Mark’s Ventura County Market Analysis
2nd & 3rd Quarter 2015 - (April through September)
Special Moorpark Drought vs New Home Development Issue
Housing sales, new home development, and water use have become interlocking issues in Ventura County. There is a housing shortage in Ventura County which has become more pronounced in the last 3 years. The demand for new homes has become so great that developers are once again free to build whatever city planning commissions will allow, knowing that any home they build will sell.
The severity and length of California’s drought have prompted the State to take the extraordinary action of mandating reductions in each city’s water useage, with very real consequences possible for those cities ( like Moorpark ) which fail to meet the state targets. Each town in Ventura County has responded in a different manner to these requirements and a very few have finally begun the process of addressing water issues as they apply to new home construction.
To be fair, some towns have been working for years to improve their water resource infrastructure and availability. Oxnard, Camarillo and Ventura have all developed water treatment/pumping facilities to meet new demand in the last few years. Yet not all towns have a formalized linkage between water resources and new home development. More water is being pumped or purchased from other water agencies and then immediately apportioned to new home developments. It’s like maxing out a credit card and then asking to raise your minimum balance instead of paying it off.
Regardless of how each town manages its water supply, the net result has been to make water use more restricted, regulated and expensive for the average citizen and home owner. City governments have, with rare exception, passed these costs on to their constituents without any form of public review or voting process.
“In April, a state appeals court ruled that a tiered water rate used by the City of San Juan Capistrano to encourage conservation – similar to the plan adapted by Ventura – was unconstitutional. The 4th District Court of Appeal struck down Capistrano’s fee plan, saying it violated Proposition 218, which prohibits government agencies from charging more for a service than it costs to provide it.” Since the State Water Resources Control Board is enforcing the Governors’ water reduction mandate with each city in California, perhaps they should also check that city compliance is being done in a strictly legal manner.
I have arranged the material for this report in a roughly chronological format beginning the 2nd quarter of this year and progressing to early October. Issues are dynamic and have continued to change and evolve during this time so I have tried to capture a bit of this process. There is no way to include everything which has happened since the governors drought reduction mandate this last Spring but I have tried to include enough details to lend a bit of insight and flavor to this extraordinary time in our Ventura County history.
Moorpark appears to be one of the fastest growing cities in Ventura County with at least four very expensive new home developments north of the 118 – The Estates Collection, The Executive Collection, Moorpark Highlands and The Pinnacle at Moorpark. Another much more modestly priced development is being built South of the 118 – Ivy Lanes. Home sales in these new communities are not generally reflected in our MLS.
Moorpark is an example of what happens when a city does not meet the states’ water reduction goals.
The 2 July Ventura County Star showed that Moorpark reduced it’s water use by only 11%, for a per person per day water use of 159.5 gallons by May 2015, a time of intense home building activity in Moorpark. There is a note in the same article which states that “Moorpark is served by Ventura County Waterworks District No.1, which also serves agricultural customers not subject to statewide mandated water conservation standards.” In my mind it is not clear whether the 11% takes into account the agricultural use or not. Either way, the response from the water regulatory agencies was not good. Here in all its gruesome detail is the entire article.
The 3 July Ventura County Star had an article titled “Moorpark Behind on Mandated Water Cuts - Moorpark must collectively reduce residents’ water usage by 32 percent or the water district could face surcharges in the millions of dollars from water suppliers. Water rates also may be increased next year for all customers by more than 6 percent, with the highest users subject to penalties.
David Sasek, director of Ventura County’s Water and Sanitation Department, gave a presentation to the Moorpark City Council on Wednesday on the water-use reduction plan and water rate increase, which recently was approved by an advisory committee. The committee makes recommendations to the Ventura County Waterworks District No.1, which serves Moorpark and surrounding communities.
The district receives water from the Metropolitan Water District and Calleguas Municipal Water District, as well as using local groundwater. The Ventura County Board of Supervisors will consider Moorpark’s proposed
reductions and rate increase at its Aug. 11 meeting at the Ventura County Government Center, 800S. Victoria Ave., Ventura. If approved, the water reductions will begin immediately.
The waterworks district also sent a letter to Moorpark water customers listing regulations, which could result in fines, and loss of service if not followed. Among other rules, customers are prohibited from allowing sprinkler runoff and leaks, washing their vehicles without a shut-off nozzle, operating a fountain without recycled water, spraying down sidewalks and other property, and watering their lawn from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The State Water Resources Control Board in May ordered Moorpark to reduce residents’ water usage by 32 percent based on the district’s 2013 residential use in terms of gallons used per person per day. Metropolitan and Calleguas also announced cuts in wholesale water allocations and other measures.
