County Foiled Again: The Future of Fisherman’s Wharf  



By Lauraine Effress

On Aug 12, 2020, the California Coastal Commission, in a 12-0 vote, denied a last ditch attempt by the county harbor department and its developer, Channel Islands Harbor Properties (CIHP), to force the city of Oxnard to go along with its plan for  a 400 unit high-end, gated apartment complex and small commercial component on Fisherman’s Wharf, at the entry to Channel Islands Harbor.

The wharf, once a local hot spot, has not weathered time well. For more than 15 years, the county was content to allow the area to deteriorate and wait for a development savior.

While the county owns the wharf, it lies within the city of Oxnard, and, therefore, the city’s Local Coastal Plan and Land Use Plan control the essentials of development. Those Coastal Commission certified plans, as well as the County Harbor Department’s Public Works Plan, designate the wharf as visitor serving, with boating and fishing related commercial.

But, having decided on its own that only revenue from private residential units could save the wharf, the county issued requests for qualifications (RFQ) seeking residential developers.  No attempts were made to obtain proposals for more public serving  projects in line with the land designation in the coastal plan.

CIHP was advised that Oxnard would need to sign off, as major zoning and land use changes were required.  But, from the get go, the County Harbor Department proceeded with its plan, ignoring the idea of involving the city. What transpired over the next 6 years was a knock down drag out fight with organized opposition among activists, and a jurisdictional dispute between the city and the county.

The Coastal Commission made it clear to the county that a Local Coastal Plan amendment from the city of Oxnard was a requirement.  It was not until 2018 that the CIHP and the county agreed to submit their plan for this amendment to the city. The amendment submitted by the county would actually have changed the land use jurisdictions in the entire harbor and remaining vacant parcels.  It would have undercut the city’s ability to have any say in what happens in its coastal zone.

Denied the amendment by the city, CIHP and the county attempted  a rarely used option, called an override at the Coastal Commission to circumvent the City of Oxnard’s jurisdiction. The commission staff report made several essential findings. It stated, “Private residential use is not dependent on the coast and only benefits those who actually live at the site, and their guests – an extremely limited fraction of the general population.”  The county’s proposed LCPA was also deemed contrary to the Coastal Act’s goals “to maximize public recreational opportunities along the coast.” In addition, the commission agreed with its staff that the proposal did not prioritize recreational uses of the coastal land, nor did the residential component really recognize the priorities in the coastal act.

 On August 12, 2020, the Coastal Commission voted 12-0 to deny the override request. Watch session:

What happens next will depend on CIHP’s willingness  to redesign their project to address the above issues and many concerns raised by the public.  The county has granted CIHP exclusivity for the Fisherman’s Wharf area until June 2022.  A Steering Committee now exists, with a hired Visioning consultant, to develop a plan that will be the “vision” of how the harbor should be developed.  CIHP also has exclusivity on two other harbor parcels. Prior to the August 12 decision, their plans for those parcels were for high- end apartments.

Whatever is proposed for Fisherman’s Wharf, it should be something that honors the purpose for which the land was donated by Thomas Bard, i.e. marine oriented recreation and commercial. Something families and businesses can use for decades.

Right now, the county might want to clean up the place, fill in the cracks, lay on a coat of paint and offer space with leases that would encourage the remaining commercial and small pop ups to operate with some confidence. Given the beautiful location, visitors would show up, even while the wharf waits for its makeover. 


Lauraine Effress is an Oxnard resident in the Channel Islands Harbor area. Lauraine has been involved in public interest affairs in the Harbor area for the past 20+ years.

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Dotty Pringle

This deal is over! Now time to get a Professional Theme-Harbor Developers in and have some great Open Bids.
Thank you Channel Islands Harbor Research for your decades of research and support, donated to CCC, City of Oxnard and hbca group. Thank you Ashley Golden! You are terrific!!

Dotty Pringle

Just recently at a meeting on October 30, 2020, which a local Art Fundraiser for Elite Theatre was discussed, another lady also brought up a parking lot that should be a paid parking lot and is currently loosing $64,000 per quarter….monies that could support the Wharf with true repairs like hot/cold water, WiFi, pest control, then repair first prior to painting. Do not use $62,000 of our tax payer dollars to do this.
Note: If you’d like to know more about parking lot, pls contact me, Dotty Pringle.

Dotty Pringle

Thanks to Channel
Islands Harbor Research for discovering Oxnard’s jurisdiction of Fisherman’s Wharf and sharing this vetted information with local entities. Thank you Ashley Golden!

Dotty Pringle

Effress states “County Harbor Department’s Public Works Plan” which is NOT TRUE. Ventura County has never done our CI Harbor’s Public Works Plan along w/other misinformation in other publications. A friend of the former Harbor Director did all the Public Works Plans out of Aliso Viejo. I wish people would vett info before publishing….George she has priors!✌

Dotty Pringle

Ventura County does not own CI Harbor. It is Public Land For Public Use, Oxnard’s jurisdiction of Fisherman’s Wharf was brought to light by CI Harbor Research, involved since 1976. Oxnard almost lost out by not being involved. Now contracts given to city council
friends. Who is on this “Vision Steering Committee” and is it stacked as usual? We are right back where we started with Sargent Group (friends of city council) and their Urban Villages….beware of who is scratching whos backs!! Audits are currently needed for this Harbor and ALL it’s business dealings.

Martin w

Developers are the most powerful political force in local politics. They have great lawyers and get to know the decision makers in every city on a personal basis. They develop and flee the area . Move on to next target leaving residents with overdevelopment and infrastructure problems with traffic etc.


I used to party at the Whale’s Tail every Sunday. It was a real calorie burn. it was beautiful watching the boats and sea lions while dancing

Mary Ferguson

I would love to see this area come back to life. I was here when that area was an amazing attraction. The ward was where you would go go out for dinner, shopping, entertainment. Oxnard has slowly gone down hill, I’m surprised I’m still here. Miss my beautiful Oxnard.