After a decade of rapid growth, voters in 1990 sent a message to county government: Enough already.
The messenger was 25-year-old Maria VanderKolk, manager of a product-licensing firm and a resident of Ventura County for less than two years.
Despite her inexperience, VanderKolk had something to offer voters who were tired of seeing their hillsides covered by condominiums: a promise to say no to developers.
By 79 votes, VanderKolk defeated County Supervisor Madge L. Schaefer in a June election, changing overnight the face of politics in Ventura County.
Her election immediately put two proposed developments--Bob Hope’s 750-unit Jordan Ranch project and the adjacent 3,000-unit Ahmanson Ranch development--in jeopardy, given the reservations of at least two other supervisors on the five-member board.
But the upset victory had a much wider impact.
“I think my colleagues might read this result and know that if they proceed to stick a jail out in a greenbelt, it will be folly,” Supervisor John K. Flynn said.
A slow-growth majority, meanwhile, took control of the Ventura City Council and promptly adopted a stringent water-conservation ordinance that virtually stopped growth by forbidding new water hookups.
In November, county voters dealt another blow to growth interests by defeating, by a 2-1 margin, a proposed half-cent increase in the sales tax that would have provided $500 million for transportation improvements over 20 years.
Oxnard, the county’s largest city, remained a notable holdout in the slow-growth push.
No council or mayoral candidate calling for more controls on development there managed to win in the November election.
The advent of a slow-growth ethic follows a 23% increase in the county’s population during the 1980s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s preliminary tally.
The 122,000-resident increase was roughly the equivalent of a town the size of Simi Valley and Moorpark combined.
The county staff is examining environmental impact reports prepared for the Jordan Ranch and Ahmanson projects, and supervisors could vote on the projects by late spring.
Meanwhile, the County Transportation Commission plans to try again for approval of the sales tax increase, possibly in a November special election.
Perhaps the most telling direction sign for growth control will be the outcome of efforts to build a countywide organization from the scattered movements that scored victories in 1990.