By George Miller
After a month off from meetings, the Oxnard Council returned on Tuesday, September 3, with the session dominated by conflict on the North Shore project. Public comments were overwhelmingly opposed to letting the development of 200 homes on Harbor and 5th proceed, due to objections over benzene and dioxin pollutants in the soil. They assert these are not sufficiently mitigated. Public, staff and council were all sympathetic to the proposal for a new Clinicas facility on Statham, and want to find a way to deal with parking noncompliance. The homeless situation continues to simmer- a public nuisance and people badly in need of treatment abound. The public has expressed increasing outrage, as lead agency- Housing Dept. and Police attempt to address it with limited resources and uncertain mandate.
Public comments on items not on the agenda:
Maria Melendez- Complained about getting parking citations (removed) at her own home. City made it a no parking zone after being able to park there for 35 years.
Jackie Tedeschi+- IMCO meeting Wednesday. Met new public Info Officer Katy Casey who will talk at the meeting.
Lang Martinez- Referred to emails circulating about homeless situation and wants to know if he can get council members’ response. Martinez claimed to us that 5 encampments still exist at Ormond Beach as of 9-5-19. Reports to us are that some homeless have moved from there to conservancy and City of Port Hueneme land. Watch here for more on this.
Georgia M- Walking on Camino Del Sol, she sees much trash and can’t get a city response. City said it is the railroad’s problem. Please help. Get it cleaned up.
Marvin Booth- Complained about Wooley road trash. Oxnard is becoming a borderline city- a slum. He (76 year old senior citizen) has been cleaning up personally. also complained via 311 application, but no action in three months.
Jim Nauman- Lives near Gonzales and Patterson- Are is NOT well-kept, gone downhill continuously- 6-8 ft weeds and trash abound. Is being assessed for this but no action in Summerfield/Lionsgate area. Suggests other revenue-raising ideas.
Teresa Mendoka- Once fair city is spiraling downward. Please clean up, fix landscaping. Brush growing high on medians. Appear to be fire hazards. Public areas littered with trash.
Ray Blutel- Predicted $9.2MM deficit cause cutbacks, but city hired a Housing Director and Communications Director. Mismanagement of employee labor hrs cost $2MM PLUS standby hours cost $1MM,+ public service overtime$8+mm. Overly generous public employee benefits.
Pat Brown- Thanks for cleaning up the Magic Auto mess.
Paul Barackman- Park is full of bums with shopping carts. City said it is unable to eject them because they don’t have abed for them. Public intoxication.defecation seem arrestable. Hiding behind not waiting for a Supreme Court decision is unacceptable. Suggested turning on sprinklers every hour. City Mgr. says will be discussed 9-171-9
“Princess”- Thanks Mr. Mayor for everything you have done. All properties I have complained about have been cleaned up. We don’t have homeless people no more. Low branches are a problem.
Item I-2- Buried in the Information Consent Agenda, the Council had to address the proposal for the long-delayed North Shore development up by and across Harbor Boulevard from the now-closed NRG power plant north of 5th Street. This is part of a dramatic developmental expansion of the beach areas in recent years, which has included Westport, Seabridge and multiple attempts at high-density projects at Fisherman’s Wharf on Channel Islands Boulevard.
Mayor Pro-tem Ramirez pulled this item for discussion. She received a lot of communications from residents about the proposal impact on residents. Development Director Lambert said this item is just for discussion tonight (approval scheduled in 10 days with possible 2 week extension) for a project approve in 1999, then by coastal commission, then amendments, then project life was extended during recession, then project changed ownership, then working on cleaning up site toxic substances, now has final single family map proposal. Last community workshop was April 2018.
This is a ministerial approval only, no council approval needed, but is appealable to council, with only narrow latitude for refusal.
Councilman Bert Perello agrees with Ramirez comments, says questions will be answered, but people may not like the answers. Because it’s been so long, it may need a major review. He said Lambert doesn’t agree, but will talk to residents.
Mayor Flynn says this is the largest development approved over 20 years ago.
Resident Debbie Mitchell’s concerns are focused on the adjacent canal and pollution of that and the overall harbor, by toxic chemical runoff from drains on the property. She pointed out tat the situation is further exacerbated by increased agricultural pollution and loss of the NRG circulation pumps.
Ramirez also commented on the arts grants (Item 3)- wants a showcase for selected artists to know what is being done with funds.
Flynn commented on item 4- higher accidents but lower DUI’s.