The Waterworks district’s advisory committee in June unanimously recommended an over-all 32 percent temporary citywide water reduction. This reduction varies from no reduction to 28 percent reduction for the lowest volume water users, and up to 37 percent reduction for high-volume users. Users in the highest tier could see about a 20 percent increase in their bills if they don’t reduce water use.
“We wanted to make sure that those who are low-volume users would be either minimally or not impacted at all by the reduction that we are proposing,” Sasek said. He added that penalties will kick in if the waterworks district doesn’t cut total usage. If there is no change, the district could face a #3 million surcharge.
Sasek said water users will be notified about how much water they can use before they are subject to a surcharge. A separate surcharge for agricultural water users is being considered. Sasek said residents most likely can meet reduction goals by cutting back on watering their lawns.
“A 32 percent reduction is not anything that can be achieved without some hard choices being made with regards to water use,” he said.
The committee also is recommending the board approve a 6 percent Tier 1 increase for all water customers, including agricultural users, with those in higher tiers paying 1 percent to 2.5 percent more than previous tiers. The recommendation is based on Calleguas’ plans to increase water rates next year by 5.4 percent.
He said the waterworks district is setting up a new website to provide more information about water-use reduction and how the district is doing with meeting its goals. He encouraged residents with questions to call the district office.
Councilwoman Rose-Ann Mikos said the letter the district sent to water customers was confusing and that the district needs to explain practical ways that customers can reduce water consumption.
Councilman Keith Milhouse said there still needs to be a comprehensive, cohesive water policy at the state level. “It’s nice that the governor is asking for reductions, but there really hasn’t been a lot of talk about supply, capture and reuse,” Millhouse said.
The Council also on Wednesday approved a final drought action plan for the city, which includes implementing turf conversion projects at city parks.”
August 28 Ventura County Star
By Michele Willer-Allred
Special to The Star
A July report that shows water savings of 30 percent in Moorpark’s water district is inflated and is mostly attributed to water reductions made by farmers after unexpected rainfall, the district’s top official said this week.
Moorpark was recently ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce citywide water usage by 32 percent from 2013 levels or face millions of dollars in financial penalties.
Waterworks District No. 1, which serves about 34,000 customers in and around Moorpark, reports total water savings in the district each month to the state water board.
David Sasek, director of Ventura County’s Water and Sanitation Department, said unexpected rainfall in July enabled the district’s agricultural customers to reduce their water usage by more than 40 percent.
He said including agricultural water consumption in the calculation skewed the total reduction in favor of the district’s reduction goal. Sasek said once the water district is able to take agricultural water use out of the equation, the water savings is expected to be around 27 percent for the district in July.
Sasek said the district is currently working through the process established by the state water board to exclude agricultural water consumption from the city’s overall reduction goals.
In the meantime, he said, the board continues to include agricultural water consumption in its reports.
“While we are thrilled that our district’s agricultural users were able to conserve a significant amount of water in July, we are still in a drought and urge all customers in the district to save water to meet the new state mandated emergency regulations,” Sasek said.
The state water board recently notified the district that it did not meet its reduction goals in June and asked what conservation measures the district has to hold customers accountable.
While the four Waterworks districts managed by the county — Moorpark, Bell Canyon, Somis, and Lake Sherwood— have shown significant reductions in water usage, district officials said only Bell Canyon met its reduction target in July, cutting water consumption by 27.6 percent.
On Aug. 11, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved a 6 percent rate increase for Moorpark, in part to pay for higher rates being charged by water suppliers.
The Board of Supervisors also approved a water reduction plan that will pass on surcharges directly to high water users in the district.
The reduction varies from no reduction to 28 percent reduction for the lowest water users, and up to 37 percent reduction for high-volume water users and irrigation accounts.
The district will pass on surcharges directly to high water users, who could see about a 20 percent increase in their bills if they don’t reduce water use.
Moorpark is currently in a Level 2 water supply shortage.
The district recently sent notices to Moorpark water customers prohibiting lawn irrigation between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and restricting days of lawn irrigation on certain days depending on address number.
Outdoor irrigation is prohibited during and 48 hours after measurable rainfall.
The city has also been taking measures to reduce water consumption, most noticeably reducing large amounts of turf at parks. A turf removal plan at each park can be viewed at:
Moorpark water customers are encouraged to visit the district’s new website at www. SlowYourH2O.org for timely drought updates and information tracking the district’s water usage.
