Oxnard projects In Channel Islands Harbor finally move forward- County projects remain secretive

By David Finn – First of a series of CitizensJournal.us articles

Four planned development projects in the Channel Islands Harbor area under City of Oxnard jurisdiction are steadily moving forward.  Meanwhile, four planned development projects under County of Ventura control remain largely a secret, more than six months after developers locked up the respective sites and many years after the sites began deteriorating and were largely abandoned. A new proposed harbor management agreement will be discussed and voted on at the Tuesday, March 17 City Council meeting.

Casa Sirena site pic 1

Casa Sirena Hotel complex on Peninsula Rd is one of several Abandoned facilities at Channel Is. Harbor, Oxnard. (Photo: David Finn)

The first of four large planned projects moving forward in the Channel Islands Harbor area north of Channel Islands Blvd. under City of Oxnard control is the new Westerlies residential development, located at the northeast corner of Victoria Avenue and Hemlock Street.  TRI Pointe Homes, a large publicly traded home builder based in Irvine, recently started demolition work on the old Channel Islands Shopping Center.  The developer is building 116 new townhomes on the 6.56 acre site and is planning for models to be ready by Q3 this year.

 Westerlies

Note the chart under the map, including a detailed list of all eight development projects, an area aerial photo and selected project site pictures.

 ChannelIslandsHarborProjectMap3

 ChannelIsDevPojects3-12-15Larger image window:  Channel Islands Harbor area development projects 3-12-15

 Harbor Project ERN’s (Exclusive Right to Negotiate agreements)

 

Many people from local neighborhoods and throughout Oxnard and Ventura County have fond memories of how commercially successful Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard used to be, many years ago.  And no one was more responsible for creating and sustaining the optimism and positive vibe felt throughout the harbor in the 80’s and early 90’s than Martin V. ‘Bud’ Smith.  The legendary real estate visionary lived in the harbor area and often entertained visitors on his 86 foot yacht, the Dry Martini, which was docked nearby.  He and his company were responsible for developing many successful Channel Islands Harbor area projects, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Casa Sirena Marina Resort, Lobster Trap restaurant, and the Villa Sirena Apartments, now known as Paz Mar Apartments.  Mr. Smith sold the bulk of his properties in 1995 and passed away in 2001.

New commercial real estate projects with residential and commercial uses are moving forward throughout Oxnard and Ventura County, thanks to the improved economy and the funding now readily available in capital markets.  Many development projects located in Southern California harbors are also now quickly moving ahead, including the Sondermann Ring Partners development slated for Ventura Harbor Village.  This long planned project, located on 21 acres at the northwest corner of Anchors Way and Navigator Drive features 300 new residential units, 21,000 square feet of commercial retail/office space, a waterfront promenade and a 2.44 acre park.  The $100M project received California Coastal Commission approval in 2012 and is anticipating final approval soon from the City of Ventura’s Design Review Committee.  The Marina Del Rey-based developer expects to break ground in Q3 2015.

How about the Channel Islands Harbor area in Oxnard?

Where are the planned development projects? 

Who is in charge and are they accountable? 

What are the facts?

 

Fact #1– The old 1963 agreement between the County of Ventura and the City of Oxnard providing for the County to control 100% ownership and development authority of Channel Islands Harbor has been amended several times and is currently set to expire March 18, 2015.

Oxnard’s City Council is scheduled to discuss issues related to replacing Channel Islands Harbor’s fifty+ year old agreement again on March 17th and subsequently by the County Board of Supervisors.  The City and County meetings will be open for public discussion and debate.  One question for Oxnard: is Channel Islands Harbor profitable or is it losing money for the City?  Simply put, how do the City’s share of revenues compare to expenses related to services provided?  Recent ideas for bold changes have included members of the Oxnard business community recommending the City consider eminent domain action and City officials encouraging the County to consider following a more open development review and governance model.  In comparison, Ventura Harbor has much greater financial transparency than Channel Islands Harbor, its projects are reviewed by the City of Ventura’s planning staff, Planning Commission, City Council, and Design Review Committee.  ERN or Exclusive Right to Negotiate developer agreements are generally not used by the City of Ventura, mainly because ERN developer agreements don’t provide transparency.

