The Ojai City Council moved a step closer Tuesday to expanding city boundaries, which would more than triple the city's population.
Council members unanimously agreed to pay $5,200 to hire Sacramento consultant Richard Milbrodt to create a plan for increasing Ojai's jurisdiction.
Milbrodt will refine financial estimates and draw up guidelines for restructuring the City Council to give representation to annexed areas.
Under the plan, Ojai, which has a population of about 7,600, would add about 19,000 residents.
City boundaries would expand south, east and west and stretch from Casitas Springs to the east end of the upper Ojai Valley. Ojai City Manager Andy Belknap said the study will give people in the valley information so they can decide the merits of expansion.
"This is not something the council will impose," Belknap said. "The recommendation is that the people would decide themselves (through an election). If it's what people want, our duty is to try to make it work. This study is the first step in making a plan on how to do it."
Ojai Mayor Jim Loebl, who at one time opposed a valleywide city, said he has changed his mind.
"It was a growing realization that the various localities in the valley have grown much more respectful of each other's views," Loebl said.