Updates on Harbor Issues at Start of 2019
Here is the status of harbor projects and issues as the new year begins.
County Fails to Provide Required Information On Fisherman’s Wharf 400 Apartment Complex, Continues to Delay City’s Review Process
The Fisherman’s Wharf developer and Ventura County continue to fail to provide the information needed by the City of Oxnard to process the County’s application for a Local Coastal Plan Amendment (LCPA). Without this information, the City cannot perform a reasonable and public review of the project. In October 2017, the County was directed by the Coastal Commission to obtain an LCPA from the City.
The County met again in November 2018 with the City and the Coastal Commission. We hope the County will now submit the required information any LCPA applicant must provide to the City. If the County chooses not to do so, will it drop the project? Or will it continue to try to circumvent the City’s jurisdiction and ignore the Coastal Commission’s October 2017 directive?
Refusal to deliver the required information, and issue only threats of litigation, reinforces suspicions about the legitimacy of the County’s proposed 400-unit apartment project.
December 1,2015 – The Fisherman’s Wharf Developer entered into a maximum 5-year lease option with the County. This lease option required that the Developer (CIHP) obtain entitlements from the City of Oxnard to proceed with their proposed development (400-unit apartment project).
2016 and 2017 – CIHP, the developer and County tried bypassing the City’s authority. This is apparent by the nine written rejections from the Coastal Commission staff and the October 12, 2017 Coastal Commission (CCC) hearing that resulted in the CCC directive to apply for a Local Coastal Plan Amendment with the City of Oxnard.
December 1, 2017 – Year three of their exclusive lease option agreement required that the Fisherman’s Wharf developer (CIHP) annual option payment be increased to $50,000. Incredibly, the Board of Supervisors rewarded this developer’s lack of performance with an additional two year extension on their lease option, waiving their $50,000 annual payment. (Note payments were also waived for the other 2 exclusive lease options this developer holds at the harbor.)
Present – The County and Developer (CIHP) have failed to complete their application to the City or pay their application fees as would be required by any other developer. The Developer now has another 11 months to fail to follow the process if they so choose or they can follow the standard required process – submit a complete application and pay their fees. If the Developer chooses not to do so, the County Board of Supervisors should be held responsible for their lack of business sense and ethics.
If the public wonders why Fisherman’s Wharf has been allowed to deteriorate for so many years, the County’s decisions clearly demonstrate bad business practices by our County representatives and executives.
Peninsula Hotel Replacement Faces More County Delays
The public has supported the hotel replacement project since it was proposed in March 2016. But County actions have continued to hold up the building of the hotel and it appears the project start will be delayed for at least another year or so. Here is an overview of the major delays.
First, the County granted Channel Islands Properties LLC (CIHP), the Fisherman’s Wharf apartment developer, an Exclusive Right to Negotiate (ERN) for the exact same land site as Brighton Management (the hotel developer for the proposed Hyatt Place Hotel). This ERN was used to pressure Brighton to allow space for CIHP’s “undetermined development project” on the same land parcels originally approved solely for the hotel. The County also did this to get the height variance granted to the hotel builders for the hotel for their anticipated apartment developer’s project on the Peninsula. The County is also using this “height variance” as precedent for the Fisherman’s Wharf 400 apartment complex.
Second, the approved “hotel project design” requires the City to give up land for the hotel to meet its parking requirements and allow land space in the future for CIHP to build its “undetermined development project”. The City supports the hotel project but without the County submitting an application for a “street vacation permit” (permit to use City land for hotel parking), the City is again unable to process their request for use of City land. If the County or developer does not apply for this permit, there will be another delay because Brighton will be forced to redesign its hotel plan in an attempt to accommodate and allow space for the apartment developer’s (CIHP) “undetermined project”. Parking is and will continue to be a problem on Peninsula Road with over 400 apartments, hundreds of condos and a popular community park competing for limited parking spaces.
Third, in December, the Harbor Department found more rock revetment repair at the hotel site was required than originally estimated by the County. The Harbor Department has had almost 3 years to identify this problem. This is inexcusable incompetence or a deliberate delay tactic. We are told this could be an additional 6-month repair job. However, before repairs can even take place, the old Casa Sirena Hotel must be removed so the repair work can be done from landside according to the Harbor Director. This means Brighton would need to demolish the hotel first and then the revetment repair could start. Demolition requires a City permit. It now appears the hotel project will be delayed for at least another year or more (hotel replacement project was approved in March 2016). This again reveals the hypocrisy in the County’s rhetoric on the urgent need for harbor revitalization.
