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A new bid to slow Oxnard growth

Times Staff Writer

An Oxnard city councilman has teamed up with an architect of Ventura County’s growth-control laws to craft a ballot measure that would halt what they see as excessive development and traffic congestion in the city.

Tim Flynn, a first-term councilman, joined with local attorney Richard Francis to create what they call the Oxnard Green Light Initiative, which would prohibit new housing and commercial projects until existing traffic problems are resolved. They hope to place the measure on a special ballot in February.

“I should have thought of this before they had approved so much stuff without fixing traffic,” said Francis, who along with county Supervisor Steve Bennett helped draft the county’s growth-control laws aimed at curbing urban sprawl. The county and seven of its 10 cities, including Oxnard, adopted the measures.

As a result, city councils can approve development that falls within their city’s designated “urban boundary.” But any project that falls outside those borders is subject to a public vote.

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The newly proposed ballot initiative could block certain housing and commercial development projects if they were to occur within five miles of an intersection considered too congested, or whose traffic flow rated by city planners is below a C.

City officials said that according to a traffic survey in 2000, more than two dozen major intersections in Oxnard earn failing grades, which means that the proposed law would effectively halt future projects of five or more housing units or commercial projects of 5,000 square feet or more anywhere in town.

“I wish voters didn’t have to use such blunt instruments to get the attention of their elected officials,” said Francis, who hopes to submit a draft of the initiative to the Oxnard city clerk by today. If the council declines to adopt the ordinance on its own, then supporters would have to collect 8,500 signatures on a petition to place the measure on the ballot.

Flynn said he joined the council to fight runaway development in the county’s largest city. He maintains that Oxnard has already allowed its population to balloon to 193,000, much larger than permitted under the city’s general plan.

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“Backers of this are saying, ‘You have this plan for managing growth and housing, but you’re violating the plan,’ ” Flynn said. “It’s not meant to be anti-development, but it is a moratorium on growth until these very fundamental traffic problems are handled.”

Housing projects are underway in the city that could bring 13,500 new residents, Flynn said. Oxnard is also considering 11 other projects that could attract as many as 52,000 more people, he said.

But Terra Donlon, spokeswoman for the Building Industry Assn.'s Greater Los Angeles-Ventura County chapter, said developers already pay fees for traffic improvements.

“There are current rules for development that require mitigation of traffic as you go through the development process,” she said. “To turn around and have this outlandish proposal is completely knee-jerk.”

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Mayor Tom Holden fears that the initiative could have disastrous consequences if passed.

“If it stops any development in the city, including in-fill, what you’re going to see is continued growth and overcrowding in neighborhoods -- families doubling and tripling up where that’s not happening now,” Holden said. “Intersections that are bad now will continue to get worse.”

Holden said that curbing traffic is a laudable goal, but the proposed measure goes too far.

“It’s like asking, ‘Do you support putting an end to child abuse?’ Everyone would say yes, but I’m not sure the best answer is to quit having babies.”

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greg.griggs@latimes.com


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