Letters to the Editor

May 13, 2005
Santa Paula at crossroads To the Editor:As a member of this community for nearly 12 years, I believe that we are at crossroads regarding Santa Paula’s future. We are confronted with a growing number of concerns:1. Gang involvement - A significant number of young people are joining and participating in local gangs (there are currently over 900 members). Also, the highest rate of youth alcoholism in Ventura County comes from Santa Paula.2. Downtown - Losing over 20 million dollars in potential sales to surrounding communities.3. Unstable schools - Our poorly funded schools are producing poorly performing students, and very tired teachers. Santa Paula ranks lowest in Ventura County for educational attainment.4. Inadequate roads and streets - In dire need of repair and improvement (i.e. Santa Paula St).5. Housing shortage - For the past 10 years approximately 13 homes have been built per year, yet Santa Paula’s population has increased by approximately 350 residents per year. 29% of overcrowded households are in Santa Paula, in comparison to the county average of 12.4 %. Also, the median household annual income is nearly 30% below the county average.Since residing in Santa Paula, I’ve complained about the gangs, the graffiti, the limited services, programs and amenities. Most recently I decided to get involved in supporting the Fagan Canyon development plan because I believe this would benefit Santa Paula as a whole.Many Santa Paulans are being led to believe the Fagan Canyon plan is comprised by developers and a select few profit-minded individuals. To the contrary, this plan is a result of nearly two years of intensive, ongoing participation from hundreds of residents, leaders, stakeholders, and elected officials who contributed to this 10-year plan for improving and revitalizing Santa Paula.Santa Paula is indeed in a crisis, with unemployment at 50% over the regional average. In addition, 77% of Santa Paula’s schoolchildren qualify for free and reduced lunches. And yes, we all quibble about the gangs, the graffiti, and the overabundance of 99 cent stores. But how much longer will we settle for living in a sub-standard community?Santa Paula is on a downhill slide with resources, supplies and budgets next to nil! Do we want THIS to continue? It is the opinion of many residents that the Fagan Canyon Development, as proposed, is a fantastic OPPORTUNITY to bring desperately needed resources to Santa Paula. Parks, homes, bike trails, an agricultural center for teens, and two schools are within reach. THE TRUTH IS: WITHOUT IMMEDIATE ACTION TO ESTABLISH A STRONG ECONOMIC BASE, Santa Paula WILL PLUMMET.This leads us back to the crossroads analogy mentioned at the beginning of this letter; which path will YOU choose: an impoverished, dilapidated Santa Paula... or a vibrant, strong Santa Paula? Your decision must be clear as day, because there is so much at stake.Yolie Cerda-LeeSanta PaulaBoth Sides should negotiateTo the Editor:I am a board member of the Chamber of Commerce, a board member of the Heritage Valley Tourism Bureau and a member of the city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee. I wish to make it clear that I am not speaking for these organizations. However, I mention the organizations because I have been and continue to be active in various community efforts that strive to make Santa Paula a better place for our citizens to live and work.What has been taking place over the past several months is nothing less than a struggle to define the city’s vision. There are good, intelligent, thoughtful people (and friends) that are working for both One Santa Paula and We CARE.While the developer’s charrette was a useful process for developing ideas for the Fagan Canyon Development, the total number of homes was never discussed during these events. I believe that if participants in the charrette process knew the numbers of homes being planned, they would have objected more strenuously.Santa Paula needs development and it also needs housing. Both sides agree on this point. I think it is important that members of One Santa Paula, We CARE and the developer meet to negotiate the total number of homes in Fagan Canyon. If this negotiation does not take place, the initiative process being undertaken by We CARE will ensure that Santa Paula voters will decide the development and the number of homes.Housing, while very important, is one of the many components to economic development. Santa Paula has been out of balance from a per capita income level for many, many years. The city has the lowest per capita incomes in the county. This has been and continues to be a major factor in the image that Santa Paula has throughout the region because this situation contributes to less than ideal conditions. It also contributes to the lack of investment, the types of retail and dining services available in the city and Santa Paula’s educational system.Development is important. Fagan Canyon can be a catalyst for helping Santa Paula reduce its