Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Chamber Still Swinging At Victoria

I don't know about you, but I was a little surprised and disappointed with the way Chamber of Commerce CEO Zoe Taylor framed her arguments in Sunday's Star against possible changes to Victoria Avenue. Remember that blog I wrote back on Jan. 30 reporting that we all seemed to be headed in the same direction on Victoria even though there will still some big differences? Zoe didn't sound like she was on the same page -- emphasizing the negative rather than the positive.

The Star ran a kind of pro-con on Sunday, including one article by me and another by Zoe, along with three letters (one for, two against). You can access the whole thing at http://www.venturacountystar.com/vcs/pulse_speak_out/article/0,1375,VCS_126_5377266,00.html. This is the link to my story, but it's got links to Zoe's story and letters to the editor as well. (Be sure to read the comments from readers -- especially the ones from Bill Winfield, who was active in the No on P6 Campaign. Is it an election year already?)

In the story Zoe takes a pretty hard swing at the whole Victoria effort, hammering especially on the Wal-Mart question and possible changes to Victoria's traffic flow. You have to read the fine print in Zoe's article to discover that, at the Jan 29th meeting, the City Council actually voted in favor of the Chamber's most important suggestion on Victoria, which was to favor the "workplace" development scenario over an "infill housing" scenario.

The irony is that Zoe's Star article is drawn almost entirely from the Chamber's "white paper" on Victoria -- and the "white paper" is focused mostly on opposing the "infill housing" scenario. Hey, Zoe, we're with you on that one.

To be fair, I called Zoe today to discuss this. She said that the article was reflecting the viewpoint of her board and members, many of whom are opposed to the Victoria reconfiguration on its face. We had a good conversation and we agreed that critical components here are (1) estimating how much traffic really is freeway-to-freeway traffic (anecdotal evidence being that it's not much, and (2) working with the "Big 3" employers (county, school district, college) to manage start times and therefore peak-hour traffic.

My original complaint stands, however. Zoe could have written an article saying, It's great that we agree on the workplace strategy, but we're still concerned about the street configuration. Instead, her article said, This street configuration idea is terrible and we're opposed to it and, by the way, we're happy that you green-lighted the workplace strategy. The overall message this send is negative rather than suggesting we are working toward consensus (which we are).

I've been thinking a lot about why the Chamber so often seems to be in opposition to the city's efforts and I'll blog more about that in the future.

Meanwhile, Monday night the City Council approved an ordinance subjecting large-scale retail projects on Victoria (meaning Wal-Mart) to a use permit until the new code is complete. (http://www.venturacountystar.com/vcs/ve/article/0,1375,VCS_251_5381398,00.html) The anti-Wal-Mart activists seemed to think this move would prohibit big box retail along Victoria. For that matter, the pro-Wal-Mart folks seem to think so too. I hope they both realize that while the ordinance creates another layer of Planning Commission review -- tied to the design goals in the General Plan -- it doesn't prohibit anything.

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