia Gould, who contended that the City Council should have conducted an environmental impact report and provided better notice about the ordinance to the community.

“The public has been unconstitutionally deprived of their legal right to meaningfully participate in self-government,” she wrote in a letter to Mayor Jim Monahan.


But Councilman Don Villeneuve said the setback was minor.

“This is not backing off from our action,” he said. “This is not capitulating to pressure. This is making sure that we dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s.”

However, the matter was complicated by Councilman John Sullard, who abstained from the action Monday because of what he described as a potential conflict of interest. He said his wife, Julie, is a member of the law firm that recently advised Gould in her challenge to the plan.

Sullard was part of the majority that passed the ordinance by a 4-3 vote Dec. 12.

“All options are open now,” Councilwoman Nan Drake said.

At the December meeting, the council approved a plan that would have required 145 property owners to pay for earthquake upgrading at a cost estimated at between $5 million and $10 million.

Start Date Delayed

In an effort to minimize the impact on local businesses, the council agreed to delay the start date for repairs by five years and not require the last phase to be completed until 1999.

Although a state law passed in 1986 requires only that cities notify owners of unreinforced masonry buildings that repairs may be needed, Ventura officials said they expected the state to impose mandatory upgrading orders in the future if local communities do not take the initiative.

Most of Ventura’s hazardous buildings are in the downtown area, primarily on Main Street, but also on Santa Clara Street, Thompson Boulevard and Ventura Avenue.