NEWS

Riverpark's surprising growth spells shift in supervisorial districts

Kathleen Wilson
Ventura County Star

A Ventura County supervisorialdistrict known for slow growth led the county in population increase over the past decade at 6.5% while another district anchored in densely built central Oxnard dropped, the latest census results show.

Although some suspect Oxnard was undercounted, statistics point the cause of the reversal to surprising growth in the Riverpark neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.

In 2011, the county shifted the master-planned community out of Oxnard-based supervisorial District 5 and into the Ventura area's District 1 to balance the county's population among the Board of Supervisors' five districts. That added 5,400 people to District 1, but Riverpark didn't stop growing.

Riverpark's population increased by roughly 4,300 over the past decade — around 40% of the total growth of almost 10,400 in District 1.

The district includes Ventura and Ojai, but their growth rates were modest over the decade. Ventura grew by just over 4% and Ojai by 2.4%. Similarly, Oxnard grew by just over 2% after recording a run-up of around 16% in the previous decade.

BOS District 1 - Map - Ventura County

Supervisor Matt LaVere, who represents District 1, said Riverpark residents have been drawn by the planned community's mixture of homes, stores, restaurants, entertainment venues and parks all within walking distance. 

"Moving forward, that is what I think we should think about when developing neighborhoods," he said.

The convenience is a big part of the appeal for Tai Hartley, a homeowner and chairwoman of Riverpark's neighborhood council. Hartley said she likes going to the retail area known as The Collection, where she shops at Target, stops for a "Pink Drink" at Starbucks and takes in early dinners.

"I love that it's walkable," she said. 

Realtor Gabriela Tellez, who sells homes and lives in the area, said both young families and investors are drawn to Riverpark.

"People are buying a lifestyle," she said.

BOS District 5 - District Map - Ventura County

Supervisor Carmen Ramirez says she lacks the data to prove it, but she suspects many of her District 5 residents were missed in the 2020 census because of certain circumstances: limited access to computers to complete the online survey; reduced use of door-to-door census-taking because of the pandemic; and the drama over adding a question on citizenship, a proposal that was ultimately dropped. 

"I think we had an undercount in my district," she said. "That is my gut feeling."

Uptick in Camarillo

Camarillo, though, was a hot spot. The population grew by 8.5% to almost 71,000 over the last decade, census results show. The figures rose as housing went up, according to figures supplied by the city.

Almost 1,700 housing units were added from 2005 to 2008, before the recession, followed by a spurt of almost 800 units from 2014 to 2017. About 1,200 more are expected to be built in the next decade.

Camarillo lies within District 3, which showed the second highest growth at 4.6% and the highest number of residents at 174,560. Fillmore and Santa Paula also fueled the rise in the district, growing by roughly 6% combined to more than 47,000. Simi Valley-based District 4 came in third with an increase of 2.4%. District 2, centered in Thousand Oaks, showed essentially no growth at 0.4%. Ramirez's District 5 dropped by a negative 1.3%.

Though preliminary, the figures for the five districts are not expected to change significantly after the state provides the final piece of data on county residents held in state prisons. Chris Stephens, manager of the redistricting project, said he hopes to get the figures this week. 

State prisoners, who had been counted in the counties where they are serving time, are now tallied in the counties of their last home address. It's unknown how many will be reflected in the final numbers for Ventura County.

Tough decisions loom

The shift between LaVere's and Ramirez's districts is more than an intriguing anomaly.

The Board of Supervisors has to figure out how to rebalance the size of its five districts to make them approximately equal in population — each with roughly 20% of the county's population of almost 844,000. Generally, districts with an excess of residents must shrink while those with too few must grow.

The redistricting is undertaken every 10 years when new census results are released to ensure each supervisor represents roughly the same number of residents. The process also safeguards political boundaries from manipulations that tip election results and keeps communities from being split into separate districts, diminishing their political influence.

Initial drafts of the map showing the revised districts are scheduled to be published Oct. 8. The board is expected to make a final decision at its meeting on  Nov. 16 or Dec. 7.

Kathleen Wilson covers the Ventura County government, including the county health system, politics and social services. Reach her at kathleen.wilson@vcstar.com or 805-437-0271.