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South Highway 101 to close Thursday in Oxnard

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 11:56am

Southbound Highway 101 will be closed Thursday night at Central Avenue in Oxnard for routine maintenance, Caltrans officials said.

All southbound lanes will be closed from 10 p.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday, and detour signs will be in place, according to Caltrans.

Caltrans crews and engineers will be conducting routine maintenance and inspection of the Central Avenue bridge, officials said.

Delays should be minor, and California Highway Patrol officers will be in the area to assist.

Rand Paul Looks to Build Profile as Different Republican

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 28, 2015 - 11:41am
Sen. Rand Paul, gearing up for a likely 2016 presidential campaign, is using his perch on Capitol Hill to try to build a profile as a different kind of Republican—one less rigidly ideological than people might expect from the son of a libertarian icon.

Strong fumes prompt evacuation of building

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 11:28am

A building in Camarillo was evacuated Wednesday morning after a strange odor was reported in the area, officials said.

Ventura County firefighters about 10:55 a.m. responded to the building in the 700 block of East Daily Drive after people said they felt sick from fumes in the area.

Crews on scene were working to determine where the odor was coming from. Further information was not available.

Crews put out vacuum-truck fire

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 28, 2015 - 11:26am

Firefighters Wednesday morning put out a vacuum-truck fire near Point Mugu, officials said.

The blaze was reported just before 7 a.m. near the Pacific Coast Highway and Las Posas Road, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Firefighters found the cab of an abandoned vacuum truck on fire, and the blaze was knocked down in about a half-hour.

No injuries were reported, officials said.

Crews put out vacuum-truck fire

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 11:26am

Firefighters Wednesday morning put out a vacuum-truck fire near Point Mugu, officials said.

The blaze was reported just before 7 a.m. near the Pacific Coast Highway and Las Posas Road, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Firefighters found the cab of an abandoned vacuum truck on fire, and the blaze was knocked down in about a half-hour.

No injuries were reported, officials said.

Ojai examines rules for low-priority projects

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 28, 2015 - 11:16am

Faced with repeated public backlash over how building permits get approved, the Ojai City Council mulled ideas Tuesday on how to improve public noticing and protect sensitive sites.

In a discussion that stretched the council's regular meeting well past 11 p.m., council members considered suggestions by Community Development Director Kathleen Wold to make the granting of so-called "Director's Exemptions" more transparent.

Currently, the Community Development director has the authority to grant Director's Exemptions to building projects she considers to be minor, allowing applicants to skip a public hearing before the planning commission. The idea is to avoid clogging up the commission's and council's agendas with trivial projects such as window repairs and awning installations.

Until now, the public has not been informed when director's exemptions are being considered.

Over the past few years, several exemptions have created public uproar, including an application to install a cellphone tower, a remodeling project at a local hotel and construction of a large climbing wall on a residential property.

Councilman Bill Weirick said those exemptions happened under a previous director, but the city needs a more consistent process for approving exemptions and a mechanism for keeping the council and public informed.

"The issue here is the structure," he said. "It needs to be consistent across different people in that position."

In a report to council, Wold proposed requiring an administrative hearing for projects considered for exemption and placing a public notice of the hearing near the site. For very minor projects, such as landscape and window replacements, only the City Council would be notified and invited to comment, she proposed.

Councilman Paul Blatz said projects slated for denial of a director's exemption should also be forwarded to the council.

The council also debated ways to protect archaeologically and culturally sensitive sites from development, including a suggestion by Wold to automatically require a design review permit for any development within 300 feet of a mapped archaeological site. Several residents, including Chumash representatives, spoke on the issue.

Julie Tumamait Stenslie urged the city to include Native Americans in the discussion and offered support.

"We are here to help and we will invest in this process," said Stenslie, a Chumash descendant.

Dawn Thieding and Alasdair Coyne, vocal opponents to the climbing wall, called on the city to create a zoning code that protects archaeological and cultural resources, and to identify where those sites are.

Council members agreed on the need for changes, but postponed further discussion on the matter to a future meeting.

In other business, the council approved naming Assistant City Attorney Scott Howard as their Interim City Attorney through a contract with the Los Angeles firm Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC.

