These are comments made by the candidates for Camarillo City Council during the League of Women Voters of Ventura County Forum at Camarillo City Hall on Nov 4, 2014 to the following question:

What would you do to protect the ag land at the foot of the Conejo Grade and do you support no growth or slow growth?

 (These answers are presented in the same order as at the Forum) 

Jose Herrera Espinoza: We just can’t go out there and start paving over our agricultural land. One of the things where I would like to see growth is the area around Flynn Rd.  There is a lot of industrial buildings there that are empty, there are some empty lots out there that need to be filled.  I believe that there are a lot of jobs that need to be filled here in the city. This is where growth has to start.

Matt Lorimer:  You can answer very simply, the people stormed this building, they were outside, they have been angry for 6 years, on and on and on.  You heard tonight what your City Council wants to bring, more development. I mean on and on and on, we keep talking about the same issue.  They want a convention center.  They continue to approve more projects.  Its about quality of life.  You have to ask yourself, do you want more years of that, the direction that they are going for this community is more development, or do you want more people in office who believe that we should protect our farmland.  We should also partner up with different agencies to buy that property or have an initiative on the ballot to protect it ‘cause you know something, no one wants to live in the SF Valley anymore. Thant’s why they moved out here.  Thank you.

Jan McDonald:  Thank you.  Well my voting record speaks for itself on this issue.   I voted to rescind the General Plan referral on the Conejo Creek project and that EIR basically told us everything we needed to know, that it was a project not meant for Camarillo.  I have also consistently voted against the Springville project because I believe it is too dense.  It is not a Camarillo project and what is being built today is not in the best interests of our quality of like with the traffic that it will bring.  We need to protect our Ag land, we need to protect our greenbelts, we need to live within our City.  We need to continue to mature and we are maturing now .  The convention center is a very different kind of growth than building more residential units.  That’s becoming a mature community and it is a conference center, not a convention center.  So when you think about it, don’t think about the LA Convention Center that we are bringing that to you;  but you do need to mature, but we need to stay within the City and we do indeed need to protect our Ag lands.  I was born and raised in Ventura County and Ag is an important part of this community and we need to make sure that it can exist and that we can exist with it.

Mike Morgan: No growth would get us in trouble, but managed growth is what we’ve had, slow growth since 1981.  In 1981 I brought it forth to the City Council and they wouldn’t change their minds , 3600 units a year being built for several years.  We can’t even even imagine that.  Signs everywhere.  Well I took it to the people, and we passed it, and now we are only 400 units a year at the most that can be developed in the City of Camarillo.  That means that every apartment counts.  The convention center, or the conference center that we are talking about, that’s already zoned land, that’s not agricultural land and the water under it is very poor water.  They can’t use it for farming.  They have to pump in the stream, they have to treat it before it goes into the stream.  So it’s a whole different set of circumstances than what they are trying to make you believe, that we are pro-growth.  This is something that is already zoned for that purpose. The SOAR initiative, of which I was co-chairman, which helps to protect our Ag land around Camarillo.  We passed that, it took a lot of work, but we passed that and the growth initiative that I passed in 1981.  People passed it with 75%.  We want to keep it low and keeps ours a maintained growth.

Roy Villa: On the Conejo Creek project, this is my position and I’ll make it real clear because my Dad always said, when you grow up make your yes be yes and your no be no; and I am going to tell you right now, no General Plan amendment on the site that we call the Gateway to our community.  Zero.  If I serve up here representing you, the biggest fear is not going to be any more Genera Plan amendments.  The incumbents tell you that they are against them.  On Sept 10th they rescinded the General Plan amendment. But what they don’t tell you is that they started it 7 1/2 years ago, so first they said yes, let’s thinks about this, and then because of the November 4th elections,  they said, no, I don’t  think we want to do this right now.  Roy Villa is not for any General Plan amendment on that site.

Chris Valenzano: So a couple of things.  One, the Conejo Creek project as we know it, might be dead, but the issue is not dead. In fact, the developers even said in the papers that they plan on coming back with a more scaled down version of the project.  Well, a lot of people would like to believe that the issue is dead, it is not dead.  I’m opposed to large developments on the lush ag land that we have surrounding  the City and I think that it definitely impacts the quality of life of the residents. Because of that, I mean one thing that no one has really addressed is how do we protect that land, and one of the ways that we protect that land is to be able to put large changes in zoning ordinances for large development before a vote of the people, before a vote of the residents, that way there is not just 5 people on the Council making that decision on behalf of the some 60 odd thousand residents in the City of Camarillo. Than way we can have input on it and we can make sure that projects such as the Conejo Creek development, that were that large and that vast would never be approved.

Charlotte Craven: I voted against the project at Conejo Creek.  I believe that the EIR showed that there is very, very, little that can go there.  I think the EIR is the worse enemy that those people have, the people being the property owners and the developers.  As far as growth, I believe in slow growth, we need some growth.  As long as people keep having kids, somebody has to build some houses for them. We had a man come up and tell us he didn’t want any more houses built.  I said how many children do you have, he said 12.  You know, you got to get your thoughts together.  We have a growth control ordinance, I have voted twice to extend it.  I believe it will be coming up to be extended again.  I don’t think it has to go back to the people, because the City Council will extend it.  SOAR, I believe will be extended.  Your City Council will, you know, there is no choice, people say they support SOAR, you have to follow the laws of the land.

Dan LaBrado:  One of the reasons we moved here is that drive coming down the hill and seeing the vast agricultural space surrounding the City.  It is a wonderful view.  If you ride a bike and get out there it is even better yet.  If we support SOAR we would not have considered Conejo Creek.  If we have ordinances in place that say we support agricultural land we wouldn’t  have had to think about Conejo Creek. Those ordinances, those policies should be put in place.  They should adopt,  they should wrap their arms around the agricultural space and open space.  We continue to develop up in the mountains, continually, lets adopt the open space and let’s take advantage of it.  No, I’d be adamantly against the Conejo Creek project or anything that would come up in it’s future.