Restoring and Maintaining Water Quality at the Harbor
The cause of the change in harbor water quality, including the shutting down of the power plant, is being scientifically investigated. Grants to subsidize the cost of restoring and maintaining water quality can be pursued once the study is completed and the causes identified. It is apparent that at this time, the option of turning the power plant pumps back on is not viable.
Furthermore, NRG Energy has pulled its 2015 application to build the Puente Power Project in the Mandalay Generating Station. This makes any cooperation from NRG unlikely. The City is currently considering its legal options regarding the removal of the power plant. Perhaps a water quality solution could be incorporated in the City’s plan.
In the meantime, the County has refused to assist in this harbor-wide concern. Instead, the County is leaving the responsibility and cost to the City. The City has installed several aerators within the harbor to help with water circulation but this is not a long- term solution to maintain water quality. Global warming and climate change will also impact the harbor over time.
Whale’s Tail Lease Agreement Settled
It has been nearly two years since the original announcement that Fresca II would be opening at the deteriorating Whale’s Tail restaurant building. Finally, the Harbor Department has confirmed they’ve agreed upon lease terms. The terms will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors in January or February 2019 at the latest. The terms should be publicly available at that time. However, the Harbor Department was either unwilling or unable to identify the key factors on which their selection of Fresca II was based. It is especially important for the public to understand how decisions are made in selecting a lessee for a specific harbor facility or service. In the future, such factors should be made public at the time the County is requesting proposals, not after the selection has been made, and all proposals should be made public. This would be true transparency.
Interesting Article in the December 14-27 The Log: Huntington Harbor Is the Last in Region To Establish a Formal Harbor Commission
The article claims that Huntington Harbor is the last harbor to establish a formal Harbor Commission to oversee everyday issues affecting boaters and other users of the harbor. The article, though incorrect in this fact, goes on to explain the importance of having a harbor commission. With so many ocean and environment issues like rising sea levels, water quality, recreational safety, general infrastructure and facilities, environmental justice, codes, etc., Orange County recognized there was a need for a commission. A commission can gather information, involve stakeholders, help analyze issues from diverse perspectives, and contribute to the development of a long-term harbor plan.
Channel Islands Harbor should also establish a Harbor Commission of elected stakeholders, and then in reality would be the last harbor to establish a Harbor Commission.
October 2017– August 2018
The following is a brief timeline of events related to proposed development in Channel Islands Harbor between October 2017 and August 2018.
October of 2017
December 12, 2017
January 25, 2018
January 25, 2018
January 28, 2018
January 31, 2018
June 8, 2018
June 19, 2018
July 20, 2018
August 6, 2018
August 6, 2018
Mr. Sandoval asked us what we wanted to see “changed” at the harbor. Here is what we all need to be united in telling him:
- Development that is consistent with the Coastal Act and is visitor-serving and harbor-oriented.
- Going forward, what is needed is an updated Public Works Plan with a comprehensive Master Plan for the entire harbor.
- Going forward, we would like to see a “change” to an open, transparent RFP (Request for Proposal) process at the harbor with open bidding for development that is not limited to apartment developers’ proposals. In addition, when the existing ERNs expire in a year and a half, an open rebidding process should be implemented. Note: in the meeting Mr. Sandoval assured us that when the time comes for a rebidding process, it would be an open one. HBCA said we believe in actions not rhetoric so we will observe his actions as the new Harbor Director and see what he does.
Apartments can be built anywhere. Harbors cannot.
Support the Harbor & Beach Community Alliance
Donate to protect a public treasure! Donations are tax deductible.
or make checks payable to:
Western Alliance for Nature with memo line C.I. Harbor
Mail to: 3600 Harbor Blvd, #488, Oxnard, Ca.. 93035
Join your friends and neighbors who understand how lucky we are to have such a beautiful harbor and realize the importance in opposing the Fisherman’s Wharf 400 apartment project. Our harbor is one of the most beautiful small boat harbors in the nation. There are only 12 small boat harbors along the 1,100 miles of California coastline and harbors are not being built anymore.
Many in the community are outraged by the County taking 11 acres of beautiful waterside land and turning it into a 400 apartment complex. The proposed complex is 2 city blocks long, 55 feet high, a gated fortress- like complex surrounded by two story high walls locking the public out.
The Harbor & Beach Community Alliance (HBCA) is different from other community groups because HBCA is guided by experts and legal counsel. This strategic guidance has made HBCA effective. To date HBCA has succeeded in delaying this project, forcing it to go through the normal regulatory process. But it is not over. To continue to be effective, expert and legal advice is essential and that requires funds.