By R.S. Rodriguez
Between 1995 and 2001, residents of Ventura County had the foresight to pass the Save Our Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) initiatives. The passage of SOAR initiatives throughout the county (with the exception of Port Hueneme and Ojai) were a means by which residents could protect our agricultural open spaces and prevent Ventura County from becoming the next San Fernando Valley. Similar initiatives have passed throughout the country. Some have used different names (“Save Our Ring of Green”).
While driving yesterday between Oxnard and Camarillo through many of these agricultural zones, I remembered SOAR and its importance in protecting these open spaces and beautiful vistas within the Oxnard Plain and throughout the county. I had images of the rolling hills of Santa Paula and Fillmore, dotted with thousands of citrus and avocado trees. Ventura County has nutrient-rich and beautiful agricultural land and as I puttered along, I was grateful the initiatives passed and these agricultural lands were protected from over development. It would have indeed been tragic if much of these spaces had been plowed over and covered with gravel, cement and asphalt.
At one time, of course, much of Ventura County was agricultural. Some development is reasonable, as people need homes, shelter, schools, etc. What is now the area around the Pacific View Mall and Lowe’s hardware megastore in Ventura were vast fields of walnut trees. Hundreds of walnut trees and thousands of walnuts covered the land now inundated with parked automobiles as shoppers wander about the mall. What is now the Coors beer distribution center south of downtown Camarillo, and adjacent buildings, were at one time fields lined with rows of hundreds of avocado trees. Thank SOAR, though, for protecting vast stretches of the agricultural land which give this county much of its beauty and charm.
There are approximately 35 million people living in California, more than in all of Canada. The population will grow. Some estimates are that in 40 years, the population of the state might top 50 million. People will need shelter and more houses, stores, streets and places of worship will eventually be built. Regardless of that, I do hope that Ventura County will always protect its agricultural resources and open spaces and will thereby always maintain SOAR-like protections. When houses are needed in the future, I hope our elected officials, planners and residents realize what splendid resources these open spaces are and look upward to provide shelter. Upward, as in building houses, flats, condos in buildings that are two, three, four and five stories high, as has always been done in San Francisco where space is truly limited.