Ventura County Board of Supervisors to hold a hearing on June 7.
OXNARD — Rooftop destinations and increased housing projects are not recipes for a vibrant waterfront, according to a recent online petition started by Ventura County residents against proposed plans to build apartments at Channel Islands Harbor’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
The petition, posted on thepetitionsite.com by Mike Mercadante, was started in advance of an upcoming Ventura County Board of Supervisors public hearing and seeks 1,000 supporters to stop the Fisherman’s Wharf proposal.
Mercadante described the proposed mixed-use development as a “high-density apartment project” bringing up to 600 new vehicles to the Channel Islands Harbor area.
“The stated rationale from our leaders is that more ‘rooftops’ will surely bring economic vitality to the harbor,” the petition states. “History tells us that 20 years ago, the harbor neighborhood had far fewer ‘rooftops’ and yet the harbor was much more vibrant.”
Ventura County staff, however, stated the exact size and density of the proposed project is not yet final and could still be made larger or smaller based upon input from the California Coastal Commission, local agencies and stakeholders.
“The final project is expected to include shops, restaurants, possible office space, and apartment units,” county staff stated in a November 2015 report to the Board of Supervisors. “The public will have opportunities to provide additional input on the proposal at all stages of review.”
Supervisors plan to hold a public hearing on June 7 to review environmental reports and seek input from civic leaders and local stakeholders as the county continues to shape plans for a proposed waterfront residential project at Fisherman’s Wharf in Oxnard.
Public feedback, overall, has been mixed. The online petition had comments favoring and opposing proposed upgrades at Channel Islands Harbor. However in November 2015 the Board of Supervisors received dozens of letters opposing the proposed redevelopment and a handful of written comments in support of plans. Updated plans at a January 16 community meeting were well received, according to news reports.
Ventura County’s Plan
In November 2015 the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved a three-year option agreement with Channel Islands Harbor Properties to redevelop Fisherman’s Wharf. The approved agreement outlined six requirements the developer needed to fulfill to enter into a long-term lease with the county. County staff stated the developer must prepare a design concept, coordinate public input and develop an outreach plan, fund environmental reviews, obtain permits, complete construction drawings, and secure financing.
The county hopes a revitalized Fisherman’s Wharf would make the Channel Islands Harbor area “more attractive and vibrant.”
Proposed are new restaurants and retail, an apartment complex, refurbished lighthouse on Channel Islands Boulevard, public promenade and a “pocket park at the south end of the project, if at all possible.”
In all the proposed redevelopment could bring at least 25,000 square feet of new commercial and retail space and 375 apartment units.
The proposed redevelopment, if ultimately approved, would be executed by Channel Islands Harbor Properties LLC, which, according to county staff, is controlled by Tom Tellefsen,
Peter Mullin and Geoffrey Palmer. County staff described Tellefsen, Mullin and Palmer as “experienced real estate investors.”
Channel Islands Harbor Properties has a 65-year ground lease to operate a renovated Fisherman’s Wharf. The ground lease, however, is contingent upon the developer obtaining permits, funding and other approvals within a five-year window.
Supporters of the petition say, since the property in question is owned by the county, any redevelopment of Fisherman’s Wharf should enhance public use of the waterfront instead of catering to private or corporate interests.
“Before we burden our community with another large-scale planning error we need to stop and change directions,” Mercadante’s petition stated. “The future of these unique properties has to be guided by their real owners: the citizens of Ventura County.”
The petition had 361 supporters as of April 26.
A few of the petition signers said some revitalization would be welcomed. Others said more residences means more traffic. Many stated a property supported by taxpayer dollars should not be used for private development.
“Some shops and community center would be better,” an anonymous signer stated on April 25.
Two other signatories of the petition said the redevelopment as proposed could benefit the local community.
Plans should include “more shops and restaurants, like Ventura Harbor,” Mike Losey, a realtor and Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club member, said.
“This should be a destination to draw people to our harbor and surrounding area, which will bring Tax dollars to our city coffers,” he continued.
Scott Bernstein, who belongs to a homeowners association near Channel Islands Harbor, said whatever the county builds at Fisherman’s Wharf should be a destination and major attraction.
“The focus should be high end shopping and restaurants and things that will attract people to the Harbor,” he wrote.
A Silver Strand Beach resident said Fisherman’s Wharf should be revitalized to benefit all Ventura County residents.
“I have lived on Silver Strand Beach since 1980 and it is very important that Fisherman’s Wharf be revitalized for all Ventura County residents to enjoy. More apartments are the wrong path,” Jim Ventress said.
One signer said the Fisherman’s Wharf area should be used as a children’s museum, concert venue, public park, senior center or skate park.
At least two other residents of Silver Strand Beach said traffic in the area is already tough.
“The city and county see this as a gold mine of tax revenue all while and throwing the local community under the bus,” Deborah Fair wrote. “I live in Silver Strand and the traffic is already dense. Adding several thousand cars a day to the intersection at [Channel Island Boulevard] and Victoria is both unfair and dangerous. In the case of emergency we would be trapped here and critical wait times for services heavily impacted.”