By George Miller
After 20 years of little action by the city except stopgap repairs and studies, the current Oxnard City Council voted unanimously on 10-6-20 to agree to fund half of the estimated $200 million to renovate the Channel Islands Harbor Mandalay Bay neighborhood seawalls, for up to a 75 year additional life. The walls were built in the early 1970’s and are insufficiently resistant to the saline environment, earthquakes and are well past their useful life. This would be done over a period of many years.
A key point in all this was firmly establishing that the city does in fact own the seawalls, greenbelt and even the canals and therefore has responsibility for their maintenance. On the other had, owners/residents are major beneficiaries of the seawalls. The canals are also used by the public and the health of the seawalls and canals affects the health of the entire harbor, which is a public resource.
The City wants the homeowners to form a special district to fund their half. This requires a vote, a difficult step. The average homeowners share would come to $135,000, so it would likely be financed by a bond and maybe current revenues over a 30 year period. There will probably never be a better time to borrow than at today’s low rates. However principal payments alone would come to nearly $4500/year/homeowner, a whopping increase in property tax bills. It would be $3.3 million annually in principal payments alone for the city. Add about 3-4+% for interest and various fees. Homeowners with long canal frontage or higher property values would likely be assessed much more than most other homeowners, who would pay less than the average. There is also a possibility of defraying some of the costs via a FEMA or other grants.
The City has no plans at this time for how it would fund its share the project. Local homeowners pay considerably higher property taxes than most other Oxnard residential properties. Some of that money plus sales tax money flows into the city treasury. Existing homeowner assessments to cover landscaping, waterways maintenance, dredging and seawall repair are woefully inadequate, at $492,000 annually. We were told that assessments are already as high as allowed by law, but homeowner association rep Debby Mitchell told us that is untrue. She says an assessment increase is the most direct way to do it, but it is harder to control where that money can be used. Another approach would be to establish a Community Facilities District (CFD) for funding and management.
We understand that City Manager Alex Nguyen and Councilman Bert Perello were key to moving this along and were supported by the Council (unanimously) and Public Works staff.
Discussions are still underway about which repair methods would be most cost-effective and least disruptive.
10-6-20 Council meeting proceedings:
The Channel Islands Waterfront Homeowners Association was granted time to present its case.
Resident Debbie Mitchell, VP Channel Islands Waterfront Assoc (Special District waterways assessment District #1, founded 1972) presented for HOA:
They object to making formation of CFD a precondition. Had been working on negotiations for decades, to no avail. City owns the seawalls. Residents feel it’s city’s responsibility. Need a plan for city/residents partnership.
Current homeowner tax assessment includes seawall, waterways, dredging, greenbelt, maintenance. Will require a special district to fund this project. Assessments have been the same since 1993, but cost and awareness have increased. Various studies have been conducted to assess status and improvement plans.
City staff and officials personnel turnover has delayed progress. $13.3 million is needed for next 15 years estimated plus $1.5 MM for dredging. (Far more would be needed for the full project).
Water quality was an issue due to storm drain runoff.
City wants to double the assessment or do a bond. No plans were ever brought before city council. City cannot afford it now.
Every City Manager, every Public Works Director has said it needs to be done.
Perello- would too much canal width be taken by sheet pile method? A: Yes 8-10 feet from each side is too much.
James Aragon, candidate for Treasurer- Glad staff is seeking resolution after decades. People will have to pay the consequences for many years. Homeowners willing to pay for half. It is the city’s liability. Potential seawall failures if this isn’t done. $800,000,000 to replace otherwise. Affects people outside the neighborhood.
Council, Staff Discussion
City Manager Alex Nguyen- Understand context, frustration, realities. It is hard to go back and understand why decisions were made, what codes were. This should be paid by all generations because all are benefiting. Alex put this before the council. City managers can only recommend, not commit.
Vote: 7-0 unanimous in favor.
10-7-20 Statement from Channel Islands Waterfront Homeowners Association by Debby Mitchell:
45 years ago in August – Channel Islands Waterfront Homeowners appearing at City Council
8/26/1975 “Residents appeared to address concerns regarding algae vacuuming, naming of Waterways and whether or not homeowners should bear full cost of Waterways Maintenance.”
The historical records have been preserved and passed on over the years through volunteers with the Channel Islands Waterfront Homeowners Association (CIWHA).
Current HOA President Bill Clark shows up in historical documents with great regularity and his calm demeanor is and always has been an anchor in the extreme tidal fluctuations of City staff and local politics. I will forget many and want to apologies in advance for missing some steady participants!
From the past… Member of the CIWHA board and Seawall Team
We owe a debt of gratitude to:
Virgil Lockhart (Massive historical documentation archives)
Robert Freeland (Rocket Scientist & Past CIWHA President
Evelina Bartoline Arglen
Trevor Smith (Water Quality)
Lillian Elswick (early secretary of CIWHA who never threw away a piece of paper)
From the past and still active
William Scarpino (Past HOA President and longtime member of the Seawall Team)
Chuck Carter (Water Quality)
Current members of the board who have been around for years like Tom Shideler, Matthew Steinorth and Keith Beckwith who document, volunteer and jump in whenever and wherever needed and kept the membership active and new members of the board Mike Hass and Alison Gabel have been doggedly making sure work on landscaping is not lost in the mix!
In the past few years we have had new volunteers form a Communications Team that in addition to facilitating communications has reviewed and brought much needed organization to past documents – not just on seawalls but landscaping and water quality as well which all blend into waterways 1
The Communications Team:
We also want to thank our District Councilman Bert Perello and the City Manager Alex Nguyen for prioritizing this and Public Works Rosemarie Gaglione and Jeri Cooper and Omar Ortiz for pushing ahead with what can be done in the as is state of our budget. And Mayor Flynn and City Council for hearing us and voting unanimously to approve!
Editor’s note: The author of this article is a Mandalay Bay homeowner.
George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.