Safe and Clean Initiative
Safe and Clean public places are a high community priority. In November 2011, the City Council adopted the Safe and Clean Initiative to redirect limited City resources and utilize partnerships so that public places remain safe and clean for everyone to enjoy.
The approach to Safe and Clean public places has five core elements that strive to align municipal, private, philanthropy, business and non-profit resources. By mobilizing local entities, sharing data, and involving key stakeholders across sectors we can retain secure public places in our community.
Redirecting limited law enforcement resources to better enforce existing laws and policies to abate illegal and anti-social behaviors in public spaces.
Focused police presence is reducing criminal and antisocial behavior; with emphasis on behavior not residential status.
Antisocial behavior can include vandalism, drug dealing, drinking in public, urinating in public, physical violence, aggressive panhandling and other types of harassment.
The Ventura Police Department has a team of Officers that are currently engaging in what’s called restorative policing, or street outreach. This means that officers are working with chronic vagrancy offenders or displaced individuals, by uniting them with family or friends if they desire, or to get the appropriate medical attention they need to get off the streets.
To report antisocial behavior, contact the Ventura Police Department non-emergency phone at 805-650-8010.
Redirecting limited maintenance resources to better maintain clean public spaces.
While the entire community as a whole is being addressed, six areas of focus have been identified: Mission Plaza, Mission Park, Mini Park, Plaza Park, the Promenade and South Seaward Avenue. These areas are receiving maintenance frequently to ensure that they are safe and clean. Residents can call the City’s Debris Removal Hotline at 805.677.3999 or log on to My Ventura Access to report significant debris issues located in public places serviced by the City; responsibility of debris removal is dependent on the site in which it is located.
Partnering with community resources to better activate and animate public spaces to encourage enjoyment by the entire community.
Strengthening collaboration with the County, social service agencies and faith-based organizations to support both “place-based” social services and supplement those services by assertive street outreach teams to reach service resistant clients.
In an era when local government can no longer subsidize alone all the services needed – we are working together, more collaboratively with partnerships. This includes strengthening social and faith-based collaborations to provide help to those who want help. Some of our partners include Catholic Charities, County of Ventura, Downtown Ventura Organization/Downtown Ventura Partners, Salvation Army, Turning Point, Ventura Social Services Task Forces and many local faith-based groups.
Reinforce social services and philanthropic giving toward the philosophy of a hand-up, not a hand-out.
Panhandling is not illegal; however for people living on the streets it perpetuates the problem. Learn more about panhandling alternatives and act responsibly.
Safe and Clean Repair and Maintenance Projects
The City Council committed $232,000 toward eight Safe and Clean repair and maintenance projects this fiscal year. The following highly visible areas are supported with in-kind donations of materials or labor from community partners:
Midtown Parking Lot
(Tree pruning/removal, landscaping, repair and reconstruct pavement.)
End of South Seaward-Completed
(Restroom repairs, bike rack, paint wall at end of Seaward, brighter street lighting, repair and landscape raised planters.)
Trash Can Replacement -Completed
(Replace 10 concrete trash cans located at Seaward, Downtown and the Westside areas.)
Farmers Market Parking Lot - Completed
(Re- landscape medians.)
(Replace plaza lights, trimming and removal of selected shrubs, tree limbs, sidewalk repair.)
Downtown Mini Park
(Re-purpose park; turf removal, irrigation, install concrete/asphalt, landscaping and security lighting.) This project is on hold; the funds will be used for other projects on this list.
Downtown Parking Structure-Completed
(Fix art lighting, extra steam cleaning, refurbish elevator cab.)
Beach Parking Structure - Completed
(Repair restroom, painting, extra steam cleaning, redesign inside planter, refurbish elevator cabs, security lighting between restrooms and elevator at promenade level.)
2013 City Update: Safe and Clean
Last year the City Council made a Safe and Clean Ventura a priority partly in response to addressing problems associated with vagrancy. This effort is based on the theory that paying attention to the “broken windows” in our community will foster a sense of pride, prevent the undermining of public safety, and lead to private investment.
We are committed to this effort in collaboration with the entire community, the involvement of all city departments and many of our social service providers.
With the allocation of additional resources to the Police Department, the Patrol Task Force has been able to focus attention on vagrancy and related quality of life issues. The initial effort has reduced the monthly average of calls for service related to vagrancy from 600 to approximately 400 calls per month.
In December 2012, the Ventura County Superior Court implemented a “Community Intervention Court”, designed to help homeless chronic offenders with minor violations get out of the legal system, off the streets, and into rehabilitation programs. We have already seen success in Ventura as several individuals have been helped off the streets through the work of this court. This is a real collaboration between the Police Patrol Task Force, the Ventura City Attorney, County Behavioral Health, the Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney, and of course the Superior Court.
We have re-directed existing resources to remove debris and protect the water quality in the Ventura River by working with key partners--State Parks, the County of Ventura, Caltrans, Union Pacific Rail Road, Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, and private property owners. Nearly 50 entrenched encampments have been removed from the Ventura River along with 250 tons of debris. On-going patrol—coordinated between several of agencies—is expected to maintain the status quo.