out of balance condition. It should not be used to contribute to or exacerbate an existing problem.Fagan Canyon is not the only development being planned in Santa Paula. Cabrillo Economic Development has a nice project planned near Weyerhaeuser, and an affordable housing project is planned for Main Street. Limoneira’s project is being developed for East Area One, the Hospital Hill project will take place and there may be additional development in Adams Canyon.With respect to Fagan Canyon, the total number of homes planned at this point is too great. We can all benefit if We CARE, One Santa Paula and Centex work together to arrive at an acceptable number of homes to all parties.If negotiation doesn’t take place, the voters will decide on the number of homes in Fagan Canyon.Finally, we should all work together to ensure that the citizens of Santa Paula prosper by providing them with opportunities for improving their incomes. Let’s focus on raising all boats.John ChamberlainSanta PaulaPlease signTo the Editor:I am one of many volunteers who have been circulating a non-partisan petition that would require voter approval of very large developments such as Fagan Canyon. In spite of well-financed opposition, our petition has received widespread support from members of every political and ethnic group in the community. Sometime next week, we should all know whether this petition will qualify as an initiative on the November ballot. If you have not yet signed, the petition is still available outside Vons this weekend. Please join your neighbors in this effort to preserve quality of life in Santa Paula.Have you noticed the full page, three-color, prime location ads in Wednesday’s papers? These ads are highly expensive. The volunteer citizens who have been circulating our petition could never afford them. One wonders who paid for these ads, and I don’t mean who handed the money to the newspaper. The real question is: Where did the money come from?Without attacking the opposition, it is essential to say that many statements in the “One Santa Paula” ads are both misleading and inaccurate. For example, their latest ad implies that, without the crowded Centex development, 1,208 housing units already planned but not yet built will go unused. This ignores development occurring at the hospital site as well as many other units currently planned and under construction in the city. It also ignores the 1,700 units proposed by the Limoneira Company for East Area One. The “One Santa Paula” ads are misleading. Wednesday’s ad also states, “The truth is that this measure [our petition] would stop development in Santa Paula....” This statement is false.It seems reasonable to ask: If their case for Fagan is so good, why is it that the city council, “One Santa Paula,” the developers, and their associates so fear a vote of the people?Whether or not our petition qualifies for the ballot, making possible a vote of the people on Fagan, it is now time to work together for a better Santa Paula.I want to sincerely thank those who signed our petition. My thanks are also extended to those who heard our appeal and declined. After all, this is America and there is need for honest variety of opinion.Delton Lee JohnsonSanta PaulaSign to voteTo the Editor:Why don’t the developers want you to sign the petition? Why doesn’t the City want you to vote on Fagan and other large development? Why does the opposition think their way is the only way? Neighbors, the ONLY way is the democratic way! The American way! We have a right to vote on this and other issues related to big development since it can and will change our lives forever. PLEASE! Sign the petition this last weekend at Vons for the betterment of our future. Let the voters dictate what gets built. The developers don’t want you to know they have many contingency plans. Let them come to us.Lotar ZiesingSanta PaulaDownsizing?To the Editor:I wonder how many people who sign the petition being circulated by We CARE think that the proposed initiative for the November ballot is about “downsizing” Fagan Canyon. Fagan isn’t even mentioned. The initiative is about limiting all development in Santa Paula through the year 2025 to 80 acres. Any development of 81 or more acres would have to be voted on at a general or special election. How many developers are going to be attracted to a community that insists on a vote of the people for anything over 80 acres?It is doubtful that any developer of consequence would choose a parcel of only 80 acres and even more doubtful that such a development would feature housing for our middle class that includes our teachers, police, firemen, health care and city workers. Small projects couldn’t make contributions for new schools, parks, nature trails or upgrades to our sewer system, water transmission facilities and our decaying infrastructure. So please take the time to read the whole initiative before signing and seriously consider the ramifications to the future of Santa Paula.Maria CalderonSanta Paula
