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Oxnard couple stop suspected package thief

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 5:39pm

Call them the “package police.”

An Oxnard couple this week chased after and caught a man who allegedly stole a package from a front lawn in the RiverPark community before police arrived.

Although the suspect was armed with a knife, Felix Eisenhauer, 30, walked away unscathed except for some bruising where the man, Leocez Dimaculangan, bit him, the couple said.

“I didn’t get a vibe from him that he was going to hurt us,” Tara Eisenhauer said. “In my mind, if I let him go, he’ll continue to commit other crimes, and this needs to stop now.”

Tara Eisenhauer was making lunch about noon Tuesday when she saw an unfamiliar man checking out the front lawns of her neighbors’ homes. She thought she’d keep her eye on him and saw him with a box, she said.

“I know all my neighbors well and I knew that wasn’t his package,” she said.

She went outside and started following the man, asking him questions about the package before he took off running, she said. She and her husband gave chase, and her husband soon caught up to the man, she said.

The couple and another man in the area held the suspect down until police arrived.

“There was just something within me that said, ‘We can get this guy,’ ” Tara said. “I was just on a mission at that point.”

Officers were flagged down by other RiverPark residents and arrested Dimaculangan, 23, of Oxnard, on suspicion of felony battery with bodily injury and mail theft, police said.

The Eisenhauers, part of the community’s Neighborhood Watch, returned the package to its owner, Khrista Green. The package had a toy for her baby boy.

Oxnard police Officer Brandon Ordelheide, who patrols the RiverPark area, said his department is focusing on getting communities to help fight crime. The RiverPark community has created a Facebook page in which it communicates with beat officers and lets them know of trends, like the recent theft of mail packages, Ordelheide said.

“It’s a very unique neighborhood,” the officer said. “Residents know most of the officers (who work in the area) by first name. It’s kind of a small city up there with police and residents.”

Ordelheide said he liked that the Eisenhauers were able to stop a suspected thief, but he added that they could have been injured.

“We want to continue to build relationships with residents, and people should be good witnesses if a crime occurs in front of them but try not to get involved,” the officer said. “We hate for people to get hurt.”

Meanwhile, the Eisenhauers have taken to calling themselves the “package police.” About a week before the incident, the couple took in a package that had been left on a neighbor’s front lawn until late at night.

“I’m thinking of printing small cards letting people know we’ve taken in their packages,” Felix Eisenhauer said. “Maybe we’ll put ‘The Package Police’ if we can come up with a nice logo.”

Oxnard couple stop suspected package thief

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 5:39pm

Call them the “package police.”

An Oxnard couple this week chased after and caught a man who allegedly stole a package from a front lawn in the RiverPark community before police arrived.

Although the suspect was armed with a knife, Felix Eisenhauer, 30, walked away unscathed except for some bruising where the man, Leocez Dimaculangan, bit him, the couple said.

“I didn’t get a vibe from him that he was going to hurt us,” Tara Eisenhauer said. “In my mind, if I let him go, he’ll continue to commit other crimes, and this needs to stop now.”

Tara Eisenhauer was making lunch about noon Tuesday when she saw an unfamiliar man checking out the front lawns of her neighbors’ homes. She thought she’d keep her eye on him and saw him with a box, she said.

“I know all my neighbors well and I knew that wasn’t his package,” she said.

She went outside and started following the man, asking him questions about the package before he took off running, she said. She and her husband gave chase, and her husband soon caught up to the man, she said.

The couple and another man in the area held the suspect down until police arrived.

“There was just something within me that said, ‘We can get this guy,’ ” Tara said. “I was just on a mission at that point.”

Officers were flagged down by other RiverPark residents and arrested Dimaculangan, 23, of Oxnard, on suspicion of felony battery with bodily injury and mail theft, police said.

The Eisenhauers, part of the community’s Neighborhood Watch, returned the package to its owner, Khrista Green. The package had a toy for her baby boy.

Oxnard police Officer Brandon Ordelheide, who patrols the RiverPark area, said his department is focusing on getting communities to help fight crime. The RiverPark community has created a Facebook page in which it communicates with beat officers and lets them know of trends, like the recent theft of mail packages, Ordelheide said.

“It’s a very unique neighborhood,” the officer said. “Residents know most of the officers (who work in the area) by first name. It’s kind of a small city up there with police and residents.”

Ordelheide said he liked that the Eisenhauers were able to stop a suspected thief, but he added that they could have been injured.

“We want to continue to build relationships with residents, and people should be good witnesses if a crime occurs in front of them but try not to get involved,” the officer said. “We hate for people to get hurt.”

Meanwhile, the Eisenhauers have taken to calling themselves the “package police.” About a week before the incident, the couple took in a package that had been left on a neighbor’s front lawn until late at night.

“I’m thinking of printing small cards letting people know we’ve taken in their packages,” Felix Eisenhauer said. “Maybe we’ll put ‘The Package Police’ if we can come up with a nice logo.”

Packer pleads guilty; D.A. drops death penalty

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 5:24pm

Joshua Packer pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder for the deaths of a Faria Beach couple and their unborn son more than five years ago, with prosecutors agreeing to no longer seek the death penalty.

Packer appeared before Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy on Thursday morning and pleaded guilty to killing Brock Husted and his pregnant wife, Davina. The couple were watching “American Idol” on May 20, 2009, when Packer entered their beach home through an open glass door and demanded money at gunpoint, prosecutors said.

Packer sexually assaulted Davina Husted, then stabbed the couple to death.

Packer, 25, of Ventura, was facing the death penalty but now will face life in prison without parole when he is sentenced Feb. 6.

Thursday’s plea came after the state Supreme Court ordered the lower court to hold a hearing on whether Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley should be removed from the case because his children spent time with Packer in a Christian youth group years ago.

Defense attorneys said Packer had long been willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office would not agree.

District Attorney Greg Totten could not be reached for comment Thursday. Frawley said the office’s decision to allow Packer to change his plea from not guilty to guilty was made after the Supreme Court ruling.

In court papers filed Thursday, Frawley wrote that Husted family members have “suffered tremendously as the wheels of justice slowly turned.”

“The recent ruling of the California Supreme Court will mandate additional delay,” Frawley wrote. “In light of the unique circumstances facing the families of the victims, further lengthy delay in getting this case to a jury to decide the appropriate punishment for the defendant will have an unacceptable impact on the victims’ families.”

