Cohort Reflections


The Economy and Transportation

Nelson Buss

Realtor - Aviara Real Estate

We opened our session at the Port of Hueneme with a report on the local economy from Bruce Stenslie, CEO of the Economic Development Collaborative. Key takeaways for me included Ventura County being the #1 ranked county in the nation amenities index and ranked near the top in a number of other quality of life surveys. The tradeoffs of being such a desirable include issues of affordability for anyone working lower paying jobs, shortages in industrial space and other infrastructure to promote faster growth of higher paying jobs, and a widening gap between the wealthiest and poorest residents in the county.
This was followed by an overview of the cities of Santa Paula and Simi Valley by their respective City Managers, Dan Singer and Brian Gabler. Santa Paula is anticipating significant residential growth, an extension of Ventura College, and a new partnership with Sierra Northern Railway. Simi Valley is working on a reemergence of the Simi Town Center to past glory as well as several significant new residential projects.
Then we got to meet the star attraction of the morning session, the Port of Hueneme, and made an excursion to Fathomwerx. Located on site, it is a public/private laboratory facility used for manufacturing and testing of prototype equipment of almost unlimited scope. The port itself is a busy hub for agricultural equipment and products, automobiles, and a vast array of other imports and exports amounting to nearly $11 billion annually and climbing each year. Fathomwerx is a project launched through the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the Port of Hueneme, and a number of other local entities. It is designed to give space to entrepreneurs looking to solve challenges faced by modern military and civilian operators both in the region and around the globe. It is home to two generations of metal 3-D printing equipment, virtual reality augmented systems, and an array of welding equipment, CNC machines, and lathes. All of this is available for local businesses to produce and test equipment of their own design for free, excluding the cost of materials. A younger me would be ready to move into that building and play for years.
The afternoon session found us visiting the Gold Coast Transit District. Vanessa Rauschenberger and Amanda Fagan covered the nature of transportation in Ventura County, including public transit. We took a tour of their facility, including the maintenance yard, which may have been the cleanest shop I have ever seen. A big takeaway for me is that the County does not have a specific tax funding transit in the county, which leaves us at a competitive disadvantage to other locales when competing for additional grant funds at the State and National level.
Next up was a presentation from Kathleen Mallory, Planning and Sustainability Manager for the City of Oxnard, about how a flurry of activity in Sacramento in recent years has impacted how cities are addressing housing shortages, affordability, and local resistance to change. Oxnard is one of a handful of cities in the State that has had their Housing Plan to address the current RHNA cycle approved by Sacramento. This is no small feat, in my experience. We also saw infill projects that Oxnard is working on.
Last up was Nicholas Deitch, who presented on innovative housing, and how higher density can be achieved in ways that maintain curb appeal and create livable spaces. I will always feel that this will be a tough sell to any crowd that was raised in a suburban environment or moved to one as a reaction to their experiences in urban confines. In my own childhood, where over fifteen moves on two continents, I alternated between urban apartments, military row houses, swampy ex-urbs, and quaint European Villages; I can tell you which spaces I look back at with the greatest fondness. I can still vividly remember the challenges of being a six-year old living in a high-rise, or fourteen in walk-up, blocks from the nearest space that didn’t require a purchase in exchange for existing in that space. I am curious how architects and planners will address the challenges of reinventing Ventura County's suburban design while giving the residents of these envisioned housing projects the same amenities in terms of space for children to play and grow.

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