Representative democracyTo the Editor:Our elected representatives are our LEADERS. Period. So why does a small group of community members want to interrupt OUR DEMOCRATIC choices of representation to push their own agenda? They exclaim, “Let the People Decide!” They have decided. Year after year during the elections. Our current city council members are the people’s choice for representation. I support them 100%. I might not always agree, but I voted and elected them, along with thousands of Santa Paulans!In my opinion, cries of traffic aren’t sufficient enough to damper the progress and the visionary thinking of our current city council. We are in desperate need of: Economic Development; need to have funds to address our dilapidated infrastructure; we need a solution to our lack of housing options; and ensure that the resources are available to combat crime and drug abuse issues. And of course, closest to my heart, is the need to fix our schools and provide educational opportunities to ALL our community’s children and their families.Let not the fear that some harbor mitigate and limit our potential. There have been expressions of traffic, housing mix and the notion of opening up Santa Paula to becoming a slum by the so-called group dubbed “We CARE.” I sense they are ill informed, scared and lack the sense of true unity in community and integrity of cooperation to resolve our REAL social, community and infrastructure ills.Let’s not lose this opportunity for growth and change. Let’s not be scared about the what if, rather, let’s look at the why not!Eric BarraganSanta PaulaEconomic solutionsTo the Editor:By now anyone who attends City Council meetings or reads the Santa Paula Times knows that We CARE people stand for maintaining their quality of life and the small town character of Santa Paula that they believe is threatened by the proposed development in Fagan Canyon. However, in order to ensure a quality of life that all of the residents of Santa Paula desire ONE SANTA PAULA stresses the need to come up with solutions to the serious problems currently facing our community. Just a few of these problems are: our crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded and underachieving schools, dissatisfaction among city workers and members of our police and fire departments over low wages, shortage of affordable housing for our middle class and a less than thriving Main Street. We CARE has not addressed how these problems can be solved without considerable growth and development. Downsizing Fagan Canyon, even if that were an option, is no solution. ONE SANTA PAULA supports the Centex proposed development of Fagan because we believe that it will be of great help to the economy of our town and provide solutions for many of our current problems.Carlos ReyesSanta PaulaLook at the factsTo the Editor:What planet do the people with signs about traffic and signs stating “Let the Voters Decide” live on? Has anyone of them really looked at the facts? Did you know the initiative really means no growth? No builder can afford to develop based on the initiative!Did you know we have approximately 30,000 people in Santa Paula and every year approximately 300 children leave home and have no place to buy in our town? We are building approximately 15 homes a year for those 300 Santa Paulans! What does that say to them?We need a sewage plant replacement that will cost over $50,000,000.00 when all said and done. Let’s see, $50,000,000.00 divided by approximately 7,300 sewer payers is $6,850.00 by each sewer payer for the sewage plant.How about our police? They are paid about 43% less than all others in there positions county wide, and the cost of bringing our police force quantities up to per capita standards is an additional cost.What about our children? The high school is over capacity and the state won’t let us expand because our current enrolment exceeds state mandates. Santa Paula High is built on 10 acres and the state requires 40 acres minimum for our current enrolment. A new school will cost $40,000,000.00 plus, even if the land is donated. That’s $5,000.00 per taxpayer.The voters said NO to a small tax on “J” and “K”. Without Fagan, we can’t generate additional tax base for the city. Without Fagan, businesses won’t come to town because there is no place for employees to live. Without Fagan, those who have already arrived and DON’T CARE may just put the city out of business. It appears they made it and DON’T want anyone else to make it.So please read the initiative, do your own research, homework, and not blindly be led into a dead end that will bury our wonderful little town. Ask a contractor or developer friend about this 81-acre restriction.Mike OdleSanta PaulaRe: Fagan CanyonTo the Editor:I am getting a little tired of being bombarded by the “facts” from the citizens who are not in favor of Fagan Canyon. It seems that these citizens tend to forget that Santa Paula is running on empty. We need a new water/sewer treatment facility, new schools, and a local police and fire department. Do you realize