I read The Star's Jan. 2 editorial, "Let's put the growth fears to rest," and I have the following response: The thesis of the article is that population growth is to be striven for in Ventura County or else the county will "decay."
My dictionary says decay means "departing from a thriving condition; progressive decline." The editorial maintains that decay is the "opposite" of population growth. First of all, if I were to buy that premise, then as the hundreds of thousands of new people accumulated, we all would all be in a much better place. That cannot be true — there must be some level of growth that would be optimum. What defines it?
Perhaps without realizing it, the editorial appears to be arguing against, among other things, farmland. I believe there are two county SOARs (Save Our Agricultural Resources) and seven city SOARs, designed to protect our county farmland. Ventura County has some of the best farmland in the world — 20 feet of topsoil in many places that can produce three crops a year — rare in most of our country. Should we cover it all over with asphalt and concrete?
Also, doesn't the type of growth mean something? Don't we need some young families with children to support our schools? The Thousand Oaks City Council just approved up to 165 apartments on a couple of acres of land in a commercial area — all at market rate. If we have a balance of population problem, that development will not solve it. Are young families with children going to move there? If "low income housing" for a small family is commensurate with an income of $85,000 per year, how could a young family afford "market rate" housing? No, I believe we will find older people without children as the occupants, which will not reverse our declining student population.
I believe the editorial's premise is simplistic and provides no blueprint for the best possible future for Ventura County. Thousand Oaks appears to me to be doing well, aside from COVID and declining school population. For instance, I have never seen the neighborhoods look better. The rise in home values appears to be motivating residents to keep them up. Also, due to the city's prudent use of financial resources, we have the best-kept streets and the lowest sales tax rates in the county. Also, with the patronage of our Civic Arts Plaza, we have a thriving cultural arts milieu.
I would strongly disagree with the editorial that we are in a state of "decay." In fact, the city has just purchased several acres of land in a medium-density area on which, with the help of Many Mansions, or another nonprofit, we intend to build a significant number of affordable units. We are not against growth, but it should be prudent growth.
Ed Jones is a member of the Thousand Oaks City Council.
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Guest editorial: 'Decay' isn't opposite of population growth in county