If you have not heard about it already, Ventura County residents will probably begin to hear more and more about the “Save Open-Space Agricultural Resources” (SOAR) ordinances/initiatives in the coming months. With some of the ordinances/initiatives set to expire in the year 2020, new initiatives will be put to a vote in the November 2016 election. In this post, we will give Ventura County residents a brief history of SOAR and how it may affect you in the future.
What is SOAR?
The SOAR ordinances/initiatives were established by several cities in Ventura County to require voter approval before any land outside of certain boundaries can be developed for urban purposes. Likewise, the county itself also has a SOAR ordinance that requires voter approval to make any changes that involve “Rural,” “Agricultural,” or “Open Space.” Basically, the purpose of SOAR is to protect the county’s agricultural land and prevent the urban sprawl that has happened in much of Southern California. There are limited exceptions to the voter approval requirement that can be found in each of the ordinances/initiatives for the individual cities. Copies of the individual ordinances/initiatives can be obtained by contacting the planning department or city clerk of the city that you are interested in. Likewise, the County SOAR ordinance can be obtained by contacting the Planning Division at the Ventura County Government Center in Ventura. In total, there are nine ordinances/initiatives that have been approved since 1995. Below is a list of the cities that have SOAR ordinances/initiatives and the dates that they were approved.
- San Buenaventura -November 7, 1995 and November 6, 2001
- Camarillo – November 3, 1998
- Oxnard – November 3, 1998
- Simi Valley – November 3, 1998
- Thousand Oaks – November 3, 1998
- Ventura County – November 3, 1998
- Moorpark – January 12, 1999
- Santa Paula – November 7, 2000
- Fillmore – January 17, 2002
SOAR is also a non-profit group that believes in the ordinances/initiatives and is dedicated to preventing further urban sprawl in the county. They claim to have over 1000 members located in every city in the county. For purposes of this post, any further mention of SOAR will be related to the ordinances/initiatives and not the group.
Benefits of SOAR
Although up for debate, the major benefit of the ordinances/initiatives is the prevention of urban sprawl. With a spectacular mix of hillside, mountains, beaches, and agriculture, Ventura County offers a setting that cannot be found in most Southern California counties, and maybe not even in the whole country. A lot of Ventura County residents would like to preserve the beauty of the county and prevent the development of more homes, stores, and/or strip malls. This allows them to get most of the benefits of living in an urban community without some of the downsides that come with urban living such as traffic, pollution, and high crime rates.
Downsides of SOAR
While preventing further development of land has its advantages, it also comes with a few negatives. One of the major downsides of the SOAR ordinances/initiatives is that it reduces the building of new homes. Many projections have population growth outpacing the amount of available housing. When the supply of homes is limited, this increases demand and therefore increases home prices and rent. With one of the highest housing prices in the nation already, some experts predict that housing will only become more unaffordable if we are not able to build new housing communities on some of the land that the SOAR ordinances/initiatives protect. A proposed solution to this is building high-rise type condo and apartment complexes, but that will obviously increase the amount of people living in a small area and may come with its own set of problems.
If you plan on living in Ventura county for more than the next few years, the SOAR ordinances/initiatives are something that you may want to become familiar with and keep an eye on as we get closer to the elections. The decision to let these ordinances/initiatives either expire or renew could have a profound effect on the future of Ventura County as you know it. For more information, you can read the Ventura County SOAR Questions and Answers. There is also a SOAR website that contains tons of information about the ordinances/initiatives as well as how you can volunteer for SOAR renewal in your city. If you would like to speak to your local city/county representative about SOAR, below is a list of contacts that you might find helpful.
- County of Ventura: Rosemary Rowan 805-654-2461
- City of Camarillo: Dave Norman 805-388-5360
- City of Fillmore: Kevin McSweeney 805/524-1500 ext. 116
- City of Moorpark: David Bobardt 805/517-6281
- City of Oxnard: Chris Williamson 805/385-8156
- City of Simi Valley: Peter Lyons 805/583-6769
- City of Thousand Oaks: John Prescott 805/449-2311
- City of Ventura Dave Ward 805/677-3964