Ventura County Star 19 September 2015 - City is due to be built out in 10-15 years
By Michele Willer-Allred
Special to The Star
The Moorpark City Council this week voted against sending a letter to support adding two parcels to expand the city’s growth boundaries.
After several speakers spoke mostly against changing the boundaries, the council agreed to “maintain the status quo.”
The letter would have gone to the Save Openspace and Agricultural Resources board as it moves forward with a ballot initiative for the November 2016 election to extend SOAR ordinances through 2050 in Ventura County.
Moorpark’s SOAR ordinance was approved by voters in 1999 and remains in effect until the end of 2020. The ordinance established a city urban restriction boundary (CURB) line around the city and requires voter approval to develop land outside the line.
The two parcels being considered cover 185 acres adjacent to the Buttercreek neighborhood south of Los Angeles Avenue. The area is currently used for farmland and truck distribution of farm products.
The city staff recommended sending the letter because the city is projected to be built out in the next 10 to 15 years, and the land likely will be needed to address state mandates to meet a regional share of housing needs.
Moorpark voters previously rejected building two residential projects on the northeast end of the city near Moorpark College. Greenbelts, topography and other farmland prevent the possibility of building in other areas surrounding the city.
David Bobardt, the city’s community development director, said adding the two parcels to Moorpark’s CURB in 2026 would not commit the city to approve any development there, but could help the city meet future development needs through at least 2030.
Residents who spoke at Wednesday’s City Council meeting said remaining farmland and open space should be left alone and that sending the letter would go against SOAR principles.
Councilwoman Roseann Mikos, co-author of Moorpark’s SOAR ordinance, served on an ad hoc committee with Mayor Janice Parvin to discuss possible changes to the city’s CURB.
Mikos said the committee wanted to look at whether there was something to preserve as much land as possible but still accommodate future population growth.
City Manager Steve Kueny said meeting state growth mandates is difficult without extreme densities that the city hasn’t allowed on existing properties.
“If you’re not going to go up or out, where are you going to go? Unfortunately, we need to think about that, as well as maintaining our principles about SOAR,” Mikos said.
Councilman David Pollock said he knows it’s a struggle with higher density.
“I don’t want to have in the back of my mind that we can loosen up on the density, because eventually we can go that way easily without a SOAR vote,” Pollock said.
“I think we need to see what kind of predicament we’re in 20 years from now before we’re able to persuade the voters of Moorpark that, yeah, it’s really necessary and we’ve done everything within the boundary.”
Mikos said the SOAR board asked cities if they want to talk about what upcoming SOAR measures might look like in each city and that it was a healthy conversation. Mikos said she planned on supporting the SOAR measure on the upcoming ballot.
“I’m going to fight tooth and nail to make it happen,” she said.
So cities like Moorpark are already beginning to feel the pressure to expand the City Urban Restriction Boundaries. New developments within the CURB line do not require a public vote for approval, while properties outside the CURB line do require voter approval as per the SOAR ordinance approved in 1999.
There will be a ballot item in the 2016 elections to extend the SOAR ordinance from the end date of 2020 to a future date in 2050. The SOAR ordinance can be circumvented simply by extending a cities CURB line to include more undeveloped property. Then that property can be developed without any voter approval. Obviously, the pressure to expand development in our local communities is building, while cities like Moorpark and Camarillo are fast approaching build-out. As the article above mentions, the only choice for development then becomes higher density housing like multi-level condominiums and apartment complexes.
Local residents are not as a rule enthusiastic about high rise housing, so at some point the choices narrow to picking less open space or more high density housing. SOAR will make these choices more contentious and probably encourage the extension of CURB lines, but neither choice addresses where the water for continued growth will come from.
No one in the articles above mentioned the fact that Moorpark has maintained a very aggressive new home development and building program. That more homes can translate into more support industry, service industries and utility use was nowhere mentioned. Apparently no one gets it. Development is not officially linked to water use in Moorpark by either the city leaders or county water regulators.
So to summarize - bad stuff rolls downhill. Metropolitan and Calleguas announced cuts in wholesale water allocations. There are recommended water rate increases of 6 percent for Tier 1 use, water rates rising 5.4 percent next year, (presumably across the board). A temporary 32 percent city-wide water reduction is recommended by the waterworks district. Finally the Ventura County Waterworks District No.1 is being threatened with a $3 million surcharge by the Ventura County Water and Sanitation Department if there is no change in water use. But according to David Sasek, director of Ventura County’s Water and Sanitation Department “We wanted to make sure that those who are low-volume users would be either minimally or not impacted at all by the reductions that we are proposing.”