Husted family members sat quietly in court Thursday and listened as Packer agreed to change his plea and acknowledge his guilt as Frawley read out loud each charge.

Brock Husted’s brother, John Husted, was in the courtroom and later said the years of litigation caused continued stress for him and other family members. He said he felt a “sense of relief” that “this chapter is ending.”

“I think the district attorney considered the pain and emotion this family has gone through,” Husted said. “I’m satisfied with what they decided to do, because at least now we know his sentence ... instead of creating more years of pain.”

Chief Deputy Public Defender Michael McMahon said Packer’s life term was a “just and fair closure for Mr. Packer, his victims and the entire community.”

“Mr. Packer himself was the victim of incredible physical and sexual abuse and other mitigating trauma” as a child, McMahon said. “He struggled hard to escape, fit in and mature under the most difficult of circumstances.”

The state Supreme Court issued a ruling Dec. 11 saying the Ventura County court “abused its discretion” in not granting a hearing on Frawley’s potential conflict of interest. According to the defense, Packer was part of the Young Life group along with Frawley’s son in 2006 and Frawley’s daughter in 2008. Defense attorneys said Packer, who attended Ventura High School, had been in Frawley’s home during social events involving the youth group.

Judge Murphy denied a hearing and motion to recuse Frawley from the case. The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura also ruled Frawley could stay on the case, so the defense successfully appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The high court justices said at least four “significant factual disputes” in the Packer case could show that a conflict of interest was “so grave as to make a fair trial unlikely.”

One dispute was how close Packer was to Frawley’s son and daughter. Frawley previously had stated Packer went to his home only a few times for a party or other church group function, while the defense claimed it had witnesses who said Packer was at the Frawley residence “all the time.”

Another dispute was whether a prosecution investigator told a boyfriend of Frawley’s daughter to not mention her name to minimize her connection to Packer. The justices also cited a dispute on whether Frawley interfered with a defense-subpoena service on his daughter, and conflicting versions of his son’s two statements about Packer’s character.

Frawley said his children’s connections to Packer were “not serious issues” and were used by the defense to create more delays. He said the decision to accept Packer’s guilty plea and not seek the death penalty involved the effects of further litigation on the Husted family.

“That would have extended this case another year, and we couldn’t ask the victims’ family to endure that,” Frawley said. “They still think (Packer) deserves the death penalty, but this got to be too much for the family to bear, with the tension and anxiety hanging over their heads.”

McMahon, however, said Packer offered a guilty plea for a life sentence from the beginning.

“The defense has never had any motivation to create delays,” McMahon said Thursday. “We have been pushing for today’s settlement of the case for four years.

“It’s time for our local justice system to move on and to spend our limited public safety resources more wisely on other issues and problems.”

Longtime Simi Valley Chamber head to retire

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 5:20pm

Leigh Nixon, a pillar of Simi Valley who has headed the chamber of commerce for 16 years and has served on numerous community boards and foundations, is retiring and moving to suburban Las Vegas.

Nixon, president and CEO of the chamber, said Thursday she is retiring effective May 31.

She said she is timing her retirement with that of her husband, Richard, 60, who is retiring in April after 26 years with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Nixon, 62, said she is retiring with mixed emotions: looking forward to the master planned community of Sumerlin, Nevada, but knowing she will miss Simi Valley.

“Oh my God,” she said. “I mean 16 years just here in the same office the whole time. I’ve made so many friendships and love so many people here. That’s going to be the hard part.”

During her long chamber tenure, she said she is perhaps most proud of the group becoming one of only seven five-star accredited chambers in the state.

Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber, a personal friend of Nixon’s and a twice past president of the chamber, praised her leadership of the group and her involvement in the community.

“Simi Valley has been very blessed to have Leigh Nixon as the CEO/president of the chamber all these years,” Huber said. “She has been the consummate professional leading the chamber with innovative ideas throughout her tenure. Business individuals in the city have benefited tremendously from her leadership. She will be sorely missed.”

The chamber’s board will conduct a search for Nixon’s successor. The chamber’s operations director, Michele Bennett, is expected to apply, Nixon said.

Among her many community involvements, Nixon is board chair of the Simi Valley Community Foundation and sits on the boards of Simi Valley Hospital and the Simi Valley Samaritan Homeless Center.

Nixon said she and her husband picked the Las Vegas area because their four grown children in different parts of the country said they would be more apt to visit them there.

Longtime Simi Valley Chamber head to retire

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 5:20pm

Leigh Nixon, a pillar of Simi Valley who has headed the chamber of commerce for 16 years and has served on numerous community boards and foundations, is retiring and moving to suburban Las Vegas.

Nixon, president and CEO of the chamber, said Thursday she is retiring effective May 31.

She said she is timing her retirement with that of her husband, Richard, 60, who is retiring in April after 26 years with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Nixon, 62, said she is retiring with mixed emotions: looking forward to the master planned community of Sumerlin, Nevada, but knowing she will miss Simi Valley.

“Oh my God,” she said. “I mean 16 years just here in the same office the whole time. I’ve made so many friendships and love so many people here. That’s going to be the hard part.”

During her long chamber tenure, she said she is perhaps most proud of the group becoming one of only seven five-star accredited chambers in the state.

Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber, a personal friend of Nixon’s and a twice past president of the chamber, praised her leadership of the group and her involvement in the community.

“Simi Valley has been very blessed to have Leigh Nixon as the CEO/president of the chamber all these years,” Huber said. “She has been the consummate professional leading the chamber with innovative ideas throughout her tenure. Business individuals in the city have benefited tremendously from her leadership. She will be sorely missed.”

The chamber’s board will conduct a search for Nixon’s successor. The chamber’s operations director, Michele Bennett, is expected to apply, Nixon said.

Among her many community involvements, Nixon is board chair of the Simi Valley Community Foundation and sits on the boards of Simi Valley Hospital and the Simi Valley Samaritan Homeless Center.

Nixon said she and her husband picked the Las Vegas area because their four grown children in different parts of the country said they would be more apt to visit them there.

Oak View students wins fire safety award

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 5:19pm

When Sunset School Principal Kelsie Sims sends her fourth-graders to the Ventura Fire Department’s annual Fire Safety Days in October, she implores them to “do a good job” on the essay “because I want the trophy.”

