Monday, June 11, 2007

A Neighborhood For The Future

On Saturday I went to the grand opening of Citrus Walk, the new subdivision located off Henderson Road along Highway 126 in East Ventura. It was a good place to see the future, and how all the Monday-night brawls over real estate development projects can help to shape that future.

This project was built by The Olson Co. on the Hailes Ranch, a 40-acre site formerly owned by the school district. When it’s completed, the project will consist of 232 dwelling units on about 40 acres, ranging from 1,300-square-foot triplexes (on the market at $450,000) to 3,000-square-foot single-family homes (clocking in at around $800,000).

There was a pretty fair brawl over the project itself and the site plan. Olson proposed a mostly single-family project with some multi-family, while many neighbors wanted entirely detachd single-family homes. After Olson and the neighbors reached an agreement, the city staff and eventually the City Council called for a different site plan – one that created more of a mix of dwellings, along with more usable open space including a one-acre park that many of the dwellings overlook. We also created larger one-story ranch-style homes on larger lots along the perimeter of the project adjacent to existing neighborhoods. For all these reasons, Citrus Walk will be one of the few neighborhoods in Ventura where you can “move up” without “moving out”.

On Saturday, I saw the payoff. Ventura is a city that is rapidly aging and we always hear that young families and the middle class are getting priced out. Yet on Saturday I saw all kinds of people. Lots of young families of all races and ethnicities – some couples with children and some where the wives were very pregnant. But also lots of empty nesters.

Not all these folks will buy in Citrus Walk, of course. A lot of the people I talked to are also looking RiverPark in Oxnard. But many of these folks, especially the young families, will buy. And that means many people who work in Ventura, who are raising families, and want to make a life here will have a place to live – some in larger houses they can “move up” to, others in starter dwellings that are a little less expensive. And those in the starter dwellings will be able to move up as their incomes grow while still living in a neighborhood – with a park – that they will probably come to think of as home.

We often kick around what we mean by “smart growth.” Mostly what I mean is building neighborhoods that make sense for families to live in given both the financial and social demands we face today. In Citrus Walk, we’ll see lots of different types of people living in the same neighborhood. We’ll see young families finding a place to live in Ventura with the ability to move up in the same neighborhood. All these things are to the good. And they wouldn’t not be possible if we were still pursuing conventional suburban development.

Score one for smart growth.

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