After years of preliminary work, the Oxnard City Council will begin final hearings today on a plan that will chart the city's growth for the next 30 years.
Slow-growth advocates, including city of Ventura officials, have raised numerous objections to the proposed general plan, which projects a population increase of nearly 41,000 and a 135% increase in commercial development.
In response, Oxnard officials say the plan deals with growth responsibly.
Anticipating a large number of speakers on the proposal, the council has also scheduled morning and afternoon sessions Wednesday, Thursday and Monday. Today's session begins at 1:30 p.m. in the council chambers.
The document, a revision of the existing general plan, is about 18 months overdue, city officials said. Much of that time has been spent addressing questions and concerns raised by residents and government agencies.
For the past year, the Planning Commission has taken public testimony on the plan from such groups as the Navy, the California Coastal Commission, the city of Ventura and local slow-growth advocates.
Before that, the General Plan Advisory Committee, a 22-member citizens panel, spent more than 2 1/2 years drafting the document.
It would allow the number of housing units in the city to increase by 32%--from 41,857 units today to 55,319 in the year 2020.
The plan also would allow a 135% increase in the amount of commercial development, to 16 million square feet from the current 7 million.
Industrial development would increase by more than 215% under the proposal. The document allows for 41 million square feet of industrial development, contrasted with the current 13 million.
The amount of open space would decrease, from 13,083 acres to 9,326 acres. The area in Oxnard's "sphere of influence"--land outside the city that is governed by the plan----would increase by about 3,500 acres.
The changes are expected to increase the total population to 168,636 by the year 2020, contrasted with the 1989 estimated population of 127,721. The number of jobs within the city is projected to increase from 42,128 last year to 115,896 in the year 2020.
In a letter to the Planning Commission, Scott Weiss, former chairman of Citizens to Protect Oxnard, a grass-roots, slow-growth movement, said the general plan will lead to "more smog, more traffic, plus water shortages and sewage disposal problems."
In a written response, the Planning Department said the development standards established in the plan will "ensure that development will be adequately served by services and infrastructure and will not diminish the quality of life of Oxnard's residents."
Everett Millais, community development director for the city of Ventura, also expressed concerns about the amount of growth permitted in the general plan.
"We strongly encourage Oxnard staff and decision-makers to carefully weigh the impacts likely on the character of your city and adjoining areas in Ventura County," he said in a letter to the Planning Department on Jan. 29.
Much debate about the general plan has focused on a proposal to build a 900-acre, marina-based residential and commercial development at Ormond Beach south of the city, where heavy industry, wetlands and agriculture have coexisted uneasily for years.
However, the development, proposed by the Baldwin Co. of Irvine, was put in serious jeopardy last week when the Planning Commission decided that the city's sphere of influence should not extend south of Arnold Road, the city limit.
Although not within the city's incorporated boundaries, development within the sphere of influence is guided by the general plan. Previously, the commission had considered extending the city's sphere of influence south almost to Pacific Coast Highway.
Roma Armbrust, president of the League of Women Voters and chairwoman of the Ormond Beach Observers, an organization opposed to the destruction of the wetlands, said the decision not to expand the sphere of influence, in essence, makes the development proposal "dead in the water."
Representatives of the Navy have opposed the development, saying it would be incompatible with aircraft operations and weapons system tests performed at the nearby Pacific Missile Test Center in Point Mugu.