that these items are all inclusive to the Fagan canyon package?The fact is your largest concern seems to be traffic, which your petition does not address. If we want Santa Paula to grow and prosper, then we need to stop whining about the five extra minutes it may or may not take to get to the freeway. I have lived next to the high school for 45 years and, sure, traffic is tight in the morning and afternoon, but surprisingly, I have lived through this “traffic nightmare” and don’t plan on leaving my home any time soon because of the traffic.The fact is Santa Paula’s general plan does call for 200 homes a year to be built in Santa Paula, since 1998, and, well, I have yet to see those homes built. But Fagan Canyon will offer us those homes, 200 a year for the next 10 years; again this is in line with the current general plan.The revenue from the Fagan Canyon project will solve most of our immediate problems and give us some breathing room. Santa Paula is not going to prosper unless we go ahead with the Fagan project. If you are a citizen who wants to watch our city go down the drain, vote against the Fagan canyon project. I care enough to realize I want to live in a prosperous environment, and currently Santa Paula is going stagnant. It needs new life and this comes with new innovative ideas. Centex seems to fit this bill. I say bring on the traffic and we’ll see a new revitalized city.George and Yvonne Fogata-VasquezSanta PaulaWhy do I support Fagan CanyonTo the Editor:There are several reasons to support Fagan Canyon. I believe that it is vital to our survival as a community.I was born in Santa Paula in 1953. At that time there were no tract homes in Santa Paula. The hospital was housed in a small building on Main Street and was years later referred to as “the little green hospital.” There was no shopping center. There was no Glen City School, no Thelma Bedell School, no Grace Thille School, no Blanchard School. There were no fast food franchises. In fact, there was not much development west of Palm Avenue.Santa Paula was a beautiful, multi-ethnic, growing community. Many said we did not need to change anything. It was fine just the way it was. Thank goodness we had leaders in the community that believed that we needed to not only grow, but that we could improve on what we had that made Santa Paula the best place to grow up in.In the late 50s and 60s our town grew, and the community not only supported it but welcomed it. Santa Paula was a great place to live, work and shop. We decided to set new boundaries for our city and pushed the city limits to include new housing for our growing town. We built schools, shopping centers, and a hospital that we were proud of. We were proud of it because we not only needed it but it helped improve our city, making it more complete.Something happened starting in the late 60s. Some people decided we didn’t need to grow, we just needed to keep house. They decided for the rest of us that we had everything we needed and started pouring cold water on every idea that would make Santa Paula a place that our college grads would want to return to.In the 70s it started to hit home that these people wanted things to stay the same, but some growth happened anyway. The biggest tragedy of the time was watching the Old Blanchard Library being torn down, because we were told it was unsafe. Now we believe it was because a bank wanted that prime location, and Safeway didn’t have a buyer for its burned-out building on 8th Street.How awful it has been for native-born Santa Paulans and those that have been here for years, to watch the town we love slowly die during the 80s, 90s. As a city we turned down anything positive, and developers were not interested in our city. We became a “No Growth” town, thinking it would preserve it and, to our horror, it destroyed it.To add insult to injury, the county placed a dump at our east and county jail at our west. Our Main Street went from Hometown USA to a struggling business district without an identity. People started leaving because there was no future for them here. Many of our old timers had to find work outside Santa Paula. Our beautiful city could not provide what its residents needed.Finally we have the opportunity to provide, restore, create, bring back the place that most of us love. The place most of us remember. The place that we decided to live in because it was the best place to live, work and shop in.We need to grow! We need our hospital back! We need more schools, better job opportunities. We need to provide a place for our children to not only grow up in, but return to, to raise their families, work in, shop in, and love.I see Fagan Canyon and the East Side Plan as our only hope to have the Santa Paula that I remember and want for my children. It may not be perfect, but it is vital to our survival as a city. Don’t say no to these plans. Get involved. Find out what is happening. Help Santa Paula be all it can be.Steve ColvardSanta Paula

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