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Canyon Project Rejected

Times Staff Writer

Voters in the financially struggling community of Santa Paula this week narrowly rejected a plan to build hundreds of mansions in Adams Canyon.

In June, voters will get their say on another development proposal, for more than 2,100 less-expensive homes in adjacent Fagan Canyon.

In Tuesday’s balloting, Measure Y, which would have expanded the city’s growth boundaries to allow the development, was defeated by a vote of 2,201 to 2,082. About 41% of the city’s 10,435 registered voters cast ballots. About 400 absentee and provisional ballots were being tallied Wednesday afternoon, but the outcome was not expected to change.

Pinnacle Development Group of Scottsdale, Ariz., in partnership with San Diego County landowner Arnold Dahlberg, proposed the 495-home Adams Preserve on 6,500 acres.

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Councilman Gabino Aguirre, who in 2002 campaigned against an earlier plan to build in Adams Canyon, on Wednesday said the developers had again offered an ill-defined project.

“Once again they’re doing an end-run on the planning process. Their whole strategy was to put it out there and sell it as a done deal,” he said.

Mike Miller, an eight-year Santa Paula resident who coordinated the campaign against the Adams Canyon proposal, said the victory was remarkable. As of Monday, the developers had spent about $853,000, compared with $23,123 by Miller’s group.

“Those guys had every advantage on us, but we were still able to pull it out. They had a special election during Easter week and it was tax time. That wasn’t all coincidence,” said Miller, a member of Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources.

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Santa Paula struggles financially and had a March median single-family home price of $565,000. Along with Oxnard, Santa Paula has the greatest concentration of farm worker housing in Ventura County.

The Adams Preserve proposal called for homes on lots averaging 12 acres, a 200-room luxury hotel and spa, and a private 18-hole golf course and country club. Pinnacle is responsible for the cost of the special election, which city officials estimated at $95,000.

Mayor Rick Cook said his rural community of nearly 30,000 people desperately needed the property and sales tax revenue that upscale residents could bring.

“We have the highest unemployment in the county and the lowest household income,” Cook said. “If we’re known for that, why can’t we also be known for having some of the highest-income residents?”

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Even without Adams Canyon, Santa Paula has the potential to increase its physical size and swell its population by nearly a third. Campaigning begins Saturday for the June 6 primary, when Santa Paula voters will consider a development in Fagan Canyon by Dallas-based Centex Homes. The project would bring 2,155 homes, priced from $380,000 to $750,000, to the canyon east of Adams Canyon.

The project promises $100 million in upfront fees and improvements to the city and school district, 60 acres of parks and a program to hire local workers.

Centex also pledges to set aside more than 1,110 acres of open space and to build 325 units of affordable housing.

And citrus grower Limoneira Co. is negotiating with the city to develop 500 acres east of Santa Paula into about 1,500 homes and 60 acres of community facilities, such as a second high school and an expanded satellite facility for Ventura College.

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