Nov 292017
 

It’s been my pleasure as founder, of the Oxnard Community Planning Group (OCPG), to participate in the good work of the OCPG and to build and maintain this website. The OCPG brought the Downtown Oxnard Vision Plan Charrette to Oxnard (thank you Dao Doan and the CNU-CA) and has produced events like the 5th Street Tactical Urbanism (Aurelio Ocampo and the OCPG) and Jane Jacobs movie (produced by myself with assistance from Heritage Square and the Oxnard Historical Society).

I now wish to further the work by continuing to support the good work of the OCPG – while starting a new website and blog: www.OxnardRenaissance.org – and the Oxnard Renaissance newsletter.

I want a bit more freedom to call the Oxnard planning scene as I see it. In addition to the new OxnardRenaissance.org website & blog, I have long wanted to create a newsletter relating to Oxnard planning issues and thus far OxnardRenaissance has sent out 15 such newsletters which you can view here and here.

For some time now I have wanted to create regularly scheduled small by-invitation forums for Oxnard based planning issues and the OxnardRenaissance website/blog and newsletter will now focus on these events.

Here is a list of some of the specific issues Oxnard Renaissance will focus on and explore in 2018:

  • Revitalizing Oxnard Boulevard (The City has no current plans to revitalize Oxnard Boulevard)
  • Infill and small-scale mixed-use development housing and development in the Central Business District (CBD) and other appropriate Oxnard locations (City Zoning and Development Standards incentivizes sprawl and make infill housing [small-scale mixed-use] impossible) (Large developers are currently being incentivized at the expense of small-scale mixed-use development in Oxnard today) and (City needs to incentivize and encourage mixed-use development downtown and in other appropriate locations)
  • Oxnard Development Standards are out of date and prevent small-scale mixed-use development in the Central Business District (CBD) and other Oxnard locations
  • Architectural Review in Oxnard to encourage quality building design throughout the City and in the Central Business District (CBD). Currently, in the Central Business District (CBD) the Downtown Design Review Committee (DDRC) will not deny a project from local architects, regardless of the quality of the architecture. This is how it is today in Oxnard, and I know because I was appointed to the DDRC early in 2017. Also, one set of drawings, the design, is submitted to the DDRC and then another set of drawings are submitted for a building permit that may or may not include the DDRC findings, because there is no process to be sure that what is submitted for a building permit – has been reviewed by DDRC staff to assure compliance with DDRC findings. OxnardRenaissance is working to bring better design and better architecture to Oxnard.
  • Oxnard Development Standards and Design Guidelines (Oxnard is not working on updating Development Standards or Design Guidelines as of Nov 2017 – there may be movement no real work being done.) (Currently there are very minimal design and consistent theme guidelines to make Oxnard a unique and attractive place. And what limited guidelines there are the DDRC ignores as a matter of course.)
  • Economic Development issues in Oxnard
  • Oxnard as a truly walkable and bikeable place for people to enjoy our city
  • Planning department is understaffed (Currently Oxnard has ⅓rd the number of planners per capita than other Ventura County cities)
  • Oxnard Downtown Manager announced by the City Manager at the Nov 28, 2017 City Council meeting (I hope to work with the downtown manager to strengthen all aspects of making Oxnard’s downtown into a place where people want to walk and shop and where well designed small-scale mixed-use buildings will be supported and incentivized in downtown Oxnard)

Thank you and hope to see you at OxnardRenaissance.org where the above work will be continued,
Roy Prince

Dec 182016
 
 December 18, 2016  Homeless, Innovation

The Pit Stop project hired restroom attendants who can empathize with the population they’re trying to reach.

Sacramento’s Pit Stop project features a bathroom with three stalls, one of which is ADA compliant. (Carlos Eliason/City of Sacramento)

There’s a forlorn industrial area of Sacramento north of downtown dubbed the River District. It’s been marked for revitalization, but in the meantime it’s still largely filled with dusty streets and desolate warehouses. According to the city council member Jeff Harris, who represents the district, it’s also the area where you can find around half of the city’s homeless population. “At any given moment, there are around 500 homeless [people] there,” he says. The industrial nature of the neighborhood also means that there are no public buildings—and no public buildings means no public restrooms.

The combination of a significant homeless population and a lack of bathroom facilities available for their use has meant a large amount of waste on the River District’s streets. Human feces and used needles are routine sights. Lisa Culp, executive director of Women’s Empowerment, an organization in the district that helps homeless women get jobs and housing, told City Council that her staff would spend the first hour of every day cleaning excrement, needles, and toilet paper from the area around their building.

Until recently, that is. This past June, Harris spearheaded a six-month pilot project called Pit Stop that put a portable bathroom for the homeless population at a River District intersection close to organizations that serve them, such as Women’s Empowerment. A truck brings the three-stall unit to the location every day at 8 a.m. and hauls it away at 6 p.m. Two attendants staff the bathroom, which also functions as a collection site for needles and dog waste.

Culp says that since the program began, she and her staff have seen a 90 percent decrease in the amount of waste around their building. City statistics support her anecdotal evidence. In the first four months of the project, people used the facility more than 9,000 times, and over 600 used needles were collected.

The response from the area’s homeless has also been positive. One homeless man expressed his approval of Pit Stop to the Sacramento Bee: “A lot of people go on the sidewalk and in the street. It’s disgusting. It’s not because they want to be disgusting. It’s because there is nowhere to go.”

A homeless person sleeps on a sidewalk in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

The pilot program has cost the city close to $175,000: $75,000 more than was budgeted. As a result, the city council has agreed to explore less expensive ways of maintaining the project, such as partnering with organizations in the River District to use their existing restrooms.

Those involved in running the program agree that one aspect of it should remain unchanged: the use of attendants. Projects similar to Pit Stop—such as Pit Stop of San Francisco, which inspired it—attribute their success to the use of paid monitors. Without their presence, there’s a higher chance of deterioration, vandalism, and illicit activities. Indeed, a number of Sacramento’s unattended public restrooms have been closed due to these issues.

Even more important is the attendants’ role as a point of contact for the homeless community. Many attendants are parolees or have experienced homelessness themselves, and they’re able to establish a rapport with the facility’s users. Herman Coleman, a Pit Stop monitor, told Capital Public Radio, “The [homeless] need a lot of assistance, a lot of help, and a lot of compassion and that’s what Pit Stop is about…Not to look down on anyone but to try to help bring themselves up.”

Forming a connection with someone like Coleman, Harris says, can bring a homeless person reluctant to accept help around to the idea. “Every time a service-resistant homeless person has an encounter that’s safe and sane, it brings them a little closer to the idea of accepting services and changing their lives,” he says. Emily Halcon, Sacramento’s Homeless Services Coordinator, adds that this is the larger goal of Pit Stop. “The more touch points we have,” she says, “the more people are able to be successful in ending their homelessness, which is our end goal.”

Most of Sacramento’s funding for the homeless goes towards programs with longer-term objectives, such as “rapid rehousing,” in which those in need receive rental subsidies for a number of months until they’re able to pay on their own. “Pit Stop addresses a short-term, urgent crisis,” Halcon says. “The idea is that it’s a type of program that will no longer be necessary in the future.”

But while housing initiatives play out more slowly, programs like Pit Stop can grant a daily dose of dignity to a population that’s often shunned. “There’s no job harder in this world than living outdoors,” Harris said at a November 2016 City Council meeting. “The lack of safety, hygiene, warmth, and creature comforts—it’s extraordinarily difficult. Creating a scenario in which a person can relieve themselves in cleanliness and safety is a very big deal.”

Original article.