County must follow rules for harbor development

At a Coastal Commission hearing this month in Chula Vista, Ventura County was told the rules apply to all, including the county and its developer, and that the Fisherman’s Wharf project must have an open public process through the city of Oxnard.

For over a year, the county has resisted the established standard process required for any development on the coast. Instead it has tried to push through a massive, 400-unit, high-end apartment project disguised as a renovation of Fisherman’s Wharf, a formerly thriving commercial area.

The city of Oxnard asked the county for mandatory information necessary for any development at Channel Islands Harbor. The county has stonewalled. When the city refused to rubber stamp the project, the county and developer threatened a lawsuit.

Why does the county resist an open, public process?
The answer is simple: This project is wildly inappropriate for the harbor, and everyone knows it.

The county says it is urgent to renovate Fisherman’s Wharf with these apartments because it is so rundown. How comical to cry over the dilapidated conditions when the county is the one responsible for maintenance. Intentionally or through neglect, Fisherman’s Wharf has been allowed to deteriorate for many years.

Many successful businesses have been frustrated negotiating leasing terms with the county and have been driven away. The county claims budget problems, but the harbor is a major attraction and has been a cash cow from its inception. The county makes money from the harbor but does not invest in its maintenance. Despite this past poor performance, the county now wants blanket control of Fisherman’s Wharf “revitalization.”

The site is zoned for recreational and visitor-serving activities, not for high-end apartments. Residential development is the lowest priority for coastal land, and yet the county supports a fortress-like apartment complex taking up a large portion of the public’s waterfront land. The project would essentially privatize public land.

This project would be two city blocks long, 55 feet high and surrounded by a wall two stories high. It would be high-density and charge the highest rents in the area. There would be no affordable or live/work units. The project would remove large portions of boater parking and about half of Fisherman’s Wharf’s commercial area and parking. There would be no street parking.

The loss of parking would make it difficult for what is left of the commercial area to survive. The county uses strange math when counting the remaining parking spaces, saying they would be for the stores, boaters, and people using the park. How many people can use one parking space?

The project would add at least 1,000 cars to the already-busy intersection of Channel Islands Boulevard and Victoria Avenue. Victoria is a major artery for freight from the Port of Hueneme, with 1,195 freight trucks traveling along this corridor monthly. It is also the only escape route for Silver Strand residents in an emergency.

The county claims the project would add commercial development, but only a fraction of the project’s square footage would be commercial. The county claims it would add a park, but a park already exists in this location, with picnic tables, memorial benches and a public restroom. The project would remove all of the parking contiguous to the existing park. Visitors would have to haul kayaks, strollers and ice chests for at least two blocks to enjoy the park and our beautiful harbor.

This is why so many community groups oppose this project. The neighborhood groups represented by the Oxnard Inter-Neighborhood Council Organization oppose this project.

These are just a few of the issues that must be shared in a transparent public process. The community must have a voice in the development of the harbor, which is public land located in the city of Oxnard.

This is not a power struggle between the county and city. The county is asking the city to perform civic malpractice and ignore all the regulations and policies that apply to coastal development. As confirmed by the California Coastal Commission and required by the city, this project must go through an open public process.

That is what will be best for the community, the harbor and all stakeholders — follow the process. It will ultimately result in a better harbor for everyone.

Sumie Mishima and Rene Aiu
on behalf of the
Harbor & Beach Community Alliance

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