Wildlife Corridor Regulations

OVERFLOW CROWD – OVER 200 OPPONENTS!

Thank you to all of our amazing members and supporters who showed up, some who even stayed to the end of the 11.5 hour marathon. We showed our resolve, giving moving and substantive testimony, pushing back on outdated biological reports, mapping errors and overreaching regulatory restrictions.

Click Here to Donate to the Wildlife Corridor Legal Fund!

OR – Please send in checks made out to VC CoLAB (Attention – Wildlife Corridor) and mail them to:

1672 Donlon Street, Ventura, CA  93003

The map below shows proposed wildlife corridors (hatched) across the South Half of the County that came before the Ventura County Planning Commission on 1-31-19.

If passed by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, this complicated ordinance will rezone 30% of land in the County (420,000 acres), severely limiting the security, usage, fire protection and value of your property.

What Happened at the Planning Commission

CoLAB filed the letter from Jeffers Mangel Butler & Mitchell with an attachment letter from ECORP Biological Consulting with the County, preparing the record for a lawsuit.

While the Planning Commission majority had many significant reservations and did not want to move this ordinance forward, their choices were as follows: Send forward as is; Send forward with recommendations for changes; or deny with no recommendations. Denial would still send it forward to the Board of Supervisors anyway without a recommendation.

The Planning Commission compromised to approve with the following recommendations in a 5-0 vote:

1) Program needs to have a clearly stated appeals process for resolving the complications of properties.

2) Request the Sheriff’s Department to review security issues from the implementation of this program such as lighting.

3) Clarify the affects of easements for conservation such as Tash and Newhall Land.

4) Clarify what the wildlife corridor effects on fire departments clearance requirements and fire risk.

5) Clarify streambed mapping where it may be incorrect.

6) Consider that the entire Boeing Land, Santa Susana Lab should be included and exemption made for cleanup activities.

7) Reduce setback to 100 ft. to assist farmers and ranchers.

8) Remove Lockwood Valley from the ordinance.

10) Remove Tierra Rejada from Critical Wildlife Corridor.

11) Vegetation modification be reworded “as allowed by the Fire Department”. No fee assigned in the reconsideration process.

12) Exemption for bonafied conservation efforts.

ALL of these recommendations are a positive step for our opposition to this ordinance!

What You Need to Know About This Ordinance

The proposed ordinance places extreme restrictions on fencing, walls, lighting, and structures that will compromise the security of families and prevent property owners from reasonable use of their land.

VC CoLAB’s counsel position is that the proposed ordinance constitutes a regulatory taking of private land that would require just compensation and violates the Equal Protection and Due Process rights of property owners

The ordinance is more akin to a “conservation easement” than to an overlay zone. The forced conservation easement provides no compensation, has no negotiated conditions and does not provide any allowances for the individual needs of families who own and pay taxes on the properties.

Because the Ordinance was based on studies and models that were done over 13 years ago, they are no longer accurate, and no longer reflect what is needed to create and protect valid wildlife corridors. The corridor pathway through the fully developed Bell Canyon subdivision is evidence of the model’s faulty assumptions.

The ordinance imposes an arbitrary 200′ buffer to “surface water features” shown on a flawed and outdated U.S. Fish and Wildlife map. Brush clearance, structures, fencing and many uses are restricted within the buffer. There are no biological studies to support the need for doubling the 100′ buffer required in the existing Ventura County General Plan.

Thousands of existing, legally permitted structures and fencing, approved according to the 100’ General Plan buffer, will be caught in this reckless 200’ expansion. These structures will become non-conforming uses if the ordinance is adopted. County Planners have admitted that these once-legal structures cannot be replaced if destroyed in a fire or other disaster.

The County has rightly exempted human-made ponds, lakes, etc. from the buffer requirement. However, the flawed map includes these features and landowners will be responsible to pay County planners and consultant biologists to clean up the County’s map to remove the restrictions on their own land.

The ban on clearing or even thinning of flammable brush on these buffer areas include 140,000 acres in the proposed wildlife corridors, directly adjacent to cities and unincorporated communities. This shows the County’s complete lack of consideration for the health and safety of their residents.

Over 147,000 acres or 35% of the proposed corridors are in State Fire Hazard zones that will turn these restricted areas into dangerous WildFire corridors.

Over 115,000 acres of this proposed corridor burned in the Thomas, Hill and Woolsey fires. All three of the tragic recent fires started in or directly adjacent to the proposed corridors. These fires scorched over 383,000 acres and burned 3180 structures in three Counties.

The recent fires devastated wildlife populations and their habitat. Mountain lions and bobcats were lost in the Woolsey Fire. The National Park Service estimates that the Santa Monica Mountains lost half of its habitat in the fire, burning 100,000 acres or 88 percent of the area’s federal parkland (cnn.com 12-7-2018).

Within the corridors, the County arbitrarily designated 9,311 acres in three “Critical Wildlife Passage Areas”. Instead of honoring their original intent presented to stakeholders to identify narrow critical connections, the County crafted a broad criteria that allowed selection of private properties they long desired to restrict.