Sims’ inspirational speech apparently worked this year because a crew from the department came to the Ventura Unified School District campus in Oak View to award the trophy for the best fire safety essay to fourth-grader Ireland Sinklier.

Ventura Fire Chief David Endaya said it was a herculean task to determine finalists for the rotating award from among more than 1,400 essays.

Endaya said his department offers Fire Safety Days so students can understand what firefighters do “besides knock down doors” and to teach fire safety skills the kids can take home. This year’s event was Oct. 8-9 off Seaward Avenue.

Endaya said Ireland’s essay was selected because it not only was well-written, with perfect spelling and grammar, but also explained the scientific and mathematical skills firefighters employ.

Ireland, of Oak View, was asked to read her essay in front of the assembled firefighters and school administrators, as well as her classmates, mother, father, brother, grandmother and two uncles, who all came to see her win the award.

Ireland smiled afterward and said she was happy and proud to have won the award.

Her mom, Elizabeth Sinklier, who was cheering on her daughter, said the girl is shy but also gifted.

“She’s a great student. She wants to write scripts. She’s very talented with her writing,” Sinklier said, acknowledging that her daughter is not comfortable in front of crowds.

“I was so proud that she read the whole thing,” she said.

Ireland’s dad, Bryan Sinklier, said it was a challenge for his wife and him to keep the award a secret until Wednesday’s ceremony.

“That was the hardest part,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Jonny Sinklier, 12, who is also a student at Sunset, said his sister’s award took him by surprise.

“We just thought it was a regular awards ceremony. No one knew. I’m very proud of her,” he said, adding that he has good memories of his time at the Fire Safety Days demonstrations.

Sims said Ireland was a great choice for the award, which the school will proudly display for a year.

“She’s a very kind, quiet and graceful child,” Sims said. “And I know she’s thrilled.”

Oxnard assistant chief to fill in at City Hall

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 5:08pm

Oxnard’s assistant chief of police will take a break from his law enforcement duties to become the city’s temporary assistant city manager starting Monday.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” Scott Whitney said by phone Thursday.

The change will come less than a week after Oxnard City Manager Greg Nyhoff asked Whitney to fill in while officials search for a permanent assistant city manager.

Whitney, 48, will oversee Oxnard’s housing and recreation departments as well as the library.

Karen Burnham, the longtime assistant city manager, retired earlier this month.

Nyhoff said earlier this month he would begin recruiting for a permanent assistant city manager as soon as possible.

“It shouldn’t take more than three or four months” to find a permanent replacement, Nyhoff said late Thursday afternoon.

He said Whitney is highly respected.

“He’s a solid leader and he’s fair,” Nyhoff said.

Whitney said Nyhoff asked him on Tuesday if he would fill in until a permanent replacement is found.

“I told him I would definitely take on the new responsibilities and do my part to help where I can,” Whitney said.

Whitney was born and raised in Oxnard. He started working for Oxnard police in 1990 and was one of the first officers to be assigned to Ventura County’s first police storefront in the La Colonia neighborhood.

He was promoted to assistant chief of police in 2006.

Whitney graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting. He has a master’s in public administration from CSU Northridge.

Whitney also serves on the executive committee of the Ventura County juvenile detention alternatives initiative.

Eric Sonstegard, a commander with Oxnard police, will fill in as the assistant chief of police while Whitney is away.

Oxnard assistant chief to fill in at City Hall

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 5:08pm

Oxnard’s assistant chief of police will take a break from his law enforcement duties to become the city’s temporary assistant city manager starting Monday.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” Scott Whitney said by phone Thursday.

The change will come less than a week after Oxnard City Manager Greg Nyhoff asked Whitney to fill in while officials search for a permanent assistant city manager.

Whitney, 48, will oversee Oxnard’s housing and recreation departments as well as the library.

Karen Burnham, the longtime assistant city manager, retired earlier this month.

Nyhoff said earlier this month he would begin recruiting for a permanent assistant city manager as soon as possible.

“It shouldn’t take more than three or four months” to find a permanent replacement, Nyhoff said late Thursday afternoon.

He said Whitney is highly respected.

“He’s a solid leader and he’s fair,” Nyhoff said.

Whitney said Nyhoff asked him on Tuesday if he would fill in until a permanent replacement is found.

“I told him I would definitely take on the new responsibilities and do my part to help where I can,” Whitney said.

Whitney was born and raised in Oxnard. He started working for Oxnard police in 1990 and was one of the first officers to be assigned to Ventura County’s first police storefront in the La Colonia neighborhood.

He was promoted to assistant chief of police in 2006.

Whitney graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting. He has a master’s in public administration from CSU Northridge.

Whitney also serves on the executive committee of the Ventura County juvenile detention alternatives initiative.

Eric Sonstegard, a commander with Oxnard police, will fill in as the assistant chief of police while Whitney is away.

DMV hires 21 as license appointments soar

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 5:03pm

The DMV has hired 21 new people in Ventura County to help accommodate a spike in appointments by people seeking driver’s licenses.

That so many people are in the queue is almost certainly driven by a soon-to-be-implemented law allowing some immigrants in the country illegally to get a driver’s license. Approved in October 2013, Assembly Bill 60, the Safe and Responsible Driver Act, requires proof of California residency and identification, but no longer mandates legal residency.

State officials are estimating 1.4 million drivers will apply for the license. Judging from the numbers, tens of thousands have already started the process.

Between Nov. 12 and Nov. 30 last year, a total of 175,911 people scheduled driver’s license appointments.

During that same period this year, 378,891 made appointments, an increase of 115 percent, according to Jessica Gonzalez, a spokesperson with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Of those, nearly 184,000 were from those looking to get their license for the first time.

The DMV could not provide numbers specifically for Ventura County appointments but spaces are filling up fast, according to groups working to educate people on the law.

“It’s already full for January. Appointments being made now are being scheduled for February,” said Juana Tapia, executive director for Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-Ventura County.

CLUE is part of an immigrant rights coalition for the Central Coast; many affiliated organizations are helping spread the word on AB 60, Tapia said.

The law takes effect Jan. 1. As is the process for anyone applying for a license, a would-be driver must pass a written test, an eyesight test and a road sign test (in some cases) before getting a temporary permit. Then they must pass a driving test.

The Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) started offering driver’s education classes in early December. About 24 people are in the class, and 27 more are on a waiting list for the next cycle, said the nonprofit’s Executive Director Arcenio Lopez. Twice a week for two hours over the span of a month, those enrolled will first learn about AB 60 and what it does and doesn’t do. It does, for example, allow someone to obtain a valid license and get insurance. But the license does not act as identification in any other way. It looks different, with the words “federal limits apply” on the front and “not valid for official federal purposes” on the back.

“The rest of the classes are about different questions on the test,” Lopez said. “We just want to make sure our people will be able to pass their tests.”

Not all barriers are gone, though. The written tests are offered in more than 30 languages and via audio in more than 15, but Triqui and Mixteco alto and bajo, spoken by some indigenous people, aren’t included.

According to the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act, which became law in California in 1973, at least 5 percent of the customers state agencies serve must speak a language before it is included, Gonzalez said.

“At the present time, Mixteco does not meet the 5 percent threshold established by the Act. However DMV is considering other avenues to provide translating help during the application process to this group of customers,” she wrote in an email.

Advocates also worry about the license being used to flag immigrants living here illegally.

“If the driver is doing something wrong, they should be pulled over and it shouldn’t go any farther than that,” Tapia said.

In 2014, what’s known as the Trust Act went into effect. It directs law enforcement agencies to release those without criminal records who are charged with lesser crimes after they post bail or serve time, rather than holding them for deportation.

How this has played out has really depended on the responding officer, Lopez said.

Overall though, Lopez said he was pleased with the bill because it would make the roads safer for everyone.

Said Tapia: “We can only hope it’s going to be a smooth process and our undocumented applicants will be treated the same as any other applicant for their driver’s license.”

DMV hires 21 as license appointments soar

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 5:03pm

The DMV has hired 21 new people in Ventura County to help accommodate a spike in appointments by people seeking driver’s licenses.

That so many people are in the queue is almost certainly driven by a soon-to-be-implemented law allowing some immigrants in the country illegally to get a driver’s license. Approved in October 2013, Assembly Bill 60, the Safe and Responsible Driver Act, requires proof of California residency and identification, but no longer mandates legal residency.

State officials are estimating 1.4 million drivers will apply for the license. Judging from the numbers, tens of thousands have already started the process.

Between Nov. 12 and Nov. 30 last year, a total of 175,911 people scheduled driver’s license appointments.

During that same period this year, 378,891 made appointments, an increase of 115 percent, according to Jessica Gonzalez, a spokesperson with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Of those, nearly 184,000 were from those looking to get their license for the first time.

The DMV could not provide numbers specifically for Ventura County appointments but spaces are filling up fast, according to groups working to educate people on the law.

“It’s already full for January. Appointments being made now are being scheduled for February,” said Juana Tapia, executive director for Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-Ventura County.

CLUE is part of an immigrant rights coalition for the Central Coast; many affiliated organizations are helping spread the word on AB 60, Tapia said.

The law takes effect Jan. 1. As is the process for anyone applying for a license, a would-be driver must pass a written test, an eyesight test and a road sign test (in some cases) before getting a temporary permit. Then they must pass a driving test.

The Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) started offering driver’s education classes in early December. About 24 people are in the class, and 27 more are on a waiting list for the next cycle, said the nonprofit’s Executive Director Arcenio Lopez. Twice a week for two hours over the span of a month, those enrolled will first learn about AB 60 and what it does and doesn’t do. It does, for example, allow someone to obtain a valid license and get insurance. But the license does not act as identification in any other way. It looks different, with the words “federal limits apply” on the front and “not valid for official federal purposes” on the back.

“The rest of the classes are about different questions on the test,” Lopez said. “We just want to make sure our people will be able to pass their tests.”

Not all barriers are gone, though. The written tests are offered in more than 30 languages and via audio in more than 15, but Triqui and Mixteco alto and bajo, spoken by some indigenous people, aren’t included.

According to the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act, which became law in California in 1973, at least 5 percent of the customers state agencies serve must speak a language before it is included, Gonzalez said.

“At the present time, Mixteco does not meet the 5 percent threshold established by the Act. However DMV is considering other avenues to provide translating help during the application process to this group of customers,” she wrote in an email.

Advocates also worry about the license being used to flag immigrants living here illegally.

“If the driver is doing something wrong, they should be pulled over and it shouldn’t go any farther than that,” Tapia said.

In 2014, what’s known as the Trust Act went into effect. It directs law enforcement agencies to release those without criminal records who are charged with lesser crimes after they post bail or serve time, rather than holding them for deportation.

How this has played out has really depended on the responding officer, Lopez said.

Overall though, Lopez said he was pleased with the bill because it would make the roads safer for everyone.

Said Tapia: “We can only hope it’s going to be a smooth process and our undocumented applicants will be treated the same as any other applicant for their driver’s license.”

Run, play and other events planned

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:55pm

Camarillo

Service set for those who are feeling blue

The United Methodist Church of Camarillo will host a “Blue Christmas” service at 7 p.m. Monday at 291 Anacapa Drive.

The service is designed for anyone who’s feeling down, whether from the loss of a loved one or other reasons.

Call 482-4312 for more information.

Newbury Park

Chorale to perform holiday concert

Los Robles Master Chorale will present its holiday concert “A Joyful Noise!” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church, 2475 Borchard Road.

The program will include a variety of holiday pieces, ranging from traditional to jazzy.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors age 60 and older and $15 for students. Visit http://www.losroblesmasterchorale.org or call 526-7464 for more information.

Thousand Oaks

‘Nun Run’ to feature 5K, 1-mile options

The Sisters of Notre Dame and La Reina High School will host a 5K and 1-mile event called the Nun Run at 8 a.m. Jan. 31.

The course will start on Dover Avenue in Thousand Oaks and finish at La Reina High School.

Registration for the 5K is $30 and registration for the mile run is $20. Family rates are also available. Email Anne Interrante at events@sndca.org or visit http://www.sndca.org/nunrun for more information.

Ventura

Church planning live Nativity on lawn

Community Presbyterian Church invites the public to drive by and view a live Nativity, “A Journey to Bethlehem,” from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday on the church’s front lawn at 1555 Poli St.

Guests are welcome to get out of their cars and take a longer look.

Visit http://cpcventura.org for more information.

Public can watch ‘The Nutcracker’

All-American Ballet will present its annual production of “The Nutcracker” at 2 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Ventura College performing arts center, 4700 Loma Vista Road.

