"A family whose driveway is disintegrating and they don't have the money to repair it - that is a sign of blight. And I've seen it. I've seen it on my street."

So far, residents and property owners have been footing the bill to make some of the necessary repairs. But Ross, a longtime civic activist, says there is another solution: Form a community redevelopment agency.

He first raised the idea in early 2005, but it met with resistance from council members and county Supervisor Linda Parks, whose district includes Oak Park.

Since then, he has been trying to address the concerns of his critics, including some who encouraged him to rework the idea as a way to fund sidewalk repairs. But the problem goes much further than that, Ross said.

Redevelopment is a government-authorized tool to spur community improvements. It would allow property owners to receive loans from a newly created public agency, which would get its revenue from future property-tax payments.

MAC chairman Todd Haines said the panel would have to look at the proposal in greater detail, but he has reservations -- such as the fact that redevelopment is intended for rundown neighborhoods.

Jere Robings, the former president of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association, said he can't imagine that an area in Oak Park would meet the requirements for a redevelopment agency.

Ross said that ignoring the problems facing aging sections of Oak Park can result in a deteriorating tax base and a decrease in property values.

Insurance companies ask that this maintenance be completed or else premiums increase because the risk of damage to a house due to old plumbing or an old roof increases as the house ages, said an official at EIS Financial and Insurance Services, which operates in Oak Park and the San Fernando Valley.

Ross said some retired Oak Park residents have limited incomes, and others meet the county's lower income criteria - an annual income of $64,500 for a family of four.

His proposal was opposed in 2005 because of concerns about affordable housing requirements in redevelopment areas and possible abuses in the operation of a redevelopment agency.

He said affordable housing can be provided through low-interest loans for those who meet low-income requirements, and abuses can be avoided by prohibiting eminent domain - condemnation of private property - by the new agency.

"I'm just trying to offer a suggestion," he said. "This is not a do-or-die campaign. I want people to think about a solution and maybe someone will take what I suggested and improve it."

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