What’s tall for some is short for others

December 3, 2009

New York for Ventura? Bring on the buildings, I say.

As someone who measures over 6 feet tall, I’m not just talking about height in people.

No, I’m talking about buildings. There’s great debate in this part of Ventura County over what’s too high in size for new buildings. The argument is that in this coastal community, buildings that are too tall block Pacific Ocean views.

The latest snafu at the city planning commission is that officials can’t approve a proposed hotel near the coast because some people have complained it’s too tall and obstruct their view of the sand and sea.

Reports reveal that at a proposed 4 stories high, the hotel would measure up to 50 feet at certain points.

Fifty feet is a veritable skyscraper in Ventura, considering that the failed Measure B, which sought to restrict building heights to just 26 feet within the city limits, still gained enough support that I wondered if I was the only one in this town to not experience symptoms of vertigo around tall buildings:

To put it another way: anybody who thinks 26 or 50 feet –or anything under 100 feet — is too tall, they need to get out of Ventura and see more of the world.

I come from the East Coast, where cities like New York epitomize the true sense of growth, commerce and progression in the size and volume of their buildings. It’s not building for building’s sake: it’s the addition of more commerce, industry, and room to accommodate people, and to foster activity and vibrancy.

Sure, this isn’t New York — it’s not even L.A. — and people are entitled to keep their town as sleepy as they like, even if people like me don’t necessarily agree with the style. But unlike New York, which builds up, Los Angeles is infamous for building out, resulting in the dreaded sprawl counties and cities like Ventura have worked to avoid.

Initiatives like SOAR have done a good job at preventing sprawl here. Ventura County isn’t built out. But where we save on width, shouldn’t we compensate for in height? If we limit our building heights as well, we limit the growth needed to survive in this economy.

If Ventura is seen as the anti-growth place, businesses and employers of any reasonable size or reputation won’t be attracted to set up shop here, and that means no added revenues … which means a faltering city budget, and more financial cuts to come.

It’s all tied together, and the dispute over the hotel is just one example. It’s simple: build a large hotel, give more room for more tourists, and the city adds to its coffers because Ventura becomes a place that people take seriously and want to visit and spend time at.

We have to abandon the mindset that a couple of tall buildings means Ventura turns into an urban wasteland. Fifty feet or 26 feet or anything under 50 stories is not too tall, Ventura.

We need to start adopting a more metropolis mindset into the way we grow here, and realize that building up also means growing up as a community.

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