Ormond Beach | Environmental Disaster Affects Oxnard and Port Hueneme

 

 

By Christina Zubko

I am writing to all of you in hopes that someone will listen to my concern about Ormond Beach–designated an environmentally sensitive wetlands area and home to the endangered snowy plover and least tern–and the catastrophe that it has become due to the illegal camping by the homeless. The last time I checked, there were at least 40 encampments in the area.

As many of you know, Ormond Beach is owned/monitored conjointly by the State Coastal Commission (SCC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the city of Oxnard. Chris Kroll of the SCC told me that the city of Oxnard is responsible for enforcing the no camping laws on the beach, and Kat Selm from the TNC said that one guard patrols their section of Ormond Beach.

Since I moved to Port Hueneme 3 years ago, I have been concerned about Ormond Beach–I like to walk the shorelines of my local beach and as Hueneme Beach borders on Ormond Beach, I often walked in that area as well. Three years ago, I saw signs that marked the area in the dunes of Ormond Beach where the snowy plovers were nesting. I was so pleased that I had purchased a home near an area that was designated as a sensitive habitat for California wildlife. At the same time, as I walked south toward the dilapidated power plant on Ormond Beach, I often was uneasy as I saw people living behind the dunes. Twice I was approached by strangers. I no longer walk south.

In April of this year, I grew incensed by an incident at Ormond Beach–someone, presumably a homeless individual living in the wetlands area–dug a 2 foot ditch in an effort to drain the lagoon and/or to create a barrier to getting to the other side of the lagoon (see attachment “April 2019 ditch”) I immediately contacted the Ventura County Fish and Wildlife Offices and the SCC and sent them a photo of the ditch–both parties told me that the city of Oxnard was responsible for protecting that area. Fortunately, the Oxnard City Corps responded promptly and filled the ditch.

In my continued inquiry about Ormond Beach, I learned from Isidrio Figueroa (named the contact person for the Oxnard Coastal Plan) that the city of Oxnard is broke and resources are thin. I also learned from Chris Kroll that his office is located in Oakland and that he is unable to see what is happening on the SCC’s side of Ormond Beach. He also told me that the city of Oxnard is responsible for enforcing the no camping laws. I also spoke to Kat Selm from TNC who told me one guard patrols their area–but only their area. Moreover, I learned that Cynthia Hartley, project biologist for Ventura’s Audubon Society and CSU CI professor, monitors the nesting areas for the snowy plover and least tern in the Ormond Beach wetlands area. She relayed that during nesting season, no one can go into the sensitive wetlands (not even to clean up the trash left by the homeless). I also learned that the signs that once designated the nesting areas by the dunes that I saw when I first moved to Port Hueneme were dismantled. In a conversation that I had with Ms. Hartley, she told me that those signs were hers and that she no longer will allow her team of students to survey the beach as the homeless have become hostile. Moreover, she stated in an email, “Homeless are also disassembling my fence and re purposing it around their encampments, not to mention the vandalism and trespassing in nesting habitat.” In essence, the only people who were permitted in the wetlands area were the homeless.

I returned to the dunes with a team of concerned Hueneme residents. Our purpose was to survey the area and take account of the trash and litter that had been accumulating since the last time the city of Oxnard moved out many of the homeless individuals. I noticed that while Ms. Hartley’s signs were gone, one sign remained. It read, “Ormond Beach is a Designated Bird Area of Global Significance…Effective July 7, 2016-(OCC 7-301)–Violators subject to fine up to $500–No interfering with any designated habitat area…No campiung or fires; No altering or removing sand dunes, plants, or vegetation…” (see 2019 signage). We also saw various encampments (one had a shovel that may have been used to dig that aforementioned ditch, and another had a grill) (see “April encampment and grill”; “April encampment and shovel”; “April 2019 encampment dunes”; “April shoes encampment”) and trash around the dunes and the lagoon. If you wish to see more photos, I have plenty more. Please feel free to ask for them.

I also contacted Laura Oergel, Ventura County Surfrider Chair, to see what could be done about Ormond Beach. She told me that there are plans for a mass clean up in July and invited me to participate. We both talked about the cleanup being a potential bio-hazard to volunteers, so she is preparing waivers and liability forms for this clean up project. We also talked about how dangerous the area has become, so some type of police presence should be included. I expressed concern over the sustainability of clean up projects–in the long run, they make little impact long term as no sooner than a clean up is done a new encampment moves in because there is no authority enforcing OCC 7-301.