Ticket price options are $30, $25, $20 and $10 for children age 10 and under. Visit http://www.aaballet.org or call 650-6316 to order tickets.

Westlake Village

Guild will host demonstration

The Westlake Village Art Guild dinner and painting demonstration will take place from 7-9 p.m. Jan. 6 at Los Robles Greens Golf Course, 299 S. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks.

Reservations are due by Dec. 30. Cost is $25 for members and $30 for guests. Call 379-5655 for more information.

 

Insurance in Camarillo Springs murky

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 4:41pm

Hit by recent mud and rock flows, Camarillo Springs homeowners are now facing another murky issue: What insurance covers damage to their houses?

Some residents of the senior gated community have been getting conflicting information. Debris flows on Nov. 1 and Dec. 12 destroyed 10 homes and damaged others. Heavy rains loosened debris off surrounding hills that burned in last year’s Springs Fire.

Ron and Cindy Kester were initially told by their State Farm insurance agent that the mud that buried the front yard of their house on Gitana Avenue on Nov. 1 wasn’t covered by their homeowners policy. Only a flood insurance policy would pay for the damage.

They got one underwritten by the Federal Emergency Management Agency just in time for the Dec. 12 rock slide, which left their home uninhabitable. But a short time later, Barbara Williams, president of The Springs Homeowners Association, told them some other residents had been informed by State Farm that their homeowners policies did cover the damage, Ron Kester said.

Kester called his agent and asked him to look into it. The agent called him back, telling him a claim had been opened under his homeowners policy, although no coverage determination had yet been made.

“It’s frustrating,” said Kester, 66, an information technology manager for San Luis Obispo County. “You know, I got enough crap to put up with without having to get the runaround on this.’”

Williams has said the homeowners association’s insurance policy doesn’t cover damage to individual residences, only to common areas like streets and a clubhouse. She declined to comment for this story.

State Farm spokesman Sevag Sarkissian said individual homeowners policies typically do not cover mud flows, mud slides, floods, earth movement or damage resulting from surface water. Some of those circumstances can be covered by separate policies, such as earthquake or flood insurance, he said.

Sarkissian deferred to FEMA on whether flood insurance would cover the damage in Camarillo Springs. State Farm doesn’t offer flood insurance, he said.

FEMA spokeswoman Mary Simms said that in general, policies under the National Flood Insurance Program cover damage from mud flows, but not from landslides and other earth movements. Ventura County fire officials say the Nov. 1 and Dec. 12 episodes were debris flows, not a slide where the structural integrity of a hill fails.

Kester said that according to Williams, State Farm told other residents their homeowners policies covered the damage under the theory that the debris flows were directly caused by the Springs Fire. The fire burned off hillside vegetation that normally would have anchored the soil.

All homeowners policies cover loss caused by fire, said insurance attorney Erik Feingold, of the Ventura law firm Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones & Feingold.

Henry Needham, whose house was the only one declared uninhabitable after the Nov. 1 mud flow, subscribes to the Springs Fire theory.

“This was brought about by that fire,” said Needham, 83. “It was fire debris that came down off the mountain that came into my house.”

Feingold said that while the argument has proved successful in the past, it’s not a forgone conclusion.

“If the fire was the ‘efficient proximate cause’ of the mud flow, then arguably this is a covered loss,” he said. “That’s the way the courts would approach the issue. But there’s no black and white answer. There’s no law you can cite that says you automatically, positively get insurance coverage.”

Out of an abundance of caution, the Kesters are keeping their flood insurance at least in the short term.

“Absolutely,” Ron Kester said. “I feel very secure in that, ‘OK, I’m covered under one of them, but I’m covered.’

“Tell me which one will cover the most and I’ll take that one,” he added with a laugh.

Whether Needham is covered or not, he’s considering suing the city of Camarillo and the homeowners association over the damage to his house.

“I have an attorney,” he said. “And this was brought about by negligence. I’m giving great thought to that.”

He said he doesn’t plan to rebuild his home.

“It’s a question of viability,” he said. “It’s a question of should a home be built there when it’s directly in the path of one of the main drains coming down off the mountain.”

Yolanda Gonzales, who manages The Springs Homeowners Association for Camarillo-based Community Property Management, did not return a message seeking comment. Neither did Camarillo City Manager Bruce Feng or City Attorney Brian Pierik.

Sarkissian said the confusion over insurance should serve as a reminder for homeowners to go over their policies with their agents at least once a year.

“They need to take time and discuss those risks that surround their homes to determine what type of insurance they may need and the right amount of coverage,” he said. “Those kind of conversations are something we strongly recommend.”

Insurance in Camarillo Springs murky

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:41pm

Hit by recent mud and rock flows, Camarillo Springs homeowners are facing another murky issue: What insurance covers damage to their houses?

Some residents of the senior gated community have been getting conflicting information. Debris flows on Nov. 1 and Dec. 12 destroyed 10 homes and damaged others. Heavy rains loosened debris off surrounding hills that burned in last year’s Springs Fire.

Ron and Cindy Kester were initially told by their State Farm insurance agent that the mud that buried the front yard of their house on Gitana Avenue on Nov. 1 wasn’t covered by their homeowners policy. Only a flood insurance policy would pay for the damage.

They got one underwritten by the Federal Emergency Management Agency just in time for the Dec. 12 rock slide, which left their home uninhabitable. But a short time later, Barbara Williams, president of The Springs Homeowners Association, told them some other residents had been informed by State Farm that their homeowners policies did cover the damage, Ron Kester said.

Kester called his agent and asked him to look into it. The agent called him back, telling him a claim had been opened under his homeowners policy, although no coverage determination had yet been made.

“It’s frustrating,” said Kester, 66, an information technology manager for San Luis Obispo County. “You know, I got enough crap to put up with without having to get the runaround on this.’”

Williams has said the homeowners association’s insurance policy doesn’t cover damage to individual residences, only to common areas like streets and a clubhouse. She declined to comment for this story.

State Farm spokesman Sevag Sarkissian said individual homeowners policies typically do not cover mud flows, mud slides, floods, earth movement or damage resulting from surface water. Some of those circumstances can be covered by separate policies, such as earthquake or flood insurance, he said.

Sarkissian deferred to FEMA on whether flood insurance would cover the damage in Camarillo Springs. State Farm doesn’t offer flood insurance, he said.