Another associate at the firm, Matt Summers, will perform the duties of Interim Assistant City Attorney. The arrangement will remain in place until the council finds a permanent replacement for departing city attorney Joseph Fletcher.

Council members Weirick and Betsy Clapp also updated council on their efforts to gather community input on how to regulate vacation rentals. Weirick and Clapp said they are forming a focus group of about six community members to discuss ideas, and will then broaden the discussion with public workshops. The public also can email their input to the city clerk at basore@ojaicity.org

Restaurant review: NoSo Vita in Ojai

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 11:00am

Melding the exotic with the homespun, NoSo Vita captures the essence of Ojai, where it’s quickly becoming a many-faceted spot to hover over a special cup of coffee, explore items like coconut miso soup or cacio e pepe, or simply settle down to a hot pastrami sandwich or pasta carbonara. Even the latter items take some intriguing culinary twists along the way.

NOSO VITA

Location: 205 N. Signal St., Ojai. 669-8511; https://www.facebook.com/nosovita.

Hours: The espresso bar is open daily, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the kitchen is open every day but Tuesday. Breakfast (7-10:45 a.m.) and lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) are served Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays; Sunday brunch is served 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Impressions: Very pleasant outdoor and indoor seating; informal and friendly service; variety of traditional and innovative fare.

What’s hot: Chicken piccata shooters; chicken coq au vin panini; cacio e pepe pasta; coconut miso soup; Cinnamon Chopper.

NoSo Vita opened Jan. 14. It’s name is a mashup of “nothing, “something” and the Latin word for “life. The intent of the restaurant, co-owner Sean Mason told The Star earlier this month, is to “provide an environment where people can come and create who they are.”

We sampled lunchtime fare while sitting on the quiet Signal Street patio. Some of the items sound so intriguing that diners might feel compelled to try them just to see how they create such things as chicken piccata shooters ($13), the starter we chose. It arrived on a long, thin platter, perfect for three to taste as it was arranged in three mounds of thin organic chicken breast slivers in “house breadcrumbs,” resting on whole basil leaves and a yummy lemon caper cream sauce.

Sampling from the three main lunch categories of sandwiches, panini and pasta, we continued with a Croque Monsieur croissant ($14), a chicken coq au vin panini ($15) and cacio e pepe pasta ($12). The first two came with a choice of soup du jour, waffle-cut potato crisps or arugula salad. We both chose the soup when we heard it was an exotic coconut miso soup, and we had no regrets. The small cup of lightly creamy soup managed to balance the coconut and miso elements to perfection.

Black Forest ham and Gruyere Swiss cheese filled the egg batter-fried Croque Monsieur croissant, which was a handful of a sandwich. The chicken coq au vin panini had more than its amusing name going for it, combining chicken, bacon, Brie, sautéed shallots, fresh tarragon, red seedless grapes and “a dash of orange zest.” The ingredients may not have totally explained the name but the dish certainly was tasty.

Cacio e pepe — made with fresh, hand-cut fettuccine; a triple-pepper blend; fresh basil, grana padano cheese; olive oil; and lemon zest — demonstrates that the simplest pasta dish can be a delight. The cheese used has a long Italian tradition, having been developed nearly 900 years ago by Cistercian monks in an abbey near Milan. The dish comes with a piece of house garlic crostini.

We moved on to dessert, basically a choice of a few breakfast baked goods and gourmet chocolates. The Cinnamon Chopper ($5) was essentially a very good cinnamon roll and the gourmet chocolates were small in size but mighty in flavor. We tried three: a cinnamon almond protein bite ($1.25), a chocolate “cupcake”-shaped goodie ($2.50) and a fudge ball ($1.95).

I washed it all down with a fine cup of strong house coffee (Hair Raiser by name), while my friends sipped iced coffee.

Among breakfast items are French toast croissants, frittatas, and bagels and lox.

NoSo’s compact menu was designed by chef Marcus Hollingsworth. Service while we were there was at a leisurely pace, but it suits the relaxed atmosphere of the cafe-coffeehouse and was leavened by all-around good nature.

Rita Moran visits restaurants unannounced and pays for her food. If you know of a new, unusual or just plain good restaurant, contact her at rita.j.moran@gmail.com.

