Coastal Commission to consider to Ventura County items at August meetings

Plans to redevelop and revitalize Channel Islands Harbor continues to be a hot button issue. County officials will also present plans to remodel Harbor Department office.

OXNARD—The California Coastal Commission will consider two different projects at Channel Islands Harbor at its August meetings: the revitalization of Fisherman’s Wharf and a plan to remodel the existing Harbor Department office (and boat restroom facility).

Commissioners will be meeting remotely on Aug. 12, 13 and 14. Both items for Channel Islands Harbor are on the Aug. 12 agenda as public hearings.

County Request for Zoning Amendment

Ventura County’s Harbor Department seeks to have a Local Coastal Program amended to “increase allowable density and height throughout the harbor,” according to Coastal Commission staff. The county is also requesting to “modify allowable uses and development standards to accommodate a mixed-use residential development at the Fisherman’s Wharf site.”

Coastal Commission staff has recommended commissioners to reject the proposed Local Coastal Program amendment.

Allowing residential development at Fisherman’s Wharf has been the center of a long-standing debate between Ventura County officials and the city of Oxnard. Ventura County wants residential units to be allowed on the publicly owned Fisherman’s Wharf site; Fisherman’s Wharf is located within Channel Islands Harbor.

Harbor Department staff specifically requests changes be made to the city of Oxnard’s Local Coastal Program, which was already certified by the Coastal Commission.

California’s Coastal Act does authorize such requests to be made, according to Coastal Commission staff.

Such requests may be made, according to Coastal Commission staff, “where such an entity is a ‘person authorized to undertake a public works project” and the purpose of the proposed amendment “is to meet a public need of an area greater than that included within such certified local coastal program.”

“If such an entity requests that the local government amend its LCP but the local government does not do so, the law allows the commission to override this disapproval and to approved the amendment in certain situations,” Coastal Commission staff said in a report to commissioners.

Coastal Commission staff said the override procedure is “an extraordinary measure” and has only been used twice in the quasi-judicial agency’s history.

“It is intended to be used in those rare instances when a local government is standing in the way of the development of a public works project or an energy facility that would meet regional public needs,” Coastal Commission staff said in a report to commissioners.

The Fisherman’s Wharf project, however, does not appear worthy of an override, according to Coastal Commission staff.

“This override procedure recognizes that it is the Coastal Commission’s role to apply. A regional or statewide perspective to land use debates when the use in question is of greater than local significance,” according to Coastal Commission staff. “Staff recommends denial of this proposed LCP amendment on the basis that it does not qualify for processing pursuant to the Coastal Act’s override procedures.”

The county and city share jurisdiction of Channel Islands Harbor.

Harbor Department officials, who represent Ventura County, seek to increase the allowable density for new multi-family housing from 18 to 40 units per acre. The county also seeks to increase the maximum allowable building height at Fisherman’s Wharf from 35 to 55 feet.

Coastal Commission staff said the Fisherman’s Wharf site is dilapidated, but the county failed to provide any evidence to demonstrate the site’s revitalization “will meet the public needs of an area greater than included within the certified LCP.”

“The Harbor Department provided no information, data, or analysis demonstrating that the current status of Fisherman’s Wharf may be negatively affecting the Harbor, and that allowing market rate, residential uses at the site will benefit the Harbor as well as a larger geographic area,” Coastal Commission staff stated in a report to commissioners. “Providing new housing is an important statewide issue, and the vitality of the Harbor is important to people beyond Oxnard’s borders. However, regional public needs would not be met by providing market-rate housing on harborfront land where coastal-related and visitor- serving uses must be prioritized.”

The county’s amendment request also fails to state whether it would prioritize housing needs over fishing or boating uses.

Fisherman’s Wharf is about 11 acres in size and is located at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Channel Islands Harbor Boulevard at Channel Islands Harbor. It was developed in the 1970s “as a waterfront-oriented, visitor-serving commercial and recreational ‘fisherman’s village’ development consisting of nine stand-alone buildings totaling 48,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, an urchin dock and commercial fishing processing facilities, public restrooms and 300 parking spaces.”

The Fisherman’s Wharf site does not have any residential neighborhoods. Coastal Commission staff stated only 40 percent of Fisherman’s Wharf is occupied and Ventura County’s Harbor Department has been seeking to redevelop the site for about 15 years.

Harbor Department Office Remodel

Ventura County’s Harbor Department also hopes to remodel its existing 1,075-square-foot marina office building. The project also calls for the construction of a 1,090-square-foot boater restroom facility and expansion of an existing public promenade (located at the terminus of Peninsula Road).

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