Home to strawberry fields and sod farms, Oxnard is changing from an agricultural area to a bedroom community for commuters working in Santa Barbara and south of Camarillo. Farmland is being converted to housing tracts, and such big-box stores as Costco and Wal-Mart are making it a retail destination.
About 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, coastal Oxnard is the largest city in Ventura County with a population of about 182,000. Named for the family of Henry T. Oxnard, who developed a sugar beet factory here at the end of the 19th century, the city celebrates its 100th birthday this year.
Living near the coast: a large, newer house in a planned community a few miles away from the ocean can be purchased for $400,000 and up; a small house, steps to the sand, for $350,000.
Oxnard's beaches have beautiful sand dunes and sunsets, and offer views of the Channel Islands. Uncrowded, they are fabulous for walking. Swimming at these beaches requires caution, however, as they are west facing and the waves can be big with sometimes-treacherous undertows.
Channel Islands Harbor offers boat excursions and whale-watching trips. Ed Hunt Rehab Point at Oxnard Beach Park has a concrete pathway providing wheelchair access to the beach.
Hollywood Beach, Oxnard Shores and Silver Strand are tony beach areas with prices of residential properties from $350,000 to $2 million. Angelenos own about half the units in the gated Colony at Mandalay Beach and use them as weekend getaways. Prices range from $350,000 to $1 million.
The north side of Oxnard, near the River Ridge Golf Course, has large single-family homes with prices starting around $400,000.
There are several public school districts with Academic Performance Index scores ranging from 475 to 832 on a scale of 1,000. More schools are being built as new housing developments are added. Oxnard College is part of the Ventura County Community College District.
Some of the city's least expensive and oldest residences are in south Oxnard, with prices in the low $200,000s, while the north end has newer single-family homes from $400,000 to $600,000. The downtown historic district has beautifully preserved Craftsman homes from $300,000 to $600,000 on F and G streets. Channel Islands Harbor homes with boat docks for backyards start at $500,000. Condominiums and townhouses, depending on location, in town or at the beach, run from $200,000 to $1 million.
Good news, bad news
Oxnard is experiencing rapid growth, but the expansion is increasing suburban sprawl. There seems to be a shopping center on every corner now.
Large expanses of the nearly 25-square-mile community are fields. The 20th Annual Strawberry Festival, May 17 and 18, is the premier outdoor event drawing thousands of people to Oxnard every spring.
A major highway project due to be completed in 2006 is underway to accommodate growth in the area. The 101 Freeway over the Santa Clara River bridge near the Vineyard Avenue exit will expand to six lanes in each direction.
Single-family detached resales:
Sources: Florence Gadbois, RE/MAX Gold Coast Realtors, Oxnard; DataQuick Information Services; www.ci.oxnard.ca.us; www.bchrealestate.com; www.usps.com.