FEMA spokeswoman Mary Simms said that in general, policies under the National Flood Insurance Program cover damage from mud flows, but not from landslides and other earth movements. Ventura County fire officials say the Nov. 1 and Dec. 12 episodes were debris flows, not a slide where the structural integrity of a hill fails.

Kester said that according to Williams, State Farm told other residents their homeowners policies covered the damage under the theory that the debris flows were directly caused by the Springs Fire. The fire burned off hillside vegetation that normally would have anchored the soil.

All homeowners policies cover loss caused by fire, said insurance attorney Erik Feingold, of the Ventura law firm Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones & Feingold.

Henry Needham, whose house was the only one declared uninhabitable after the Nov. 1 mud flow, subscribes to the Springs Fire theory.

“This was brought about by that fire,” said Needham, 83. “It was fire debris that came down off the mountain that came into my house.”

Feingold said that while the argument has proved successful in the past, it’s not a forgone conclusion.

“If the fire was the ‘efficient proximate cause’ of the mud flow, then arguably this is a covered loss,” he said. “That’s the way the courts would approach the issue. But there’s no black and white answer. There’s no law you can cite that says you automatically, positively get insurance coverage.”

Out of an abundance of caution, the Kesters are keeping their flood insurance at least in the short term.

“Absolutely,” Ron Kester said. “I feel very secure in that, ‘OK, I’m covered under one of them, but I’m covered.’

“Tell me which one will cover the most and I’ll take that one,” he added with a laugh.

Whether Needham is covered or not, he’s considering suing the city of Camarillo and the homeowners association over the damage to his house.

“I have an attorney,” he said. “And this was brought about by negligence. I’m giving great thought to that.”

He said he doesn’t plan to rebuild his home.

“It’s a question of viability,” he said. “It’s a question of should a home be built there when it’s directly in the path of one of the main drains coming down off the mountain.”

Yolanda Gonzales, who manages The Springs Homeowners Association for Camarillo-based Community Property Management, did not return a message seeking comment. Neither did Camarillo City Manager Bruce Feng or City Attorney Brian Pierik.

Sarkissian said the confusion over insurance should serve as a reminder for homeowners to go over their policies with their agents at least once a year.

“They need to take time and discuss those risks that surround their homes to determine what type of insurance they may need and the right amount of coverage,” he said. “Those kind of conversations are something we strongly recommend.”

Donation helps kids see 'The Nutcracker'

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 4:33pm

A loud roar was heard when about 1,500 students seated in the Fred Kavli Theatre were asked if they were excited to see “The Nutcracker” on Thursday morning.

The Pacific Festival Ballet performed the special school-only production Wednesday and Thursday in the theater at Thousand Oaks’ Civic Arts Plaza. The event, a Kids and Arts program sponsored by the Alliance for the Arts, was made possible by a donation of $30,000 from local community members Devika and Vijaya Shankar.

Devika Shankar, a mother of three grown children — Leena Nathan, 36; Ganesh Shankar; 34, and Mark Shankar, 27 — who went to school in the Conejo Valley, said she worries about the arts disappearing from schools.

“I love children, and they are the future citizens of the country and the world,” she said. “They are going to run this world later on, so we need to make sure that they are exposed to the arts and the culture so it doesn’t fall by the wayside. It has been all Internet and computer age, which is good, but it is important for them to have an appreciation for music and ballet.”

Kathy Jeffers-Volk, president of the Angels of the Alliance for the Arts, which raises funds, said the event was special.

“This allowed us to open up the theater to many children who otherwise would not ever see a live production,” Jeffers-Volk said.

Thursday’s show was the first ballet for Jack Folette, 9.

“I’m really excited,” said Jack, of Westlake Elementary.

His teacher, Wendy Ridenour, who teaches a second/third grade combination class, prepared students by playing a 26-minute YouTube version of “The Nutcracker” on Wednesday. There were also students from the school dancing in the production.

Her student Ruvan Aluwihare, 8, said he enjoyed hearing the music in class.

“When we listened to it yesterday, I liked the music,” Ruvan said. “I’m really going to like hearing it today. It’s exciting because a bunch of schools are going to one little ballet performance.”

Another one of Ridenour’s students, Ashley Alverson, 8, had seen “The Nutcracker” before and said she likes the ballet.

“I like it when they fight over the nutcracker,” Ashley said.

Classmate Abby Montalvo, 7, said she saw “Swan Lake” once.

“I used to do ballet,” Abby said. “Now I do tap dancing. I think I’m really going to like ‘The Nutcracker’ because it seems very exciting.”

For Charlie Cutting, 7, of Westlake Elementary, it was a big day.

“I’ve never seen a ballet,” Charlie said. “It’s very exciting. My sister’s friend is in it, so I know some of it, and yesterday we listened to it. I liked the battle part and the music, which was very exciting.”

Devika Shankar, who danced the part of Claire when she was a girl, said she hopes the performance will inspire some of the students and perhaps change a life.

“Even if it’s just one life,” she said, “it will have been worth it.”

Donation helps kids see 'The Nutcracker'

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:33pm

A loud roar was heard when about 1,500 students seated in the Fred Kavli Theatre were asked if they were excited to see “The Nutcracker” on Thursday morning.

The Pacific Festival Ballet performed the special school-only production Wednesday and Thursday in the theater at Thousand Oaks’ Civic Arts Plaza. The event, a Kids and Arts program sponsored by the Alliance for the Arts, was made possible by a donation of $30,000 from local community members Devika and Vijaya Shankar.

Devika Shankar, a mother of three grown children — Leena Nathan, 36; Ganesh Shankar; 34, and Mark Shankar, 27 — who went to school in the Conejo Valley, said she worries about the arts disappearing from schools.

“I love children, and they are the future citizens of the country and the world,” she said. “They are going to run this world later on, so we need to make sure that they are exposed to the arts and the culture so it doesn’t fall by the wayside. It has been all Internet and computer age, which is good, but it is important for them to have an appreciation for music and ballet.”

Kathy Jeffers-Volk, president of the Angels of the Alliance for the Arts, which raises funds, said the event was special.

“This allowed us to open up the theater to many children who otherwise would not ever see a live production,” Jeffers-Volk said.

Thursday’s show was the first ballet for Jack Folette, 9.

