Locals continue to question the status revitalization plans while Ventura County leaders maintain everything is moving along just fine.
Editor’s Note: This article was published ahead of a community forum on the Channel Islands Harbor redevelopment; many of the issues brought up on this article were reportedly discussed at the forum. The Log will provide any updates on this discussion in an upcoming issue. Thank you.
OXNARD—Time flies – unless you’re talking about plans to revitalize Channel Islands Harbor here in Oxnard, in which case the operative phrase is, “patience is a virtue.”
Patience is certainly the repeated mantra of Ventura County Harbor Department’s leadership, while boaters and residents on the other end of the spectrum accusing public officials and developers of unnecessary delays. The antagonistic relationship between interested stakeholders and county leadership came to a tee at the start of April, with an op-ed, published in the Ventura County Star, challenging the pace of the harbor revitalization’s timeline on one side and officials stating the project is progressing on the other side.
Ventura County has been working on redeveloping Channel Islands Harbor since the late 2000s, though the most recent plans have been in effect since early 2016. A new hotel and updated restaurants are among the plans for the new Oxnard waterfront. Both the hotel and restaurant plans were the target of the op-ed, which was written by a member of the Harbor & Beach Community Alliance, or HBCA.
The published op-ed specifically stated the revitalization’s slow timeline raised “suspicions and questions.”
“The hotel is not the only project the county has been remarkably slow in implementing. It [the county] has delayed the leasing and renovation of the dilapidated Whale’s Tail restaurant, empty since December 2015,” Debbie Mitchell, who wrote the Ventura County Star op-ed on behalf of HBCA, said. “It took the county almost two years to select Fresca II in July 2017 to take over the restaurant. Still to date there is no lease agreement and no renovation has started. Meanwhile, the empty building continues to deteriorate.”
She added the hotel and restaurant properties were wasting away, with the county allegedly not doing enough to prevent blight.
“The county is focused on the apartment developer’s projects at the expense of the hotel project and the Whale’s Tail restaurant. It contradicts the county’s claims of concern for harbor revitalization,” Mitchell said in her op-ed. “The delays of these projects raise suspicions and questions regarding the competence of harbor management. No responsible landlord would allow these highly desirable locations to waste away for so many years and create a blight on the harbor.”
Harbor Director Mark Sandoval, meanwhile, said redevelopment projects are time consuming, but reiterated plans to update Channel Islands Harbor are progressing toward the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
“Waterfront development is a slow process but every potential development in CI Harbor is moving forward through the entitlement and/or permitting process,” Sandoval told The Log in an email. “The deal points are all settled between the three groups. The attorneys are all working on the common agreements, which will then be taken to the Board of Supervisors.
“I cannot predict for certain when this will all be done but it should be a matter of months before ground breaking,” Sandoval continued.
Sandoval, in a statement posted on the Channel Islands Harbor blog, said the planned redevelopments of the marina and waterfront hotel were in the final stages of the permitting process.
“The three projects on the Peninsula, the Hyatt House Hotel/Restaurant, the Peninsula Yacht Anchorage Marina and the County protective rock revetment project are all finishing the permitting process,” Sandoval wrote in his blog post, which was published April 3.
“We held a joint meeting with … the project principals … and all of the outstanding issues were settled,” Sandoval continued. “It is now a matter of finalizing all of the legal documents, such as lease amendments, common area and construction agreements, and taking them to the Board of Supervisors for approval. I am planning that this will happen in May and we will be breaking ground in June.”
HBCA’s members, however, maintain the county is up to no good. Mitchell specifically accused Ventura County staff and leadership of having ulterior motives with the planned redevelopment of Channel Islands Harbor.
“The community believes the county has a hidden motive for holding up the hotel project. It is apparent the county is more concerned about the apartment developer’s ‘undetermined project’ on Peninsula Road than the public-supported and Coastal Commission-approved hotel, restaurant and marina,” Mitchell wrote in the her official HBCA op-ed.
Mitchell’s op-ed did not elaborate on the “undetermined project.”
Visit www.hbca.info for more information about the Harbor and Beach Community Alliance.