Sumie Mishima and Rene Aiu, Special to Ventura County Star Published 10:00 a.m. PT Dec. 30, 2017
On Dec. 12, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors awarded two-year extensions of exclusive rights to negotiate to a developer, Channel Islands Harbor Properties LLC, for three premium public waterfront properties at Channel Islands Harbor. The properties are located throughout the harbor: Fisherman’s Wharf; the promontory lot on Harbor Boulevard across from the HarborWalk Complex; and the Casa Sirena Hotel replacement project site.
What is outrageous about this deal is that it eliminates alternative development opportunities with any other developer for many years. The extensions remove the county’s development options for the promontory lot and the Casa Sirena site for more than two years.
For Fisherman’s Wharf, the extension is for seven years, up to the end of 2022 — a full two years beyond the terms of the original 2015 lease agreement. In addition, the county did not charge even one dollar to the developer for these extensions. None of this motivates the developer to perform. None of this makes any business sense.
Imagine you own three waterfront properties at Channel Islands Harbor. Would you give up the right to market your properties to anyone for two or more years for absolutely no money? This is what the Board of Supervisors did Dec. 12 on the recommendation of the harbor director.
This deal rewards the developer’s non-performance. The developer chose not to provide the information required by the city of Oxnard for its review, and it has not demonstrated a willingness to go through the city’s established amendment process for its Local Coastal Plan. When the city did not rubber stamp the Fisherman’s Wharf project, the developer threatened to sue the city, even though it knew from the beginning that a Local Coastal Plan amendment may be required.
The 2015 lease option agreement for Fisherman’s Wharf states, “To apply for, diligently pursue and work cooperatively with County to pursue the granting of such other land use entitlements and approvals from any other agencies (such as zoning changes, conditional permits, variances) and all approvals from the California Coastal Commission, including any applications to the City of Oxnard in the case of a required amendment to the City’s certified Local Coastal Plan.”
The agreement also states in absolute terms, “in no event shall the term of this Agreement extend beyond five years.” Despite this, the Board of Supervisors amended the term to seven years.
These multiyear extensions could jeopardize the Casa Sirena Hotel replacement. This is a project the public enthusiastically supports and was awarded to Brighton Management. Brighton has met its obligations and submitted plans to county planners months ago. Still, no date has been set for construction.
Unfortunately, the project the public supported may not be the project the public will get. With these extension agreements, the county gave Harbor Properties leveraging power to take portions of the property originally approved for the hotel project. These tactics continue to undermine the public’s trust in the Board of Supervisors.
Three supervisors, the county CEO and the harbor director, plus assorted staff members, traveled to San Diego to plead for the 400 apartments at Fisherman’s Wharf at the October Coastal Commission hearing. Despite their pleas, the Coastal Commission said that, by law, the Coastal Act requires the project to comply with the city of Oxnard’s Local Coastal Plan.
The county is willing to spend considerable time and money to promote the developer despite the community’s opposition to the Fisherman’s Wharf project.
Sumie Mishima and Rene Aiu are members of the Harbor & Beach Community Alliance.