Public comments on information consent agenda items:
Jackie Tedeschi- Appalled at consent agenda. Land (Northshore) is still contaminated. Several LLC’s have had it. Needs to go back to the drawing board.
Frank Laza- Have we lost our minds? Polluted soil will be allowed to drain into Edison Canal. Harbor is a gem. We can’t afford to kill it.
Mike Schultz- Not in favor of Northshore development, which would dump chemicals into the harbor. Agricultural dumping also a problem. Harbor and Edison Canal are sensitive. Yacht owners can go elsewhere. Don’t kill the golden goose. Work on water quality and seawalls.
Ashey Monic- Do not allow Channel Islands Harbor water to be polluted. Restore circulation in north end of the Edison Canal. Land is polluted with Benzine. Soil vapor extraction process won’t work there.
Werner Keller- No basis for allowing Northshore project to be on consent agenda. Flow of Edison Canal has been reversed. It was basically a sewage pipe to the ocean (until power plant pumps were closed). Have been meeting weekly on harbor water quality. Do NOT need another pollution source.
Audrey Keller- Chair CI Neighborhood Council- Residents object Northshore development plan to dump water into Edison Canal. We have a current water quality state of emergency. Dept of Toxic Substance Control and water quality authorities. Residents have spent $500K + for assessment and cleanup expenses. We want a water quality reserve fund with Northshore paying its share.
Mike DiMartino- Site was approved even with toxic substances with instructions to mitigate it. Implies he got cancer due to site activities. Now they want to dump into the canal?
Pat Brown- Says she was warned that the site was dangerous by someone who claimed to be working there. Also- thanks for $30,000 for Ormond Beach (road repair)
Rocco DelMonte- Agre with some previous speakers. Envirostar website warned about this. NRG plant closure has made things worse. What is the process? Was a scientific analysis done? Doesn’t water board have to approve before more toxins can be dumped? Ag is also a major polluter. Pumping benzene and dioxins into the water is unacceptable.
Debbie Mitchell- So much has changed since the project was approved. Water Quality Control Board was supposed to have done testing. Please halt this until we can check on what agencies should do. Jurisdictions seem complicated.
Carol Taylor- All of the work and costs expended. We have been plagued with unintended consequences. Should be mandatory financial consequences for any water pollution. Please do some analysis.
Connie Hagy- Emphasized Envirostar report, which warned against benzine and Dioxin pollution. We haven’t even addressed existing problems.
(Unknown)- Only recently learned about tyhe pollution problem and approval to discharge into Edison Canal. With the power plant closed, circulation has been significantly reduces. Study best practices for filtration, other mitigation processes to meet water quality standards.
Patricia Ennis- Threatened restraining order if this is not stopped.
Mayor Flynn announced that there will be no action tonight.
City Mgr. Nguyen said this is a notice of approval. Do not appreciate insinuation that we are hiding it. At onetime this wouldn’t even come before the council. This has a 22 day window- the system is working. Developer has its rights as well. There will be a public briefing session with developer and maybe some state agencies present. State has cleared land as being cleaned up. Yes, new concerns now. Developer now has a right to a final map filing if in compliance. Staff said yes. Lambert will make determination on or after September 27. Public may appeal (deadline 9-27-19)to City Council. but only on narrow terms.
Ramirez- Serious issues have been raised by residents and need to be resolved.
Mayor Flynn- Implication was that the City Council can stop this down. No, can only hear notice to file now. This is not a voting item tonight. Suggests a meeting between Lambert and residents “right away.” Nguyen says site is claimed already cleaned up. This was claimed 2006-7. Is property sufficiently mitigated?
Vote- 7-0 approved consent agenda. Will schedule public meeting to hear objections before moving ahead.
Item K-1- Governments’ (SCAG) upcoming Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) housing allocation methodology and implications to the City of Oxnard.
Ramirez made the presentation, since she is the SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments, a de facto regional government) county representative and recommends that people go to their web site and look under SCAG RHNA. Cities have to provide the means to get affordable housing provided, she asserted. City must propose number of housing units city will accommodate through 2029. California sets quotas, how many and what kind. SCAG works on allocating these within SoCal. She says Oxnard has been doing a very good job at this. Will be discussed in committee.
State laws passed are having major impact on what housing can be built and where, with the state forcing affordable housing quotas into nearly every city. The state allocates quotas by region, then leaves the regions to have food fights on where to allocate housing units. Is central planning an effective and constitutional method for managing and prioritizing growth?