Without the burden of biological modeling or analysis, the County grabbed a ridge next to Lake Casitas that they previously targeted for a Scenic Resource Protection Overlay Zone in 2007. The Oakview “Critical Wildlife Passage Area” is 1,138 acres of mainly agricultural zoning, with a premier winery that will face an uncertain future if this ordinance passes.

The second CWPA grabs the entire 3,146 acres of the Tierra Rejada agricultural valley. The valley ranges from 1 to 2.5 miles wide, hardly a restriction for wildlife passage. The valley includes a golf course, wedding venue and premier agricultural event center, all concerned about future permits.

The most absurd of the selections is the Simi Hills CWPA consisting of 5,027 acres including the largely developed Bell Canyon Community. Even though there are ample conservation lands west of Bell Canyon that could easily accommodate wildlife movement, this neighborhood that was ravaged in the Woolsey fire was selected to be zoned for critical wildlife passage.

All parcels in the CWPAs are subject to lighting, fencing, stream buffers and vegetation management restrictions as in the rest of the corridors. They are also subject to SOAR. On top of that, landowners must give up half of their properties for a simple new structure or use like a house, garage, barn, pool bathroom, septic system, or fencing, OR face prohibitive environmental permitting and a public hearing.

Due to the County’s legally deficient determination that the Ordinance is exempt from CEQA, the County’s proposal is rife with potentially significant environmental impacts, unintended consequences, and negative effects to property owners.

The County is rushing this ordinance forward, notifying landowners merely a week before a Planning Commission decision with an inadequate notification letter understating the impact to property owners.

CoLAB supports reasonable efforts to minimize impacts to wildlife movement within the County. However, many of the regulations in the proposed ordinance are legally flawed and scientifically unsupported, unwarranted, and unnecessary.

Three Recommendations for Action

1) Go to the County Online Mapper, find your parcel, click on the layers in the upper right hand corner of the screen and turn on the stream buffers. You may be surprised at the amount of your land that will be restricted from lighting, fencing, brush clearing/thinning and structures.

2) Join CoLAB in attending the Board of Supervisors Hearing on Tuesday, March 12 at 1:00 PM Time Certain, in the Main Boardroom, at the County Government Center, Hall of Administration, 800 S. Victoria Avenue in Ventura. For coordination please call or text Chris Collier at (805) 766-4444 or email  chris.collier@rinconstrategies.com.

3) Help CoLAB fight this regulatory overreach by contributing to the VC CoLAB Wildlife Corridor Legal Fund (CLICK HERE) or send a check to VC CoLAB with Wildlife Corridor Legal Fund in the memo section and mail it to 1672 Donlon St., Ventura, CA 93003.

Click Here to Donate to the Wildlife Corridor Legal Fund!

OR – Please send in checks made out to VC CoLAB (Attention – Wildlife Corridor) and mail them to:

1672 Donlon Street, Ventura, CA  93003


VC CoLAB is under contract with Jeffer Mangels Butler and Mitchell LLC to represent our members in this regulatory overreach. (JMBM’s Land Use & Zoning Practice is Ranked as Los Angeles Metropolitan Tier 1 “Best Law Firm” for 2019 by U.S. News & World Report.) We are working with Ben Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environmental & Energy Group in Los Angeles. JMBM was successful in a recent land use lawsuit against the County of Ventura in February of 2018. The attorneys are preparing letters to the Board of Supervisors expressing a multitude of legal issues with the ordinance.
In addition, CoLAB has contracted with ECORP Consulting, an environmental biology firm, to analyze the model and assumptions made to create the corridor’s mapped polygon boundary that was intended to be advisory. ECORP has drafted a letter identifying significant flaws in the methods that do not justify the mapping to be implemented as a regulatory document. They have also prepared an analysis of the applicability of CEQA to this ordinance.
We are seeking funding from all landowners within the mapped corridors such that our efforts are well funded to insure our success. Please donate directly to the Wildlife Corridor Legal Fund online by clicking here. You can also send checks, made out to VC CoLAB (Attention – Wildlife Corridor), and mail them to 1672 Donlon Street, Ventura, CA  93003.
 For information and updates on the Wildlife Corridor Ordinance please continue to check this website page. Also, feel free to contact Lynn Jensen execdirector@colabvc.org or (805) 633-2291 for more technical information.
The Ventura County Planning Division will be presenting the Wildlife Corridor Overlay Zone Ordinance to the Board of Supervisors at 1:00 pm at the Ventura County Government Center, Hall of Administration at 800 S. Victoria Ave. in Ventura. YOUR ATTENDANCE AT THIS MEETING WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE to the Board of Supervisors and these regulations can be improved by your participation including speaking and/or submitting comments. Chris Collier will be coordinating testimony so please call, text or email for recommendations at (805) 766-4444 or chris.collier@rinconstrategies.com.  We will keep everyone updated on new developments as they are revealed.
Thank you for taking the time to visit our website.
Sincerely,
Lynn Gray Jensen, Executive Director