Police cadets have been assigned to retrieve and return abandoned shopping carts from the pubic right of way. This effort has removed more than 1,200 carts from Ventura’s public spaces in the last 6 months.
The Debris Removal Hotline (805-677-3999), set up for citizens to report trash anywhere in the City, and has resolved more than 200 reports.
Last year we reached a solution to long-term trespassing and graffiti at one of the gateways to Ventura --the railroad trestle over the 101 Freeway at California Street. This agreement between the City, Caltrans, and the Railroad, resulted in repainting the bridge and other improvements to deter future vandalism.
The end of South Seaward received safe and clean repairs and maintenance with restroom renovations, landscape enhancements, a new bike rake and fresh paint. New lighting upgrades are expected to be installed next month.
A Safe and Clean Ventura River
Frequent Asked Questions:
1. What is happening in the Ventura River?
Illegal camps in the Ventura River will be dismantled to remove debris, prevent permanent camp build-up, and create a safer and cleaner environment for everyone. In addition, property owners will clear invasive arundo to reduce fire hazards and impede the reestablishment of encampments.
2. Why is this happening and why now?
It is both illegal and danerous to camp in the Ventura River.
Crime, drug use and brush fires are widespread in this area. The river flow is dangerous during winter rains and has claimed lives; public safety personnel have rescued several homeless people from the rising water in the past at significant risk and expense.
Trash and waste generated primarily by illegal encampments is accumulating at an alarming rate. Illegal camps degrade river and beach water quality with bacteria, nitrates, nutrients and trash. Stringent regulations to protect public health and the environment include legal mandates that result in penalties for noncompliance.
Owners of the property in the Ventura River have been mowing the arundo (invasive non-native plant species) that grows in the river. The clearing of the arundo must be done in late summer/fall for environmental reasons, and the upcoming winter rains make this the appropriate season to remove debris and illegal encampments.
3. When will the illegal camp removal begin?
Illegal camps that are not located in the Ventura River are already removed on a regular basis. Efforts to clear the illegal camps in the Ventura River began in September 2012 and continue on an on-going basis.
4. How will the clearing take place and how will this affect me?
The Ventura County Human Services Agency, in coordination with local non-profits, has already begun outreach efforts to assist people living in the river bottom; campers that remain are being notified of the changes. Permanent “No Trespassing” signs are posted in the river and formal trespass noticing will begin to be posted on all the camps in August, giving campers 72-hour notice to vacate the Ventura River. Social service providers will be available during illegal encampment removal for humanitarian assistance. The community and surrounding area may be affected by the shift that could occur from the removal of illegal encampments. These conditions may be intermittent, short-term or long-term.
During the trash and arundo removal from the river bed, the County and social service providers have made every effort to be sensitive to the needs of those who are camping there and who may not be aware of resources to help them end their homelessness. Social service providers seek to assist individuals to find appropriate housing in Ventura, or unite them with family or friends if they desire, and get them the medical attention and other services they needto mitigate the impact on our community. While it is not illegal to be homeless, it is illegal to camp on public or private property without written permission.
5. Who will dismantle the illegal camps?
City and County staff or contractors, volunteers, and property owners will remove the illegal camps on an on-going basis.
6. Where will the people who live in the river bottom go?
How and where an individual resides is a matter of personal choice. Local agencies and organizations that work with the homeless population strive to provide assistance within the limited resources that are available. County agencies do not make value judgments on who deserves public assistance. Providers such as The Salvation Army and Turning Point Foundation endeavor to allocate assistance-based resources to individuals that are willing to address barriers of self-sufficiency (most often those are either addictions or mental illness or both).
7. How will the removal of illegal camps be sustained or reinforced?
Regular patrols of the river will occur. The complete and total closure of the Ventura River at all times is not feasible. The goal of this operation is to eliminate and prevent built and entrenched homeless camps in the Ventura River.
8. Who made the decision to remove the camps?
San Buenaventura Municipal Code Section 10.150.50 prohibits sleeping, camping or storing of personal property in the Ventura or Santa Clara or Flood Plain Overlay Zone. The current existence of illegal camps in these areas indicates that this ordinance has not been enforced.
9. Who owns the property in and around the Ventura River?
There are 21 parcels and 9 property owners of the Ventura River area. The owners are a mix of City, County, State, private and non-profit entities.
10. What can I do to help?
Support local charities (see list below) that provide meals, medical attention, case management and housing services to get people focused on long-term solutions. Reducing homelessness also requires all of us to say, “No,” to panhandlers, and yes to charities. Residents can also volunteer for programs and initiatives that keep our community Safe and Clean by signing up for service opportunities through Volunteer Ventura! at cityofventura.net/volunteeropportunities.
Homeless Service Providers
Homeless One Stop Center, 3147 Loma Vista Road; open every Tuesday 10 am – 1 pm
Project Understanding, 805-652-1326, www.projectunderstanding.org
Salvation Army, 805-648-4977, www.salvationarmy-ventura.org
Turning Point Foundation, 805-652-0596, www.turningpointfoundation.org
Ventura Social Services Task Force, Homeless Prevention Fund, 805-654-7701, www.vhpf.net