ArtsBeat: Snowed In? Here’s What to Watch, Read or Listen To

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 10:59am
Streaming TV, movies, music and books to help you through a winter storm.






FCC Warns Hotels, Others Not to Block Personal Wi-Fi

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 28, 2015 - 10:47am
FCC officials issued a warning that it will prosecute businesses, including hotels and other establishments, that block people from using personal Wi-Fi networks.

1 injured in Highway 126 overpass crash

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 28, 2015 - 10:34am

One person was injured Wednesday morning in a crash on a Highway 126 overpass near Ventura, officials said.

The crash was reported about 6:40 a.m. on the Edwards Ranch Road overpass. The Ventura County Fire Department and California Highway Patrol responded.

The victim was transported to a hospital with minor injuries.

One lane of the overpass was expected to be closed until about noon Wednesday for repairs, according to the CHP.

1 injured in Highway 126 overpass crash

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 10:34am

One person was injured Wednesday morning in a crash on a Highway 126 overpass near Ventura, officials said.

The crash was reported about 6:40 a.m. on the Edwards Ranch Road overpass. The Ventura County Fire Department and California Highway Patrol responded.

The victim was transported to a hospital with minor injuries.

One lane of the overpass was expected to be closed until about noon Wednesday for repairs, according to the CHP.

Westlake to help pay for school technology

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 28, 2015 - 10:22am

The city of Westlake Village is giving White Oak School more than $70,000 to help improve technology and computer access at the elementary campus.

The council Tuesday unanimously approved an adjustment to the 2014-15 city budget to allocate $71,280 to the school to help pay for technology training for staff, additional laptops, storage and charging carts, and new classroom display systems.

The city also will allocate $79,480 to White Oak in 2015-16 and $52,480 in 2016-17.

The Las Virgenes Unified School District began a pilot program this school year designed to provide an Acer notebook to every sixth-grader. The district’s strategic technology plan envisions expanding the program to other grades over the next three school years, with all students in third grade and higher having access to their own device by the program’s fourth year.

Parents and teachers at the K-5 White Oak, however, wanted to expand the program to grades 3-5 as soon as possible and asked the city for help.

“I want White Oak to be the leader in our district, have the best teachers we can have and the most resources,” White Oak Principal Eric Anhalt said at a special council study session Tuesday. “It’s not cheap to do it, but the cost of not doing it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

The school’s parent-teacher group has contributed to the purchase of laptops and portable devices, and the city’s School Committee — comprised of council members Philippa Klessig and Brad Halpern — recommended the council support the effort with funding for three years.

“If this all comes together, this could really be a destination school,” Jim Klein, Las Virgenes chief technology officer, told the council.

“I don’t see how we can say no,” said Mayor Ned Davis.

In other matters Tuesday, the council considered city goals for 2015.

The council discussed whether the city needs new architectural standards for development. Currently, city staff and council members are guided by a 1992 design survey.

“From a staff perspective, having things a little loose is nice because it allows the staff and council to be flexible on a case-by-case basis and we always have the ability to draw a line and say, ‘No, we’re not going to pass this,’ ” said Planning Director Scott Wolfe.

“But it would be nice to be able to hand prospective developers something and say this is what we are looking for. It would be nice to have something more up to date,” he said.

At the suggestion of City Manager Ray Taylor, council members agreed to send the issue to a city committee for further discussion.

Councilman Brad Halpern proposed the city in 2015 host a summer event at Westlake Lake that would bring the community together for a day.

“We have this great lake and a lot of people don’t really get to enjoy it,” said Halpern. “I’m not saying there won’t be opposition, but I’m suggesting a community event.”

The council agreed to contact the Westlake Lake Management Association and Westlake Yacht Club to gauge interest.

Council members also agreed to have a committee explore the feasibility of installing solar panels at the Civic Center and parks.

Westlake to help pay for school technology

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 10:22am

The city of Westlake Village is giving White Oak School more than $70,000 to help improve technology and computer access at the elementary campus.

The council Tuesday unanimously approved an adjustment to the 2014-15 city budget to allocate $71,280 to the school to help pay for technology training for staff, additional laptops, storage and charging carts, and new classroom display systems.

The city also will allocate $79,480 to White Oak in 2015-16 and $52,480 in 2016-17.

