I advocated for both the drive-thru Starbucks at Day & Telegraph, and also The Tides, the new apartment building that will be built across the street. We need commercial and residential improvements along the Telegraph corridor. Traffic is a concern, and I’ll come back to it.
The Starbucks project was a marvel of reuse, turning the old Fresh n Easy supermarket into what you see today, without scraping the building off and starting over. Despite the predictions that it would worsen traffic at that intersection, it hasn’t. I don’t like drive-thrus or Starbucks, but I like empty supermarket buildings even less in my neighborhood.
The Tides project across the street will offer 42 apartments on a lot that has been choked with cheeseweed for decades. 42 apartments will make only a slight dent in our housing crisis, but it’s a start. Four of the units will be affordable; the rest will be at market price. The median rent for a two bedroom apartment in Ventura is over $2200, and apartments at The Tides will probably be higher than that. If that seems objectionable, it’s not the new apartments that are the problem, it’s the cost of living in Ventura. Not building new apartments is not going to fix that.
The Tides will have a slight impact on traffic, but the Telegraph corridor sees tens of thousands of car trips every single day. More importantly, if those 42 apartments were built on the periphery of town, they would still increase traffic on Telegraph, because people are always driving across Ventura to go to school, or to work, or to the supermarket. Cross-town traffic is made worse when cities build on the periphery. We’ll have less traffic if a more Ventura College students can walk to school, rather than drive to and fro across town five days a week.
The Telegraph Corridor is an ideal location for infill development, if it’s done right. The corridor connects Vons, two CVS drugstores, Buena High School, Ventura College, Anacapa Middle School, Trader Joes, Target, two gyms and the YMCA, Pacific View Mall and the Transit Center — all that in two miles. Bus lines 6, 10, and 21 run along Telegraph, as does the VCTC East-West connector.
There are two ways the city can encourage development along Telegraph without decreasing the quality of life for College Area residents. First, the city should encourage the development of senior housing along Telegraph. Not only is senior housing a housing multiplier, senior housing generates less personal vehicle traffic than typical apartments.
Second, the city must keep — and perhaps expand — the flexible C-1 zoning designation when the new General Plan is adopted. There are only 71 C-1 parcels in the city of Ventura, and 48 of them are in the College Area, primarily along the Telegraph Corridor. Under current rules, they could be developed into housing, commercial, or mixed-use, but they are limited to three stories.
The city’s balance between commercial and residential properties has been desperately out of whack for years. We have one of the tightest housing markets in the nation, while some commercial spaces sit vacant for years. The decline of brick-and-mortar retail is only one contributing factor, but it’s going to get worse. Empty storefronts lead to blight, which leads to an increase in crime and a decrease in property values.
The city should use every tool in its toolbox to encourage developers to replace struggling C-1 commercial properties with desperately-needed multifamily housing.