Here at Ventura we have an eerie, unnatural phenomenon – an invisible source of water that civilian forces can trade even in its ghostly intangible form. This is what our City Council has just negotiated with a municipality not far away. We’ll lease some of our non-existent state water supply to San Gorgonio so we don’t have to pay full price for an annual water promise and we’ll have our spot to get it someday. .
To get these precious Sierra waters, we would need to connect a long pipe to the state water project from Camarillo, which we learned could take two or three years to build. But more importantly, the state must have that water for us, which it certainly doesn’t. Reduced to 5% of normal consumables. You’ve seen photos of more or less empty reservoirs in the state, some so empty, revealing bodies in barrels that were dumped into these reservoirs years ago. Who did this? We don’t know. (These folks, “Did she sleep with the fishes?”) Like so much about the water in California, everything is shrouded in political fog and dark suspicion.
Ventura’s own water riddles are also unclear. For example, how do we rent out water rights that we don’t have and will never get?
But more importantly, it was said that the state alone could demand that the new building come with new water supplies, which of course it doesn’t have and somehow doesn’t require, so we’re building without it. Can you avoid needing water supplies with water you don’t have but should? How convenient – it’s definitely a tautology.
More importantly, how do our local civic leaders encourage the massive construction of new high-rise townhouses and apartments without provisions for new water supplies to them? Residents already feel that water scarcity is in a pinch, but new megastructures that block the view will only complicate our shortage. And if you think the rains have come to break through what the forces have deceptively described as a prolonged drought, consider that our lack of water and over-drawn aquafers in our only sad lake, which is only one-third of supposed capacity, are the result of humankind. – Caused global warming, which is almost impossible to reduce.
But there is more. The City Council is considering policies to allow buildings to rise up to six stories or more – again, no new water. In addition, the state is proposing to allow contractors to demolish single-family homes and build up to four residences on the same property. Our fair city goes further and is willing to let builders ignore existing property lines. Again no new water.
One of the reasons for all these common buildings is the need for affordable housing, which is real, not imaginary. But these new excavations are extremely expensive; The four-story townhouses along Main Street by Ventura High go for $1.2 million or more each—again, without new water and out of reach of middle-class families, let alone the poor.
So what does it give? Are there out-of-area scammers, like many suspects, responsible for this massive water-constrained structure? In this form, we can get another 1,800 units. Is our City Council sleeping on the switch? Or dreaming next to an empty water pipe? Are locals excited about all this water-consuming development?
It should be noted that the nearby city of Santa Barbara, where we have always been secondary, did not grow this irresponsibly by filtering water, it was a desalination plant and is now connecting a pipe to the city grid. However, no matter how “Spanish” it may seem, it will not allow the builders to spoil the beauty and charm of this tourist city.
Ventura’s beauty and appeal stems from the fact that it is one of the last coastal cities to look like an original California beach town, with a jumble of architectural styles, teeny neighborhoods that climb hills and sprawling across flats, and a small-town feel that remains. How these tower blocks add to that appeal is something city planners, professional designers, and AIA, LEED-certified architects have to explain, even as they try to deprive us of more life-giving water.
(Since LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” I should point out that none of these giant buildings are equipped with solar panels and they all use natural gas. We take yesterday’s decrepit housing as a sign of fake urban progress.)
The treasure of California and the West is real cold clean water, not gold, oil, or endless vino varieties. We must not forget this. We have leaders.
Robert Chianese, Ph. D., Professor Emeritus, CSU Northridge, publishes poems and essays on the arts, sciences and the environment.