And what about Channel Islands Harbor, do they use ERN’s (Exclusive Rights to Negotiate)?  The County Board of Supervisors and County Harbor Department unfortunately use ERN developer agreements in the 316 acre Channel Islands Harbor, located south of Channel Islands Blvd. The harbor area south of Channel Islands Blvd. has long been starved for new commercial projects.  For nearly fifteen years, the County has struggled to find a solution to successfully redevelop Fisherman’s Wharf, located at the southwest corner of Victoria Avenue and Channel Islands Blvd. and Channel Islands Harbor’s highest visibility commercial property.  Designed with a New England look, the five acre complex of eateries, retail shops, and offices is largely empty and long in need of proper maintenance and a new coat of paint, and has been in decline for nearly twenty years.  For ten years the County has tried to successfully redevelop the 265 room Casa Sirena Hotel and the Lobster Trap restaurant site.  At its peak, Lobster Trap grossed more than $6 million annually.  Five years ago these two once thriving properties went dark and now unfortunately look like abandoned eyesores. These three high visibility County-owned sites stand in stark contrast to Topper’s Pizza and Hampton Inn, located nearby on Peninsula Road.  Both businesses are affordable to consumers and both are very popular with locals and visitors.

Fact #2– Comparing Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard to its two closest neighboring harbors, Ventura Harbor and Santa Barbara Harbor, reveals important differences in financial transparency and governance.

Both the other harbors are governed successfully by local harbor authorities, with dedicated volunteer commissioners appointed to four year terms by the respective city councils. 

The websites of Ventura Harbor- http://venturaharbor.com and the Santa Barbara Waterfront-  http://www.santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/waterfront/ provide transparency and

convenient online access to financial reports and other key information.  Unfortunately this isn’t the case with www.channelislandsharbor.org 

Fact #3 The Channel Islands Harbor area south of Channel Islands Blvd., controlled by the County of Ventura has been in decline for a long time.

While 100% ownership and development authority of Channel Islands Harbor lies with the County of Ventura, Oxnard’s harbor has underperformed for perhaps twenty years or more.  As a result, the effectiveness of the County Board of Supervisors’ governance and the County Harbor Department’s management of the harbor’s commercial development opportunities can be questioned and both should be held accountable by taxpayers in Oxnard and Ventura County.  Unfortunately, millions of dollars of sales tax revenue in the harbor over the years has already been lost.  Millions more will probably be lost in the future unless significant changes are made by the County Board of Supervisors to fix the long broken Channel Islands Harbor development project system of marketing, review and approval. 

Oxnard’s harbor is a jewel.  Upwards of ten thousand residents live in several Oxnard neighborhoods surrounding Channel Islands Harbor, including Silver Strand, Hollywood Beach, Hollywood By The Sea, Oxnard Shores, Oxnard Dunes, and Channel Islands (including Mandalay Bay, Seabridge, and Westport).  Residential and commercial properties in the harbor area north and south of Channel Islands Harbor Blvd. have a total value in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

What should be done to help make Channel Islands Harbor more successful for the County and the City?

At Fisherman’s Wharf and the former Casa Sirena hotel and Lobster Trap restaurant sites, replacing departed businesses with similar types of uses at affordable rates may be the simplest path to winning community support while growing more local jobs and building a more solid tax base.  For the vacant site on Harbor Blvd. across from Harbor Walk condominiums that the County refers to as ‘X-3’, perhaps the developer would be well advised to align the development project on the 3.03 acre site with the Harbor Blvd. commercial promenade vision as described in the County’s Public Area Plan & Design Guidelines.  The report was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2008 and is currently posted on the Harbor Department’s website noted above.

Unfortunately neither the two current developers of the four mentioned sites controlled by the County of Ventura, Channel Islands Harbor Properties LLC and Brighton Management LLC, nor top County officials District 5 Supervisor John Zaragoza and Harbor Department Director Lyn Krieger have fully delivered on promises stated publicly more than six months ago, before and after developers locked up the respective sites, concerning sharing project details with the public.  In August 2014, the public was informed that during the ERN period, the developers would hold several public meetings to discuss their development concepts with the community and receive feedback.  Unfortunately, to date,no public meetings have been held and no details of any of the four pending commercial development projects have been shared yet with the public.  Why?

The County this year should allow the long-broken Channel Islands Harbor development project system of marketing, review and approval to finally change and be fixed. Oxnard’s diverse and growing community and taxpayers throughout the County probably would like to see a more transparent and open process, that would likely result in more affordable and sustainable projects at the harbor, like Topper’s Pizza and Hampton Inn.  Then more sales for harbor businesses and more local jobs would likely happen.