The Las Virgenes Unified School District began a pilot program this school year designed to provide an Acer notebook to every sixth-grader. The district’s strategic technology plan envisions expanding the program to other grades over the next three school years, with all students in third grade and higher having access to their own device by the program’s fourth year.

Parents and teachers at the K-5 White Oak, however, wanted to expand the program to grades 3-5 as soon as possible and asked the city for help.

“I want White Oak to be the leader in our district, have the best teachers we can have and the most resources,” White Oak Principal Eric Anhalt said at a special council study session Tuesday. “It’s not cheap to do it, but the cost of not doing it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

The school’s parent-teacher group has contributed to the purchase of laptops and portable devices, and the city’s School Committee — comprised of council members Philippa Klessig and Brad Halpern — recommended the council support the effort with funding for three years.

“If this all comes together, this could really be a destination school,” Jim Klein, Las Virgenes chief technology officer, told the council.

“I don’t see how we can say no,” said Mayor Ned Davis.

In other matters Tuesday, the council considered city goals for 2015.

The council discussed whether the city needs new architectural standards for development. Currently, city staff and council members are guided by a 1992 design survey.

“From a staff perspective, having things a little loose is nice because it allows the staff and council to be flexible on a case-by-case basis and we always have the ability to draw a line and say, ‘No, we’re not going to pass this,’ ” said Planning Director Scott Wolfe.

“But it would be nice to be able to hand prospective developers something and say this is what we are looking for. It would be nice to have something more up to date,” he said.

At the suggestion of City Manager Ray Taylor, council members agreed to send the issue to a city committee for further discussion.

Councilman Brad Halpern proposed the city in 2015 host a summer event at Westlake Lake that would bring the community together for a day.

“We have this great lake and a lot of people don’t really get to enjoy it,” said Halpern. “I’m not saying there won’t be opposition, but I’m suggesting a community event.”

The council agreed to contact the Westlake Lake Management Association and Westlake Yacht Club to gauge interest.

Council members also agreed to have a committee explore the feasibility of installing solar panels at the Civic Center and parks.

Board Books Roundup

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 10:20am
New picture books include “Sally in the Snow” and “Fox on the Loose!”






The Pierpont Inn in Ventura has a new owner

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 10:17am

The Pierpont Inn in Ventura has changed hands yet again.

Irvine-based DKN Hotels, a hotel management, development and ownership company, is the new owner. DKN Hotels announced the purchase Jan. 2.

DKN bought the Inn from Brighton Management, which has been the owner since 2012. While DKN did not disclose the purchase price, transfer taxes at the county recorder’s office indicate DKN paid $9.6 million for the inn.

The property has been sold four times since 2005.

A year ago, Brighton Management renamed the century-old property the Wyndham Garden Ventura Pierpont Inn in an effort to increase occupancy by using Wyndham’s national registration system.

Brighton Management was not looking to sell the Pierpont Inn when DKN Hotels approached the company with an offer. DKN was looking for a hotel in the Ventura market, said Victor Dollar, regional manager for Brighton Management.

“(DKN) sold a hotel this past year and needed to reinvest,” he said. “They paid very handsomely.”

Ventura is attractive to buyers because it doesn’t have the peaks and valleys that markets such as Los Angeles do, Dollar said. He said that during the recession, some hotels in Los Angeles lost 25-28 percent in revenues while Ventura hotels lost around 5.5 percent.

The Pierpont Inn will continue to be marketed under the umbrella of the Wyndham Garden flag, DKN announced. Also, DKN is planning “significant renovations” in upcoming years.

Steve Gomez, vice president of business development at DKN Hotels, said in a news release that the Pierpont Inn shows “tremendous potential for growth, particularly in the group and event business.”

“We believe DKN’s signature style of warm and welcoming hospitality will be a great fit for the market,” he said, “and upcoming physical improvements will position the hotel to reap the benefits of increasing local demand while preserving its historic authenticity. We are looking forward to a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with local businesses and the city of Ventura.”

The 77-room historic property, nicknamed “The Lovely Lady by the Sea,” was built in 1910 and has undergone multiple additions to its initial structure throughout the years.