1,344,740 units set for the region. SCAG staffers have challenged this. CA Housing and Community development will have to respond. MacDonald thinks this is a rather high number for an already congested area.
Kathleen Mallory of Development said report is due soon and includes some “robust” and “deeply thought out” things, has deep housing, transit, past construction aspects.
City Mgr. Nguyen says timing is inconvenient. SCAG comment period ends Sept 13, then letter must be sent shortly thereafter. Will have staff level discussion on this shortly. Governor is trying to make up decades of not meeting requirements and wants to quadruple last eight year period’s numbers.
Madrigal- More affluent areas, like Orange County, already have theirs. We (Oxnard) will get thrown under the bus with a much larger share than we can handle. The process will never be fair.
Basua- Will cities be penalized for non-performance? Ramirez- yes- fines and restricting building permits.
Perello- What regions? Will we have jobs for these 1.3 million residents? Oxnard not treated fairly in the past. Fight.
Region affected: 192 cities, 6 counties- Ventura LA Orange, Riverside, SD , Imperial.
Flynn- Re: RHNA methodology- any decision? Mallory- no. Comment letter due by Sept. 13. Flynn- how much influence does each member have? Ramirez- 192 rep. positions must vote on it. I vote in subcommittee too. So does Mike Judge of Simi. Last time, OC struggled, got their way. Focus will be on where are the jobs. Flynn- What will be penalties? Mallory- governor will produce legislation on this which will involve withholding tax money/grants. Flynn- define social equity adjustment. Mallory- accountability on if communities have met the needs. Flynn- Oxnard has been a leader but penalized for it.
This was just a discussion, so no vote.
Item L-1- Appeal (3-2 vote approved but some details not to code) for special us planning/zoning for 2001 Statham Blvd.- 17-500-19 41,024 sq ft 2 story medical building with a reduction of required parking spaces, fewer loading zones and increase in permissible height to 40.5 ft. for proposal. Parking was the key issue 205 required, 191 proposed, which include offsite parking at the Moose lodge. Staff concurs, but requires a prior covenant in perpetuity in advance with the Moose Lodge and also another parking study. Moose wouldn’t go for that.
The proposal is by the much beloved Clinica organization, which provides very low cost health care to primarily indigent clientele.
Lambert- applicant believes that their on-site parking would be adequate. He recommends continuing it to a future meeting while parking problem is worked on.
Applicant- Mr. Herrera (Clinicas)- Have 15 health centers and 3 mobile units. Target population is lower income, ag people. It would be a primary care and patient-centered medical home. Located in health professional medically underserved area. He went on promoting Clinica/project merits, but Flynn brought him back on track to address the appeal issues. Then applicant said there would be 45 employees and 35 patients/hour, meaning 80 spaces required, which is significantly less than proposed. (City rule is one space per 200 sq ft.). Signed 5 year agreement with Moose Lodge, which declined to sign a restrictive, recorded covenant.
Pat Brown- Says another nearby Clinicas facility has parking problems, greatly inconveniencing local condo residents. Suggested that Clinicas employees carpool or use public transit.
Lopez- how is parking requirement determined? Lambert- medical facilities often have a higher standard, Oxnard’s not updated code in a long time.
Perello- These are council standards? Yes. How to change? It’s involved. Fellow postal workers love Clinicas. Concern: if I am to give a pass to a firm that gives good deeds vs not for other organizations, that’s not acceptable. Talked about parking problem at Vallarta Market and flawed deal with school district HQ across the street for parking.
MacDonald- Clinicas has successful business model/team. Would they have inadequate parking? (That line of reasoning didn’t work for Amazon “Gaucho” project.”) City parking codes may be too onerous. Maybe we need to look at overall parking codes. A true need for this facility here. Wants to approve it..
Ramirez- Had talked with Herrera, knows clients who go to Clinicas, supports project. Many of her clients have no cars. Wants to accommodate their appeal.
Basua- Met with applicant. Project is in her district. Continue to have staff talk with applicant about parking study. Lambert- 4th parking study shows a shortage. Feels that third party consultant didn’t consider applicants operating plan. Wants to continue this item and look further into parking.
Madrigal- Met with applicant. Clinacas will invest millions into South Oxnard. Residents complain nothing is brought to them, but here is something. Area is underdeveloped. Even City Hall lacks adequate parking. We should change city code.