“In April, a state appeals court ruled that a tiered water rate used by the City of San Juan Capistrano to encourage conservation – similar to the plan proposed by Ventura – was unconstitutional. The 4th District Court of Appeal struck down Capistrano’s fee plan, saying it violated Proposition 218, which prohibits government agencies from charging more for a service than it costs to provide it.”
So again, we have one water agency threatening another with a $3 million dollar surcharge and both looking to pass on not only large water rate increases but in the case of Metropolitan and Calleguas they are recommending a 32 percent cut back on the supply of water as well. Call me crazy, but this sounds punitive not positive.
All of these costs will come right back to the average citizen. How will this help the average family already stressed by Obama Care and high mortgages. Does this type of reaction by the folks who control our water distribution actually help anyone? It may even be illegal according to the 4th District Court of Appeal. Why is it that no one is questioning the ability or legal right of these agencies to punish the people of Moorpark.
Which community will be next subjected to this sort of treatment?
So why did Moorpark not meet the standards that the governor set, while other cities did manage to pass, cities like Oxnard, Camarillo and Ventura, with equally aggressive new home development? I don’t pretend to have an intimate knowledge of Moorparks’ water use or politics but I think there are at least 2 reasons. Timing and location for home construction in Moorpark is different than many of the developments in other towns. Moorpark has had continual construction over the last 10 years and much of it has been on the hillsides to the North of town.
When a new development is built on former crop land, the total water use changes less (depending upon home density) than if a new development is built on ranch land. Again, I’m not an expert, but I would guess that Ranch land uses less water for livestock than crop land does for strawberries. Much of the new home development in Moorpark was built on former ranch land. Much of the new home development in Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura was built on former crop land. The apparent change in water use would therefore be larger in Moorpark.
Also, timing plays a part in all of this water use measured from May of 2013 to May of 2015. During that time period Camarillo broke ground on the Springville Development of 1,300 homes, but relatively few homes have actually been built. See: www.ci.camarillo.ca.us/docs/Springville%20New%20Homes%20&%20Affordable%20Units.pdf
New single family and condo development near the CSUCI Campus – The University Glen - is only half complete and was built before 2013. 658 Units have already been built while another 590 apartments are proposed for the Phase 2A/B Development. This second half is planned for Board of Trustee Approval in September of 2016 and will be built on what is currently vacant land. Roads are already laid out but no actual home construction has yet begun. See: http://universityglencorp.csuci.edu/ugc-phase-2ab-update-march-2015.pdf .
Most of Village at the Park was constructed prior to 2013 and the last 2 new single family home developments have just begun sales this last year.
Oxnard is just now breaking ground on 1,500 housing units, 50,000 sq ft of commercial space and 7 acres of parks and open space. No actual home construction has yet occurred, so no water use is happening. River Park has continued to build, but at a measured pace and on former cropland and floodplain. In Oxnard there have been numerous much smaller new home developments built in the last 2 years, but once again on former cropland.
The Orchard Collection in East Ventura was by comparison to Camarillo and Oxnard, a small development with just 59 homes built in the Plantation Tract and 60 homes built in The Grove tract – both on former cropland. However, as new hillside developments are eventually approved and built on former ranch land above the city, we will most certainly see increased water use in Ventura as well as the other cities. So timing and location have not favored Moorpark the way it has other cities.
So maybe the issue isn’t so much what price range should be built to meet current home buyer demand, but rather, should we be building so many new homes? Do we need to put our communities at risk by straining our resources further with more building or do we need to put our energy and efforts into developing new sources of water, repairing infrastructure and improving our local business/jobs climate. Can this be done without raising taxes? Are expensive new home developments supporting local quality of life or threatening it?
Clearly, our community leaders will need to carefully weigh and balance the advantages of the taxable income a new home development brings to city coffers, versus the many expensive demands it creates on the entire community.
Just the way I see it.
Movewest Realty, Inc / (805) 443-3366 / BRE Lic. #01413932
Most of the data used for this report is taken from the Ventura County Star and our local Ventura County Multiple Listing Service unless otherwise noted. This report is far from comprehensive and many important issues have been trimmed in the interest of brevity. All opinions are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Movewest Realty, Inc., the VCCAR or the Ventura County Star.