“I’m really excited,” said Jack, of Westlake Elementary.

His teacher, Wendy Ridenour, who teaches a second/third grade combination class, prepared students by playing a 26-minute YouTube version of “The Nutcracker” on Wednesday. There were also students from the school dancing in the production.

Her student Ruvan Aluwihare, 8, said he enjoyed hearing the music in class.

“When we listened to it yesterday, I liked the music,” Ruvan said. “I’m really going to like hearing it today. It’s exciting because a bunch of schools are going to one little ballet performance.”

Another one of Ridenour’s students, Ashley Alverson, 8, had seen “The Nutcracker” before and said she likes the ballet.

“I like it when they fight over the nutcracker,” Ashley said.

Classmate Abby Montalvo, 7, said she saw “Swan Lake” once.

“I used to do ballet,” Abby said. “Now I do tap dancing. I think I’m really going to like ‘The Nutcracker’ because it seems very exciting.”

For Charlie Cutting, 7, of Westlake Elementary, it was a big day.

“I’ve never seen a ballet,” Charlie said. “It’s very exciting. My sister’s friend is in it, so I know some of it, and yesterday we listened to it. I liked the battle part and the music, which was very exciting.”

Devika Shankar, who danced the part of Claire when she was a girl, said she hopes the performance will inspire some of the students and perhaps change a life.

“Even if it’s just one life,” she said, “it will have been worth it.”

Boston Marathon bombing suspect appears in court

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:27pm

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev returned to court Thursday for the first time since he was arraigned in July 2013, and he received a shout of encouragement from the mother-in-law of a man who was shot and killed while being questioned by law enforcement after the bombings.

Security was tight at the federal courthouse in Boston for Tsarnaev's final pretrial conference. Tensions ran high, and one bombing victim had a testy exchange with protesters outside.

During the brief court hearing, U.S. District Court George O'Toole Jr. made no rulings, saying he would rule in writing on pending motions, including the defense's latest push to move the trial out of Boston.

David Bruck, one of Tsarnaev's lawyers, told the judge that the defense plans to file a motion to delay the trial, which is now scheduled to begin on Jan. 5 with jury selection. Bruck did not say how long of a delay the defense will seek.

At one point, the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev called out to Tsarnaev in Russian in the courtroom. Elena Teyer said she told him: "We pray for you. Be strong, my son. We know you are innocent."

Later, in English, she yelled to the law enforcement officers escorting her out of the room: "Stop killing innocent people. Stop killing innocent boys."

Tsarnaev never flinched or acknowledged the shouts.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the April 2013 marathon. Tsarnaev, who has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted.

Tsarnaev, 21, wore a black sweater and gray trousers and had a scruffy beard and a curly hairstyle similar to the one seen in earlier photos. He smiled to his attorneys and one patted him on the arm.

The courtroom was packed with FBI agents, police who worked on the case and more than a dozen survivors and family members.

Outside the courthouse, a man who lost his right leg in the bombings had a testy exchange with a small group of protesters holding signs supporting Tsarnaev and questioning whether authorities have proof that he is responsible for the bombings.

Marc Fucarile held up his prosthetic leg and moved it back and forth toward the demonstrators, saying: "That's proof right there."

One of the demonstrators said to Fucarile: "You should care that they get the right guy."

Fucarile replied: "Get a life, lady. Go to work."

At his last court appearance 17 months ago, Tsarnaev still bore signs of the bloody standoff with police that led to his capture and the death of his older brother, Tamerlan. His left arm was in a cast, his face was swollen and he appeared to have a jaw injury. In court Thursday, he had no visible injuries.

Tsarnaev's trial is expected to last several months, and seating a jury alone could take several weeks to a month.

Judge O'Toole questioned Tsarnaev about whether he had waived his right to appear at previous hearings. Tsarnaev answered in a clear voice: "Yes, sir."

Asked by the judge if he believes his lawyers had acted in his best interests, he said: "Very much."

Earlier this month, Tsarnaev's lawyers argued anew that "emotionally charged" media coverage and the widespread impact of the attacks have made it impossible for him to get a fair trial in Massachusetts.

O'Toole had rejected Tsarnaev's first request in September to move the trial, ruling that defense lawyers had failed to show that extensive pretrial media coverage of the bombings had prejudiced the jury pool to the point that an impartial jury could not be chosen in Boston.

Tsarnaev's lawyers previously said the trial should be moved to Washington, D.C.

O'Toole also rejected a defense request that prosecutors turn over evidence about his older brother's possible participation in a 2011 triple killing in suburban Waltham.

In May 2013, the FBI and Massachusetts State Police were questioning Todashev about that killing when an FBI agent shot and killed the 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter inside his Orlando, Florida, home.

Officials initially said Todashev had lunged at a state trooper with a knife but later said it was a pole. Todashev's family has disputed that account.

Prosecutors have said Todashev told authorities Tamerlan Tsarnaev participated in the Waltham triple slaying in which the victims' bodies were found with their throats slit and their bodies sprinkled with marijuana.
 

U.S. Weighs Response to Sony Hack

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 18, 2014 - 4:22pm
The U.S. is weighing a “range of options” to respond to the hack of Sony Pictures, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday, but declined to say who the government believes is behind what it regards as “a very serious attack”.

Daughter donates to Bellringer in dad's memory

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:10pm

Dorinda Goetting’s father didn’t make it past eighth grade, leaving school so he could support his mother and two sisters after his own father died.

But Clifford Goetting could do anything, whether it was plumbing, electricity or even building a house, said his daughter, who has been donating to Bellringer in her father’s memory since he died at Christmastime in 1992.

“He’d go out and buy a book,” the Ventura woman said. “He’d struggle a little reading it, but he just learned everything. If it took months for him to get it, then it did, but he taught himself.”

Goetting said she still turns to her dad for inspiration whenever she needs help figuring something out.

“I just stop and say, ‘OK, Dad, how do I fix this?’ ” she said.

The Star’s annual Julius Gius Bellringer drive will run through Christmas, with a list of new contributions published daily, except Mondays.

Although The Star acknowledges all contributions, donors can remain anonymous if requested. The Salvation Army will receive all the money raised, to serve local people in need.

Checks should include the donor’s name, phone number and, if desired, the name of the person, organization, pet or other cause in whose memory it is given.

New donations:

Carolyn S. Berenson: $150.

