The City of Ventura and Southern California Association of Governments have jointly funded a mini-documentary, entitled Transforming Ventura and you can view it here by clicking on the image below.  The video tells the story of Ventura’s urban plan and the direction it could take with a focus on urban reinvestment on the inside, rather than on the outskirts of town.

Transforming Ventura from FWFocus on Vimeo.


Forward Focus Productions, of Portland, Oregon, who created the film entirely with HD Digital SLR cameras, was initially brought into the project by Fregonese Associates under a contract with SCAG to feature cities that were making proactive planning policy in advance of SB 375 implementation.   The City of Fullerton, along with Ventura were featured in a very short documentary that was presented to SCAG members last year.  The City of Ventura later asked FWD Focus to expand the film to feature just Ventura and its unique challenges and opportunities.

The video starts with various views of Ventura icons: the Highway 101 overpasses by “C” street and a wall revetment along an empty beach.  The images are then accompanied with a voiceover by Nicolas Deitch, one of Ventura’s elite architects.  Mr. Deitch asks rhetorically whether Ventura has what it needs and invariably we’re drawn into the answer which is, “not yet.”

In the video, Jeff Lambert, AICP, the City’s new Community Development Director, frames Ventura up as having compelling community resources such as a revitalized downtown and class-A harbor, along with some grittiness and incongruent architecture.    We hear from City Council Members Christy Weir, Sandy Smith and Carl Morehouse, AICP, about how to start the transformation towards a more livable community – and the process to engage the public in a plan that might make communities more sustainable while also providing a higher level of certainty for developers, perhaps the initial financiers of such reinvestment.

The video also covers the challenges – and ultimately the choices – brought about by SOAR, one of the most progressive open space protection laws in California, and what will happen when the timeline horizons set by SOAR expire.  “Ventura County’s boundaries are being artificially maintained by political boundaries and those boundaries may change,” says Mr. Deitch.  Mr. Lambert cuts to the chase when he says that, “There may not be pressure to extend those (SOAR) timelines because Ag-land may be the only place left for development.”  He later makes the choice clear when he says that, “They know that the alternative to high density development is not acceptable because it would result in converting agricultural land to subdivision tracks.”

Mr. Lambert hopes to show the video to anyone that want to watch it: either in General Planning forums or in some of their smaller community plan update planning meetings that are happening now on the Westside and up Ventura Avenue.

“This mode of communicating in the land use marketplace will likely see a surge because it conveys so much more than the typical 30-page land use plan,” says Bob Wall of FW Focus.  The use of photo-morphs in their videos, where intersections transform themselves with pedestrian friendly improvements or stylish new corner developments in the blink of an eye give the public – who may not be adept at distilling land use plans or construction drawings – a real perspective on compelling urban design.

Once these tools are set up, they can be re-shown over and over in different venues such as during public outreach or presentations by planning staff, planning commission or city council hearings, or even to private sources of funding such as developers, banks or other public agencies that control property (i.e., Cal Trans).

“The cost of these productions has come way down in the last few years thanks to substantial advancements in the motion picture industry.  What would have normally cost about $150K to produce, now only costs between $2K and $3k per production minute, though length is not the only determining factor in cost.” said Wall.

Wall, with a background in screenwriting and feature films, along with his production partner Tom Frisch, who comes from the world of documentaries, says that their production schedule is booked until early next year. They are working a lot in Louisiana; for the City of Baton Rouge doing fly-thru video scenarios of various downtown land use designs; for the State of Louisiana on a Coastal Recovery documentary where they will be filming from Houston to New Orleans this fall; and finally on an urban revitalization program in Beaverton, Oregon.

And for more on Ventura’s revitalizing, please check their award winning website at