By Mark Sandoval, Channel Islands Harbor Director
I am always reluctant to use an op-ed to argue a point or defend a position. However, a recent opinion column submitted by the Harbor and Beach Community Alliance (HBCA) and their comments in a recent public meeting regarding Fisherman’s Wharf have compelled me to do so.
New Construction in the Harbor
First, I would like to address the opinion column, “County delays Channel Islands Harbor hotel construction,” submitted by HBCA member Debbie Mitchell to the VC Star. The column states the County is delaying the Hyatt Hotel project and Whale’s Tail restaurant replacement in deference to an “apartment developer’s projects,” an allegation that is simply untrue. As I stated in a April 4, 2019 public workshop (which HBCA attended) and through my monthly online Director’s message, the Harbor Department is working to facilitate three construction projects on the peninsula, which requires a great deal of coordination. The projects include a County rock revetment replacement project, and the demolition and construction of the new Hyatt Hotel and marina on the peninsula. We have been working with the developers and engineers involved to ensure all projects succeed. We anticipate the Casa Sirena to begin the four-month demolition process in October. In addition, we have been working closely with the owner of Fresco’s, and anticipate that refurbishment of the old Whale’s Tail will also be moving forward in a few months.
Given the facts, the opinion column submitted is untrue and a disservice to stakeholders who want to see the Harbor succeed, and the HBCA does not seek updates from the Harbor Department to obtain current information before writing to local publications. I understand the community’s frustration and strong desire to see redevelopment in the Harbor. We are working hard to facilitate the delivery of all four projects.
Fisherman’s Wharf Project
Second, I would like to address the Fisherman’s Wharf project, which is now moving through the City of Oxnard’s planning process, despite recent allegations by the HBCA that the County refuses to do so. A few issues were brought up at the community meeting which I want to address.
The first is that this project violates a development restriction imposed by the land donor. While the County has addressed this issue in the past, it begs the question if apartments violate a covenant, why were nearly 550 apartments developed on Peninsula Road and another 100 developed on Harbor Drive decades ago by the first harbor developer, Bud Smith?
The second issue is the impact to traffic. While I agree that the development will increase the traffic in the area, the question is whether the impact of traffic, when mitigated, will be more of a burden than the value derived by a new and vibrant retail development at that dilapidated corner. The Navy Base employees definitely impact the traffic in the area at the beginning and end of each work day, and that’s not going to change. I have personally experienced the traffic flows in the area since I live on Peninsula Road and work on Victoria Avenue, I am at my office at 5:30 am and leave at 5:30 pm and I am in and out of my office at least three times a day. I have found that it is not difficult to work around the Navy Base impact, and that the signal at Channel Islands and Victoria does a very good job of moving traffic through and out. I have asked at three recent public meetings for anyone to join me at my office at any time of the day, and we can drive around together to demonstrate to me the traffic problem in real time. To date, I have had no takers.
Finally, there is an argument that the mass and height of the residential buildings would ruin the Harbor. That argument is difficult for me to understand when there are currently residential buildings in the Harbor as tall as this residential development and over three times as long as this residential development. In addition, the universally-supported hotel project in the Harbor will be as tall and longer than this residential development. All of these buildings are located in the middle of the Harbor and not at the outer edge, across from a primarily barren industrial military base where this project would be located.
I believe that this mixed-use project would be an asset for the Harbor and region around the Harbor. I would be the first one to push back on a development the likes of which are prevalent in Marina Del Rey and Newport Beach, but that is not the case with this project.