In a February 8, 2019 letter to the Harbor & Beach Community Alliance with copies to the County Board of Supervisors and Oxnard City Council, Mark Sandoval wrote “I also stated that if anyone other than myself or my staff was providing an update on Harbor development or operations, to take it with a grain of salt and understand the objective of the presenting organization.”
In the same letter, the Harbor Director also implies the Harbor & Beach Community Alliance and other members of the public need to contact him prior to making public comments or presentations on Harbor projects. Obviously, this is an affront to the public’s constitutional right of free speech. It is a critical component of community activism to hold public entities and/or public officials accountable for the omission of key information, biased information, or information that is not fact based, any of which could mislead the public.
It is especially ironic that the Harbor Director makes such bold declarations when the Harbor Department does not provide accurate, timely and complete information on Harbor development projects even on its own website.
As of this writing, a review of the Harbor Department’s website finds no mention of a pivotal California Coastal Commission (CCC) ruling in October 2017. In this ruling the CCC denied the County’s Dispute Resolution request. The CCC clearly directed the County to go through the City’s Local Coastal Plan amendment process for its proposed Fisherman’s Wharf 400 apartment project. To date, the County has not followed the CCC directive. On January 23, 2019, the Harbor Director in answering a question given to Supervisor Zaragoza said “We are working on these items and should have the required documents and payments to the City by February 11.” His stated deadline has passed with no action from the County. It is apparent that the County wants to avoid the City’s open public process.
Still more vital timely information is not available on the Harbor Department’s website. The hotel replacement project’s official Notice of Impending Development (NOID) and the Coastal Commission Staff Report is not available on the website. The Harbor Department fails to explain what it describes as the “few minor items” that are pending and delaying the project. Those so-called few “minor items” have brought the project to a standstill. The fact is the County insists that the hotel project needs City street land for 29 parking spaces and a “reconfiguration” of the end of Peninsula Road.
The CCC report states that the hotel, restaurant and marina project has more than adequate parking spaces with 379 spaces when only 344 are needed. The Department’s own parcel project map, approved and signed by Lyn Krieger, and included in documents submitted to the Coastal Commission shows the County’s “reconfiguration” does not require City street land as the County insists.
The most important explanation required from the Harbor Director is why he will not update the Harbor’s 1986 Public Works Plan. The update would provide a development plan for the entire Harbor that would be open and transparent to all. This update was promised over a decade ago by Lyn Krieger at the Coastal Commission hearing of February 8, 2008. (Coincidentally the same date as the Harbor Director’s letter eleven years later.) An update would allow the public to see the County’s real long term plans for the Harbor.
A transparent process for Harbor development and operations calls for comprehensive disclosure and open public participation, as John F. Kennedy said, “We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms.”
The Harbor Director’s attempt to disparage and discredit public comment is best described by George R. R. Martin who wrote,
“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”
Rene Aiu, Harbor & Beach Community Alliance