So, it has been about six weeks now since I settled into the saddle, and it has been very eventful. I have been fortunate to meet many passionate residents and stakeholders in and around the Harbor. I continue to stress that we in the Harbor Department recognize the issues and challenges around the Harbor, and I can assure you that we are pushing forward on all facets of improvement.
As an example, we have taken over maintenance of parks, parking lots and public restrooms around the Harbor. For the past 50-plus years, this has been the responsibility of the City of Oxnard, and we are now assuming these duties as the City has struggled to devote the resources needed to handle these areas. We are also evaluating the possibility of cleaning and weeding the street medians. In addition, we are meeting with the City regularly to assist where we can in addressing the water quality issue in the City’s portion of the Harbor north of the Channel Islands Boulevard Bridge.
Present Meets Past
One of the highlights of these past weeks was a meeting with Tom Volk, the County’s first Harbor Director. I had read the book Shifting Sands: The Early Years of Channel Islands Harbor, which details the development of the Harbor and the role played by “Touchdown Tom” as he was called in some circles, so I was excited to meet with Tom. What struck me in the book was that many of the same issues faced by the Harbor Department 50 years ago are the same issues prevalent today. Tom was the father of the “Pay-As-You-Go” philosophy of development, wherein the County sought out private developers to develop around the Harbor, gave them leases, and supported the Harbor enterprise operations by charging fees to the lessees throughout the term of the leases. That is how the Harbor is managed today. Decades ago there was criticism about the lease fees, as there is today.
One difference between the Harbor generations is that he had an easier time developing projects around the Harbor because development was not met with the same level of criticism and opposition that it is today. I asked Tom if he believed he could develop the Harbor today with the same developments that were built back then, and he said he did not believe it could happen. It was a great opportunity to meet the man who did so much for the Harbor and County Airports, and who had so many great stories.
As part of my monthly message, I had promised to give updates on projects as appropriate.
We have reached agreement with the operator on lease terms and will execute the lease once they provide the final facility rehabilitation and financial information. We are getting very close to seeing real activity at the site.
Hyatt House Hotel
The development team is in the process of pulling construction permits to begin the project. The biggest issue at this point is a street vacation permit needed from the City of Oxnard. Their engineer is being told it will take 4-6 months to get that permit, provided there is no issue. We wanted demolition to begin before the end of the year, but the developer does not want to start the project until this permit is obtained, in case there is an issue requiring a re-design.
Meet the Director
Finally, one of the assurances I made coming into this position is that I will be open and available. To that end, my schedule has been full with groups and individuals wanting to meet with me on any topic of their choice. I continue to make an assurance that I am available to meet with anyone who wants to meet. I am not a big “let’s go to lunch” guy but more of a “how about a coffee chat” guy. We can also meet at my office or another location of your choice. I do welcome and appreciate input, and while I do not promise to agree with all positions, I at least want you to know that I am willing to listen. To set up an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact me via email at Mark.Sandoval@ventura.org.
As always, live every day to the fullest.