Simi Valley is one of the most polluted cities in Ventura County, yet while most of the smog there comes from outside its borders, the city is locked into a restrictive set of county-dictated pollution-control rules.
On Monday night, the City Council plans to review those rules, looking for any that could be modified and considering any measures that could further cut smog in Simi.
Hammered out by cities and the county's Air Pollution Control District, these rules govern everything from new housing developments and bus routes to bike paths and stoplights.
Yet much of the pollution is forced into Simi Valley's air from elsewhere by breezes from the ocean or Santa Ana winds. Then, on the smoggiest days, the pollution is trapped by the mountains edging the city, meteorologists say.
"What happens in Simi Valley doesn't affect us at all," Mayor Greg Stratton said. "Our air's already bad when it comes from Oxnard. Our impact on our own air is really minimal. . . . The car's still the biggest problem."
That, Stratton said, is one of the most frustrating aspects of Simi Valley's smog. The city and the Air Pollution Control District have no direct control over vehicle exhaust--the chief pollutant that residents of Simi Valley add to their own air. Vehicle exhaust standards are set by the state and federal governments.
"You can make a guy put in bike racks, but until you take away somebody's car, they're still going to drive it," Stratton said.
Many of the pollution-control rules governing Simi Valley were put in place in 1991, and the city is complying with them, city planner Dulce Conde-Sierra said.
But the City Council also will be briefed on proposed rules being studied by the Air Pollution Control District, said Conde-Sierra, deputy director of special projects in the city's Department of Environmental Services.
The proposals include drafting a countywide plan for bicycle and pedestrian paths, basing vehicle registration fees on exhaust emissions, and requiring businesses with fewer than 50 employees to comply with smog-cutting measures now required of larger companies.
"This is a very conceptual thing," Conde-Sierra said of the existing and proposed rules the City Council will review Monday. "What we want to do is just bring the council up to speed on what is being discussed, what has been discussed before the APCD and tell them what's being proposed at this time."
City planners will return to the council in September with specific recommendations on which of the old rules should be changed and which of the new rules should be endorsed.
And Stratton said the individual cities in Ventura County will soon have a say in how the APCD rules are drafted.
Mayors of the 10 cities are scheduled to meet June 21 in Camarillo to select five local representatives to sit on the district's board, helping to decide how to control pollution in Ventura County.