 

3-9-15 Fisherman's Wharf pic 1.JPG

Old Fisherman’s Wharf development., Victoria & Channel Islands Habor Blvd., Oxnard. (Photo: David Finn)

 

FishermansWharf2

ChannelIslandHarborParcelMap

Before

ChannelIslandsHarboroldphoto

An interesting book, Published by John Flynn, former County Supervisor

 
Here’s the County Harbor Dept website-
http://www.channelislandsharbor.org,
 
You can compare it to the websites for Ventura and Santa Barbara Harbor and see how different they are, especially re: financial reporting and transparency.
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Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn talks about Channel Islands Harbor management agreement renewal

Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn talks about Channel Islands Harbor management agreement renewal

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David Finn is an Oxnard resident with a strong background in commercial real estate development and hi-tech sales

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4 Responses to Oxnard projects In Channel Islands Harbor finally move forward- County projects remain secretive

  1. S. P. June 21, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    The city of Oxnard should be ashamed of the condition of its waterfront properties, including Paz Mar Reserve, where I currently reside. The place is in dire need of restoration and property management thinks band-aids are the answer. Come on’. These were developed in 1969 and have not seen improvement whatsoever. I have a list a mile long.

    With Ventura flourishing as or neighbor, I can’t help but wonder if Oxnard politicians are just not interested in growth or if they are corrupt. Where is the taxpayer money going?

    I would like to say I live in Channel Islands Harbor with pride but probably won’t see it in my lifetime.

    Reply
  2. Debbie November 6, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Uh oh – my comment above needs date correction – Nov 10th!

    Reply
  3. Debbie November 6, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    The following is so well stated I am simply sharing it as iit was shared on Nextdoor:

    Tuesday Nov 9 time certain at 10:30 a.m. item #30 on the agenda for the Board of Supervisors is the LONG-AWAITED proposal from Channel islands Harbor Properties for Fisherman’s Wharf.

    There are so many issues with this that I have list ONLY MY TOP ISSUES. If you have followed this or not, if you have any interest in a piece of property that used to be a hang out for county residents and their guests, tourists, military and people wanting access to the water, you owe it to yourself to read this and see what you think.

    Show up on Tuesday and let your voice be heard or write [email protected] and reference the item number. Feel free to use any of these points or any off your own in what you say or write. One hour has been allocated for this topic.

    MY POINTS.
    1- The Exclusive right to Negotiate, which expired April 30th, 2015, (nearly 6 months ago) specified 300 apts. and 50,000 sq feet of commercial space. The commercial is cut to 25,000 sq ft, which is nothing and turns this destination location into nothing but a housing tract and not even with houses or condos. It downscales an upscale waterside location and does nothing at all for making the harbor a world class destination like what they are doing with the hotel in Peninsula Rd.

    2- The ERN further specified that it was required at the same time to provide a plan for parcel X-3 on the west side of the harbor. This is nowhere to be found in the proposal.

    3- Lease Option- it is outrageous that a long term lease approval is requested at the same time as a lease option ESPECIALLY SINCE THERE IS NOT ONE SINGLE RENDERING INCLUDED WITH THESE DOCUMENTS. With a proposal that is 6 months overdue where is even a hint of what the developer plans his development to look like. Option and long term leases should not be approved at the same time.

    5- The option period is as long as 5 years. The rental during that period is a pittance. That means that a property that has brought in near zero revenue for almost 15 years will still bring in nothing. A post office and market were demolished din preparation for this robbing the neighborhood of needed services. And to what end? They could still be standing and serving the neighbors.

    6- Two public works plan amendments are required, not one. The 3 acres of boat launch property is presently zoned only for that and cannot be appended to the FW property without an amendment. An amendment is also needed for FW itself because it is zoned for mixed use and not residential.

    This is not so easy as it sounds as the Coastal Commission does not like housing on the water when that waterside is zoned for visitor serving. It is the county’s job to get those amendments, not the developers.

    7- The provisions for revenue once the apartments are built and rented gives a big break on the rental? Why? The developer is paying nothing practically during the option period and does not need this kind of rental break.

    8- Why is there not a single picture of what the developer plans to do? How can any BOS in its right mind approve of the concept of a lease without seeing what they are approving?

    Reply
  4. The Little Coach March 16, 2015 at 10:38 am

    The best thing to be done to benefit the harbor would be for the County to fire its grotesquely overpaid Oxnard Harbor department head.

    Reply

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