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New affordable housing project debuts on original site of Ventura's first public housing development

What was the site of Ventura's first affordable housing community starting in the 1950's has been redeveloped, with hundreds of new apartments. Community leaders gathered Tuesday to celebrate its grand opening.

Latest phase of Westview Village project in Ventura includes 50 one and two bedroom apartments.

People are munching free tacos, and talking with friends at a party to celebrate the Tri-Counties newest affordable housing project.

But perhaps no one is as excited as Linda Mellison. She and her daughter have a nice new home here at Westview Village, on Ventura’s Westside.

"I have a disabled daughter. It's a lot of work raising a special needs child. I'm very grateful for our new apartment," said Mellison.

People are celebrating the completion of the third of the four phases of Westview Village, off of North Ventura Avenue. The nearly 21 acre site has become the home of 286 new affordable housing units built since 2017.

But, it has much deeper roots as housing. When low income residents were forced from an area of downtown Ventura known as Tortilla Flats in 1950’s, to build Highway 101, some of them ended up here. It was the site of Ventura’s first public housing project.

"Most of the people who lived in Tortilla Flats were renters," said Moses Mora. He and his family lived at Tortilla Flats, and then at the original public housing project built at this site in the 1950’s.

"(Tortilla Flats) was a low income place. We all pretty much had to move out at the same time," said Mora. "Our family was amongst the first 100 families to move in here. It was 1952. I was only two years old. I don't remember arriving here, but for the most part I grew up here."
But, time caught up with the more than half century old units. Almost all of them have been torn down to clear the way for the new Westview Village.

"It showed its age over all this time, and we started the redevelopment about ten years ago," said Jeffrey Lambert, who is CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura. "We're now finishing the third phase of that redevelopment."

There were 180 units on the site, but when the final phase is done, there will be 320.

The timing of the dedication of the latest phase of the project is perfect. As the Housing Authority commemorates the new project on the site of its first development decades ago, it’s also celebrating its 75th anniversary.

The latest phase of the project includes 50 new one and two bedroom apartments, as well as a community center, some classrooms, a rooftop community garden, and a public park. The Village is home to about 1500 people, including around 500 children.

"These are working class families that are struggling to make ends meet," said Lambert. "We subsidize the rent. They pay 30% of their income. And, we help them grow their life by giving them training, and education, and hopefully they can move out of public housing someday, and move into the open market."

What's it like for Lambert to see the finished apartments?

"I always get emotional when I see these things happen, because we're changing lives," he said.

While the complex is new, there are plans to remember its roots.

In 2008, Mora and artist MB Hanrahan teamed up to do a mural commemorating the Tortilla Flats community. It’s on the Highway 101/Figueroa Street underpass in Ventura. They are doing a new one for Westview Village’s community room.

There’s still one more phase of the project left. The remaining 1950’s and 60’s buildings will be torn down, and 34 row houses and duplexes will be built for sale.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.