Flynn- sees strong support for applicant’s proposal. Too many areas have parking problems. Parking area costs money. Want to find away to see the project go forward, but based on science, not preference for applicant.
Nguyen- Their own parking consultant said they need more parking. Staff is trying to make it work. We need to update the code. Wants to continue the item, work with applicant to resolve within code.
Perello- If I was the guy paying the bills, I would get the traffic study I want. Lambert- We will study it..
Motion is to continue pending resolution and work on a parking study. A variance would be more difficult.
Vote 7-0- unanimous
Additional public comments
Jeff Kroll- His Shangri-La clinic open 19 months. Looks like he was way off topic.
City Manager Report
Nguyen acknowledged receiving numerous complaints of refuse and overgrown areas. 5MM sq ft with limited staff/budget to address it. Can’t service these areas as frequently as they would like,
Ongoing frustration with homeless situation- Staff is bombarded with allegations city isn’t doing anything. Did recent enforcement action at Ormond Beach. Police has responded to 90,000 calls for service since January- 29% of arrests tare related to homeless calls. W e have a slew of efforts top address homelessness, shelter, contract with Mercy House, new Housing Director, on streets regularly with service personnel, encampment abatement efforts, ongoing Plaza Park effort, additional HUD housing vouchers, Homeless Commission is helping and have ongoing Ventura City and County partnership,.Spending $4mm annually on homeless problems.
Ormond Beach enforcement actions were Too drastic , Oxnard and Port Hueneme have complained. about the social and environmental impact. Received email/letters from Nature Conservancy, State Coastal Conservancy, US Dept of Interior- Fish & Wildlife.
We’re doing our best, but it will take time. Must address housing. We’re doing our best.
Stressed census- Ventura County is in top 2% of being potentially undercounted. Affects funding (20,000/per resident/decade)and legislative seats apportionment. Will join county wide effort, spearheaded by VCCF. Oxnard asked for $2137,000 contribution. Nguyen recommends $10,000, which county will match. Says Oxnard has largest percentage of “hard to count neighborhoods.
Introduced new Communications Director Katy Casey.
General Council Comments
Lopez- Trying to address your concerns. Attended 2020 census meeting (VCCF). Attended fire dept training event for first responders.
Perello- Thanks to Pat Brown and Mr. Booth for their efforts. Re: Harbor and chemicals- this is an example of what gets neighborhoods together. Laments Conception fire deaths. Re: shootings- public safety officers run to shootings. People should try to learn more about issues before taking stands. Regrets that people who do the physical work may not be getting their due. Lake Casitas water channels need cleaning- this is critical to ensure Ventura/Ojai supply.
MacDonald- Busy last month even with no council meetings. Presented letter of concerns to City Mgr. about weed abatement. Gold Coast transit will have first meeting in new facility Wednesday. Will g=hold off on homeless comments until next meeting.
Ramirez- Thanks for bring concerns to council. Many complaints about trash, dumping, “vagrants.” Seniors in danger of unaffordable housing. No quick, easy homeless solution. Concerned about potential power outage impact, due to wildfire risk. Mexican Independence Day celebration Saturday and Oxnard Beach Park Jazz Festival. Conception tragedy- rescue personnel thanked.
Basua- Agree on weeds (everywhere) and homelessness. Going through difficult times- see a light at the end of the tunnel. Please bear with us.
Madrigal- Highlight was going to Ventura County College District and working on solar array placement. Worried about crazy drivers. Do good deeds on 9/11. Wants 31 (helpline) update.
Flynn- thanks to City Mgr for his report. Reinforced that 29% of arrests are of homeless. Out of sight out of mind, but this isn’t. Same with trash, poor landscape maintenance, has a disproportionate impact on people. Will discuss homeless situation at 9-17-19 meeting, Emphasis was on getting a shelter, but we have 600 homeless people. Supports housing effort for them, but there is a much larger issue on what to do until they get housing. People are impatient, talking more extreme.He claims mismanagement is in the past. Wants to see a timelines for major items, like homelessness and messy city.
The City Manager’s annual review was conducted in closed session.
Several litigation items were discussed in closed session with results not disclosed.
Councilman MacDonald lamented the passing of dozens early on Labor Day in the fire on the dive boat Conception, while anchored off Santa Cruz Island.
The Mayor Presented a Commendation to The Arc of Ventura County on the Occasion of
Their 65th Anniversary. It was founded by teachers and parents for children with intellectual disabilities. About 700 served annually.
George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.