NEIGHBORS : Lessons in Life : With help from the 'Phantom of the Arts,' fifth-graders plan to show designs for an empty site to the City Council.


Anyone who has visited the Kmart shopping center on Victoria Avenue in Ventura has likely noticed the barren piece of land across the street.

The 46-acre parcel, which for the past 30 years has been known as Montalvo Hill Ranch, repeatedly has been used as a source of landfill for various operations. Though there are no specific plans for the site, according to one of its owners, commercial development is the goal.

Well, some fifth-graders at Poinsettia School, just up the road from the site, would like to help speed things along. Under the guidance of land planner Bernard Tamborello, 33 students formed 11 task forces and prepared designs for the property. They expect to present the ideas to the Ventura City Council in early June.

"The reason we chose (the location) is that the students are very environmentally sensitive," Tamborello said. "They didn't want to build in agriculture or a natural setting."

The students see the site as a residential-commercial community, with housing in the back and offices up front, and maybe a lake or park in the middle. "We're going to combine the students' wild ideas with their practical ideas and compromise," Tamborello said.

Tamborello is, of course, the renowned "Phantom of the Arts," the man who caused a fuss a few months ago by displaying six paintings in a hayfield alongside the Ventura Freeway near Seacliff.

Tamborello is also the guy who compiled a list of ideas for culturally and environmentally enriching the city of Ventura.

He expects to present those ideas, illustrations and all, at a council meeting in the near future.

"There will be a woman with me, kind of like a Vanna White thing," he said. "She will be unfolding the pictures as I introduce them."

You've seen them, you've read them, but do you really understand their significance? We're talking about those "Adopt-A-Highway" signs on Ventura's freeways. Groups or individuals volunteer to keep two-mile stretches of state highway litter-free, and in exchange Caltrans puts their names on the signs.

Well, in Ventura County 270 of the 325 adoptable miles (83%) have been claimed. Just thought you might like to know.

If all goes as planned, Oxnard will be one restaurant richer next week with the opening of Jake's Restaurant and Lounge at the Financial Plaza on Vineyard Avenue.

Jake's is named after its owner, international restaurateur Robert S. Jacobson (or Jake to his friends). As a globe-trotter, Jacobson knows about international dining habits.

"I found the first time I went to Indonesia it was hard to adapt, everything was at a slower pace," he said. "It's like Europe, they take long dinner hours. They like to have conversations for three or four hours."

Jacobson found the same held true in Korea. "Basically in other parts of the world they go in for more courses," he said.

"In Korea they are heavy eaters--an appetizer, soup or salad, generally then they have a sherbet, then the main course, then an after-dinner liqueur with coffee and maybe a cigar."

So what kind of cuisine will Jake be serving up? Asian? Middle-Eastern? Samoan? Nope. The Oxnard Jake's will specialize in Santa Maria-style barbecue.

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