And while many of you reading this email might be thinking about the ruling last September by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that says that it is unconstitutional for a municipality to criminalize the act of sleeping outside on public property when a homeless person has nowhere else to do so, let me direct you to the cities of San Clemente in Orange County and Thousand Oaks in Ventura County and the manner in which they are handling their homeless situation. San Clemente designated a parking lot to the homeless who were sleeping near the beach (notice they are not being mandated to provide the beds for the homeless) and Ventura County has made changes to the language to their municipal code that differentiates “sleeping” from “camping.” Surely, given these two precedents, the city of Oxnard is on solid ground to move out the homeless from an environmentally sensitive area.

One final thought. Since moving to Port Hueneme three years ago, I have learned that the city of Oxnard has been an area of several environmental disasters. There is the Halaco Superfund Site, Ormond Beach, and also the rotting Oxnard water treatment plant/New Indy cardboard recycling plant that are emitting toxic fumes that not only affect Oxnard but many Port Hueneme residents, especially when the wind blows a certain direction. I am starting to see a theme, and the theme is shameful. Impoverished areas seem to be dumping grounds and because the poor are often too worried about where their next meal is coming from, they don’t have time to get involved in effecting change. Many of them lack the language skills and education to get involved. Many of them may be too afraid to be vocal. Their elected officials do not hear anything from them and therefore do nothing to address the environmental pollution. Now the messes that Oxnard is not addressing (due to lack of funds or otherwise) are starting to affect the residents of Port Huemene and the wildlife so vital to Ventura County. Having lived most of my life in Orange County, I can tell you, the environmental pollution happening in Ormond Beach/Oxnard never would have happened in the cities in Orange County. My parents have resided in Thousand Oaks for two decades–I know Thousand Oaks would never put up with the environmental pollution Oxnard tolerates. Malibu residents, I am certain, would never allow the kind of environmental pollution taking place at Ormond Beach/Oxnard to happen in their city. These cities have money and money talks. Oxnard owns one of the most beautiful shorelines in Ventura County. Sadly, it is dirty and is a stain on all of the politicians who took taxpayer money and let it become this way.

This week, in Hermosa Beach, a fire destroyed a three-story structure. Early reports say it was a homeless individual who set the blaze. Enough is enough. Since when do the rights of the homeless trump the rights of those who pay their taxes or to species deemed endangered? More and more of us are getting outraged and are questioning our elected officials who do little to fight for the rights of tax payers and for wildlife (are they too afraid of being deemed politically incorrect by insisting that the homeless be restricted on where they can live?). In LA this year, there was a typhus outbreak due to the rats on skid row. The homeless at Ormond Beach are defecating in the wetlands. Volunteers from the Audubon Society are being harassed. Beach walkers fear being accosted by the vagrants behind the dunes. It is time to act boldly and advocate for those of us who have to watch our cities and our natural environments become hazardous and dangerous. I know that there are many like me in Port Hueneme who are enraged by what we are seeing in Oxnard. Ormond Beach should be renamed a “wasteland” area–not wetland area.

I am writing to all of you today in hopes that together we can clean up Ormond Beach. Perhaps Ms. Ramirez needs to look at changing the wording in Oxnard’s municipal codes regarding the homeless (like Thousand Oaks) or designating a parking lot for the homeless, as did San Clemente. Perhaps Ms. Irwin and Ms. Jackson can ask their various committees to start writing bills to grant additional protection and funding to Ormond Beach. Perhaps the LA Regional Water Control Board can help Ventura collect needed data on the water quality in the lagoon.

I hope to hear a response from each of your respective offices.

 

Christina Zubko is a reporter for Port Hueneme News


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6 Responses to Ormond Beach | Environmental Disaster Affects Oxnard and Port Hueneme

  1. Johnny Perez July 5, 2019 at 8:13 am

    Heard you on the radio (I think ) you said you had trouble getting images covering the damage being caused. Would like to offer my help to fly my drone and capture images you may need.

    Reply
  2. Michael Dougherty July 3, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Seems like everyone whose homes are affected negatively by the homeless should get a major property tax reduction. Only then will Sacramento listen and do something. We’re just one good lawsuit away.

    Reply
  3. Nancy Black June 17, 2019 at 8:50 am

    Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Jen June 16, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    Please contact your Ventura County Supervisor with this report!

    Reply
  5. Tracey June 16, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    Thank you, I have a condo in Port Hueneme. Needless to say I am disappointed in both the city and county officials not taking a stronger stance regarding the environmental concerns you have addressed. Many of us have complained about the rank odors and no one will take responsibility. The dunes and wildlife are being altered by those who have set up camp on the beach, and by the recent lighting upgrades in the Surfside III complex that is using ultra bright LED lighting from sunset to sunrise that is not friendly to the nocturnal wildlife bs low impact lighting. We no longer hear at night the owls and other small animals that were part of this protected habitat.

    Reply
  6. Fran June 16, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Have you gone to state officials for help?

    Reply

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