Ventura County, Coastal Commission to address dispute over harbor redevelopment
Harbor Department and state agency disagree over interpretation of zoning laws.
Editor’s Note: The California Coastal Commission announced the public hearing and dispute resolution will be postponed, meaning this item will not be heard Sept. 14, as originally planned. The Log will report on the dispute resolution when it is officially heard.
CAMBRIA — Channel Island Harbor’s Fisherman’s Wharf project will be on the California Coastal Commission agenda, Sept. 14, with the stage agency expected to deliberate a dispute resolution with Ventura County’s Harbor Department.
The dispute involves filing requirements for the county’s Channel Islands Harbor Public Works Plan and use of the “Urban Village” designation for certain parcels.
Ventura County’s Harbor Department seeks to amend its certified Public Works Plan for the impending Channel Islands Harbor redevelopment. The commission’s executive director determined the Public Works Plan application amendment to be incomplete. Harbor Department officials, however, contend Coastal Commission staff does not have the authority to determine a Public Works Plan amendment application to be deemed as incomplete.
“The Harbor Department asserts that [Local Coastal Program] consistency is a determination that may be made only by the commission itself once the [Public Works Plan] amendment has been filed and brought to hearing,” Coastal Commission staff stated about the Harbor Department’s position.
Coastal Commission staff added the Harbor Department’s interpretation of the state agency’s procedures in this process overlooks specific filing requirements. The department, Coastal Commission staff added, also “failed to provide an adequate analysis” of project alternatives.
Fisherman’s Wharf and portions of Channel Islands Harbor have been the focus of a redevelopment plan for more than a decade now. Both Oxnard and Ventura County share jurisdiction of Channel Islands Harbor, according to Coastal Commission staff.
Ventura County and the city of Oxnard began planning for redevelopment in 2008 but that year’s financial crisis caused such plans to come to a halt.
City and county officials reignited plans a few years later, looking to upgrade a dilapidated hotel and bring new visitor-serving amenities to the waterfront. Plans also call for new waterfront residences.
The residences appear to be part of the dispute between Ventura County’s Harbor Department and the Coastal Commission.
The Harbor Department’s Public Works Plan proposes to redevelop a portion of the Channel Islands Harbor Waterfront with 400 apartment units, commercial development, 16 boat slips and a public park as part of an Urban Village.
However the Public Works Plan appears to be inconsistent with Oxnard’s Local Coastal Program, according to a report prepared for commissioners.
The area where the Urban Village is proposed happens to be zoned to “provide, protect and encourage commercial fishing, sport fishing, recreational boating, and related uses at the Channel Islands Harbor.
“Principally permitted uses in this designation include commercial sport fishing and recreational boating uses, while secondary permitted uses in this designation include visitor serving uses, commercial fishing support uses, and other harbor related uses,” Coastal Commission staff stated in its report to commissioners. “Residential dwellings or mixed use developments, including residential and other uses, are not a permitted use within the [prescribed land] designation.”
Harbor Department staff sought a dispute resolution with the Coastal Commission earlier this year, contending only the commission has the authority to determine whether its Public Works Plan amendment application is consistent with Oxnard’s Local Coastal Program.
“The Harbor Department asserts that there are ‘compelling and reasonable’ arguments as to why the Commission could find its PWP amendment to be in conformity with … [Oxnard’s Local Coastal Program]. However, the Harbor Department does not describe any such arguments, either in the dispute resolution letter or in any of the other five letters it sent to commission staff regarding the incomplete determination,” Coastal Commission staff stated in its report to commissioners.
Coastal Commission staff added the agency’s executive director deemed Ventura County’s Public Works Plan amendment application to be incomplete until Oxnard “at least preliminarily approves the zoning and other changes in its [Local Coastal Program] that correspond to the proposed zoning and mix of uses in the proposed [Public Works Plan] amendment.”
Commissioners are expected to discuss the matter during a public hearing at its September meetings in Cambria, a seaside village in San Luis Obispo County. The public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 14, or day two of the commission’s two-day September meetings, at Cambria Pine Lodge (2905 Burton Drive, Cambria, California 93428).
Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard and Ventura Harbor a few miles to the north are separately managed; Ventura County Harbor Department oversees the Oxnard venue while Ventura Port District manages the county’s northern harbor.
Parimal M. Rohit photo