Below is the text from the VCStar Oct 3, 2013 Edition:

Image_9 Council candidates outline positions   Camarillo faces growth, water issues

By Mike Harris 805-437-0323
The proposed Conejo Creek project is dead, but protecting Camarillo’s agricultural lands from such future developments remains a hot-button issue in the City Council races to be decided Nov. 4.

Incumbents Charlotte Craven, Jan McDonald and Mike Morgan, and challengers Jose Espinoza, Daniel LaBrado, Matthew Lorimer, Chris Valenzano and Roy Villa are vying for three seats on the five-member council.

Faced with widespread opposition to the planned Conejo Creek development from constituents, some of whom threatened political retribution at the ballot box, the council killed the project in September. The residential/industrial/ business complex was to have been built on hundreds of acres of prime farmland near the bottom of the Conejo Grade.

Echoing residents’ concerns, council members said the development would have degraded the small-town character of Camarillo with increased traffic congestion and the loss of prime agricultural land.

“This was the third project in this area that has failed and I voted no on each of them after carefully studying all the issues,” Morgan said in an questionnaire sent by The Star to all the candidates. Morgan has sat on the council since 1980, making him the second longest-serving councilman in Ventura County. Ventura City Council member Jim Monahan has him beat by three years.

“Similar projects would face the same difficulties of having too many environmental problems that cannot be mitigated,” Morgan said.

Craven, 70, who is seeking her eighth term of four years, agreed.

“Large projects have too many impacts on our residents,” she said. “Small developments, I don’t have a problem with. You gotta have some growth because people keep having kids.

“So I am not an absolute no-growth person,” said Craven, who was first elected in 1986. “But if you took the Conejo Creek site out of the picture, I don’t know where any large developments would actually go in the city.”

Valenzano said he supports a fledgling effort to put an initiative on a future city ballot that would require a vote of residents to approve a zoning change like the one sought in the Conejo Creek project from agricultural to commercial/industrial/ residential.

“Being surrounded by vast open space is part of what makes Camarillo’s quality of life so great,” Valenzano, 35, a businessman and a former Ventura County Board of Education president, said in the questionnaire.

LaBrado, 66, the recently retired general manager of the Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District, said he is running for council in large part to slow residential development and pursue openspace opportunities.

For instance, he said, the Camarillo Planning Commission in August greenlighted two new housing tracts at the Village at the Park community that he doesn’t favor.

“My concern is that with the recent rejection of Conejo Creek, we don’t come back years from now and look at the same thing,” he said. “The council made an excellent move with Conejo Creek, though it took them five years and unfortunately, it took a significant amount of pressure from the community for them to reject it.”

The three incumbents have a combined 78 years on the council.

Some of the challengers say it’s time for fresh representation and for term limits to be instituted.

“With our current City Council members serving for well over 20 years, it is time for us to bring new faces into our local government,” Valenzano says on his website.


Water is another key issue in the races.

The council in June declared a stage 2 water supply alert, placing additional water restrictions on users. City officials said more water conservation is necessary to compensate for statewide drought conditions and to avoid significant water cost increases in the future.

McDonald, 64, an accountant who is seeking her fifth four-year term on the council, said at a candidate forum Tuesday night that the city began developing a 10-year master water plan long before the current drought.

Along with water conservation, a key component of the plan is a $50 million desalination plant, which could be operational by 2017.

“The plant will deliver about 4 million gallons of high-quality reclaimed water per day to be used for farming, landscaping and parks,” McDonald said in the questionnaire.

Most of the candidates support the plant, including Espinoza, 41, a computer engineer.

“If elected, I would help cut through the regulatory agency red tape and have the plant online by 2017,” Espinoza said. “To actually involve myself with the people who are deciding. The result is estimated to reduce the purchase of imported state water by approximately 50 percent and stabilize our water supply for years to come.”

The city receives 45 percent of its water from groundwater supplies. About 55 percent of the water is purchased from the Metropolitan Water District out of imported supplies.

Lorimer has doubts about the plant.

“I know it’s a good idea in one sense, but I have very serious concerns that the proposed plant will turn into a boondoggle like in Santa Barbara, where they built a $34 million facility in 1991 which operated for only four months,” said Lorimer, 47, president of the Lamplighter Estates Homeowners Association.

Villa, a real estate appraiser, said in his questionnaire that the city should “continue to secure additional water resources to meet current demand coupled with meeting future development plans.”


McDonald said the city is fiscally strong, safe, is well-maintained and provides quality public services. She said in her questionnaire she is running “to ensure that we continue to maintain that quality of life and a balanced community.” She also wants to foster economic development, business retention and job creation.

LaBrado said other reasons he is running are to develop cooperative programs with the school, park and health care districts, and to enhance existing senior citizen programs.

Craven said she wants to help get a number of capital projects off the ground. They have been delayed for various reasons, including the state’s elimination of redevelopment agencies, she said.

Valenzano wants to reduce “wasteful” government spending, stimulate Camarillo’s economy by supporting local businesses and promoting job growth, work with the state and the county to reduce traffic congestion in the city, and oppose any new local tax increases.

In light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May, the council is considering opening its meetings with a prayer.

While some of the candidates are against the idea, Villa and Espinoza favor it.

“However, I also believe in our rule of law,” Villa said in his questionnaire. “Any prayer before a public meeting must be in line with the Supreme Court ruling and criteria. Prayer must be supported by a majority of the residents and inclusive of all community groups.”


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