Cat claws out of own grave after being buried

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 9:40am

UPDATE: Bart is reportedly out of surgery, doing well and will hopefully be able to go home on Sunday or Monday. The resilient feline is said to be alert and strong; getting nutrients via a feeding tube until his jaw heals, expectations are pretty high for his recovery. 

ORIGINAL STORY: Bart is back from the grave, and people are calling him "Zombie Cat."

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay is currently caring for a cat, Bart, whose owner thought he was dead.

Bart was found lifeless after being hit by a car on January 16. His owner buried him a couple of blocks away from his home. The owner's neighbor found a weak Bart in front of her yard on January 21 and returned him to his owner.

Bart was weak, but breathing. He was taken to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, where he will undergo major surgery today. He will have his broken jaw fixed and ruined eye removed.

Sherry Silk, the Humane Society's spokesperson, said she expects Bart to survive and eventually, healthy enough to go home.

Town homes going up near harbor in Oxnard

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 28, 2015 - 9:22am

Construction has started on a new town home development in southwest Oxnard with demolition of the Channel Islands Shopping Center.

The 116-unit complex, called The Westerlies, is going up at 1800 S. Victoria Ave. near Channel Islands Harbor. The three-story units will range from 1,187 to 2,178 square feet.

Builder TRI Pointe Homes Southern California expects the first residents to move in as early as November, with sales starting in August. Prices will start in the low $300,000s, according to a news release from the builder.

The project at the corner of Victoria and Hemlock Street marks the revival of a development approved in 2009 that had been stalled by the recession. The former property owner, Courtyard at Mandalay Bay LLC, sold the site to TRI Pointe early last year, records show.

Brian Sinderhoff, a company vice president, said in a statement the firm “will take this 6.56-acre site, formerly a blighted retail center, and transform it into beautiful housing for home buyers.”

The center’s former tenants included a thrift store, laundry, barbershop, used book store, barbecue restaurant and Thai furniture store. Tenants were given 30 days to move out in January last year as developers dusted off plans.

On Tuesday, progress was evident behind a chain-link fence around the site, with large trucks and Caterpillars moving amid rubble piles and stacks of lumber.

Mayor Tim Flynn said in a statement the project “will provide move-up opportunities to Oxnard residents who desire to live near the harbor and its many amenities.”

Town homes going up near harbor in Oxnard

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 28, 2015 - 9:22am

Construction has started on a new town home development in southwest Oxnard with demolition of the Channel Islands Shopping Center.

The 116-unit complex, called The Westerlies, is going up at 1800 S. Victoria Ave. near Channel Islands Harbor. The three-story units will range from 1,187 to 2,178 square feet.

Builder TRI Pointe Homes Southern California expects the first residents to move in as early as November, with sales starting in August. Prices will start in the low $300,000s, according to a news release from the builder.

The project at the corner of Victoria and Hemlock Street marks the revival of a development approved in 2009 that had been stalled by the recession. The former property owner, Courtyard at Mandalay Bay LLC, sold the site to TRI Pointe early last year, records show.

Brian Sinderhoff, a company vice president, said in a statement the firm “will take this 6.56-acre site, formerly a blighted retail center, and transform it into beautiful housing for home buyers.”

The center’s former tenants included a thrift store, laundry, barbershop, used book store, barbecue restaurant and Thai furniture store. Tenants were given 30 days to move out in January last year as developers dusted off plans.

On Tuesday, progress was evident behind a chain-link fence around the site, with large trucks and Caterpillars moving amid rubble piles and stacks of lumber.

Mayor Tim Flynn said in a statement the project “will provide move-up opportunities to Oxnard residents who desire to live near the harbor and its many amenities.”

Hard Choices on Easy Money Lie Ahead for Fed Chief

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 28, 2015 - 9:10am
Janet Yellen’s job is about to get harder after a relatively easy first year as Federal Reserve chairwoman, as she looks to move past the preset course of winding down a bond-buying program and begin raising interest rates.

U.S. Delays Thousands of Immigration Hearings by Nearly Five Years

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 28, 2015 - 8:48am
In a fresh sign of the backlogs and delays pervasive in the immigration court system, the Justice Department has begun sending out notices to thousands of immigrants awaiting hearings that their cases will be pushed back nearly five years.
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