In memory of Mimi Krohn. Delta Theta Tau Sorority Inc., Omicron Tau Chapter, Ventura: $25.

In memory of Neil Havens. Patricia Havens: $100.

Mary M. Goodenough: $15.

William R. Strnad: $500.

In memory of my Dad, Antonio Mayer. Emma Mayer: $30.

In memory of a great Dad, Dominick Ciuffetelli. From the Ciuffetelli family: $100.

In memory of Medrick and Margaret Amar. Norma Nick Taylor: $175.

In memory of my friend Marsha. Nancy Fox: $10.

Anonymous: $300.

In memory of my husband, Kam C. Leong. Annie Leong: $200.

In honor of our departed friends in Rancho Ventura. Anonymous: $100.

In memory of IBEW Local 952 deceased members. IBEW Local 952, Ventura: $250.

In memory of Walt, Anne, Brian and Bud. Gary and Sharon Markley: $100.

In memory of my beloved Father, Clifford C. Goetting, who died Dec. 21, 1992. Never forgotten, always in my heart. Your loving daughter, Dorinda: $25.

In memory of my great-grandson Homer Barajas, age 15. He is not here this year. On June 13 his life was suddenly taken by a drunken driver. Months before, he had told his mother if anything happened to him, he wanted to have his body donated so others could have a good chance at life. We all miss him and always will. We are proud to have enjoyed him in our lives. Dorothy J. Hanks: $25.

My grandmother was a member of the Salvation Army. This is in remembrance of her and the following: Avis and Jewette Sawyer, John Sawyer, Lu and Penny Roland, Jeff Roland and Bruce Roland. Susan and Scott Roland: $50.

With thanks for blessings past and fond memories of those departed. JoAnn Moore: $100.

The second-grade students in Room 22 at Junipero Serra Elementary School in Ventura proudly donate the collected pennies in our annual penny drive with the hope that other families in our community feel as blessed as we do this holiday season: $71.33.

When I was in design school in the ’80s, I lived at the Salvation Army’s Evangeline Residence in downtown Los Angeles. No men were allowed past the lobby, but there was no curfew, and for a modest sum I got a small room and two meals a day. Having a place to live so close to school was incredibly helpful and I am forever grateful to the Salvation Army. Another way I am indebted to the Army is the roundabout part it played in my parents’ meeting. My mother was a USO hostess at a branch sponsored by the Salvation Army. There, her best friend met a young G.I. who then introduced my mother to my father. The rest is history. Lucinda Wehrkamp: $50.

Today’s total: $2,376.33.

Previous total: $30,802.

Total to date: $33,178.33.

Please make checks out to Bellringer and send them to:

Bellringer

Ventura County Star

P.O. Box 6006

Camarillo, CA 93011

 

<p><a href="http://www.vcstar.com/circulars" target="_blank"><img src="http://mediaassets.vcstar.com/photo/2014/12/16/DigitalCirculars_1418761267933_11216084_ver1.0.png" width="100%" /> </a></p>

24 Hour Fitness to open in Oxnard

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:05pm

The new 24 Hour Fitness in Oxnard will have a grand opening Saturday.

The public is invited to take part in a full day of events beginning at 9 a.m. at 400 Town Center Drive. The new gym in The Collection at RiverPark is the city’s second 24 Hour Fitness location.

The day’s events will include a photo booth, club tours, a fitness-themed video presentation and a mobile zip line as well as an opportunity for a workout in the new club.

A color guard from Naval Base Ventura County will open the ribbon-cutting with the presentation of colors.

The new 42,872 square-foot gym features a variety of fitness equipment and amenities, including a basketball court, an indoor lap pool, a sauna, a steam room and a whirlpool.

Call 800-224-0240 or visit http://24hourfitness.com for more information.

Moorpark opposes oil refinery's rail project

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 4:05pm

The Moorpark City Council agreed Wednesday to send a letter opposing a refinery rail spur extension project in Santa Maria, which could potentially expose the city to fire or explosion risk from oil tanker cars.

The council voted 3-2, with Councilmen Keith Millhouse and Mark Van Dam dissenting, to send the letter to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission opposing the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery Rail Spur Extension project. The concern centers on the risk of a possible derailment accident that would release crude oil in a populated area along the Union Pacific mainline tracks, including Moorpark.

The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission will be hearing the issue in February.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report was recently recirculated on the project, which would extend an existing rail spur of the rail mainline by an additional 6,915 feet to serve the refinery, which is 3.5 miles west of Nipomo in San Luis Obispo County.

Moorpark city staff recommended a letter in opposition be sent because it could affect city residents and businesses adjacent to the tracks. Moorpark has five public and three street railroad crossings in the city.

Although the Santa Maria Refinery is about 125 miles from Moorpark, the construction of a rail spur would allow for up to five deliveries of oil per week on freight trains with 80 tanker cars that are 90 feet long each. Combined with three engines and two buffer cars, these trains would be approximately 1.4 miles long and travel through Moorpark to Roseville or Colton and return along the same route.

The EIR indicates there is a small probability of an incident that would result in a release of 100 gallons or more of oil, once every 22.8 years over the entire route from Colton to the refinery, with the risk in any single city substantially less.

Millhouse, an environmental attorney who serves on the Ventura County Transportation Commission, said that it is not known if the train would even come through the Moorpark route, since not all the rails in the area are owned by Union Pacific.

He said he opposed sending a letter because trains carrying oil already travel through Moorpark and other cities, and one could argue “astronomical improbabilities” in every situation.

“Should we stop all trains in the United States and eliminate risk?” asked Millhouse.

“I’m as close to the rail track as anybody. If I felt there was a risk, I wouldn’t be in favor of this.”

Millhouse added that he isn’t in favor of creating “unnecessary hysteria” and would rather send a letter weighing in about new rail cars having additional safety measures. He noted the alternative is that oil would continue to be transported by train to Bakersfield and offloaded onto trucks, which are less safe than trains.

Councilman David Pollock said he doesn’t buy into the argument that the city should allow more risk from trains just because it’s already done.

“That kind of incrementalism just gets you to a bad place,” he said. “I feel strongly that we should show a little bit of leadership as a city to formerly object to this and hopefully other cities along this track will take notice as well.”

He said the council must look after its constituents.

“Admittedly, the incident risk is small, but if it does happen, it can be catastrophic,” Pollock said.

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