It is the middle of the summer and the Harbor and beaches are hopping. While the changes brought on by COVID-19 are evident, such as masks everywhere you look and outdoor dining and exercising, the number of visitors to the Harbor seem to exceed a “normal” year. As I did last month, I urge caution – wear a mask when required and appropriate, and adhere to social distancing practices – this virus does not seem to be going anywhere in the near future, and we do not want to go backwards.
Business in the Harbor is alive and kicking. It is apparent that outdoor areas, such as our Harbor and beaches, are a preferred destination for residents and visitors. Most of the Harbor businesses are open after adopting approved protocols. Most businesses experienced a significant financial hit in the spring, so it is important that you patronize these businesses now that they are open.
The most exciting news of the month, and arguably since I arrived two years ago, is that we are embarking on a new and improved Harbor visioning process. The most telling enlightenment I have had since I arrived is that development in this Harbor is extremely difficult without a plan that is well vetted by the two oversight government agencies, Ventura County and the City of Oxnard, and supported by Harbor businesses and most residents in the Harbor.
I have been involved in harbor development for over two decades, and can tell you it is never easy. However, it is much easier when a project moves forward through the approval process with all parties agreeing on that project. There are two regulatory documents which are used for development in the Harbor, the County’s Public Works Plan and the City’s Local Coastal Plan. They were both approved by the State in 1986. As a rhetorical question – how many ways has the world changed since 1986? It is obviously the time to re-think the Harbor.
There is no doubt that the best way to look at the Harbor is in its entirety. That said, there is a compelling argument that a “vision” or a plan is only valid immediately after it is completed, and then the world keeps changing. For perspective, there are 26 lease parcels in the Harbor, including land and water. Of those, 6 are not under a lease (although two of those are under options to lease), and another 3 are under year-to-year leases. The remaining 17 are under leases, with termination dates ranging from 2024 (two marinas) to 2099.
We have created a Visioning Steering Committee comprised of County representatives, a City representative, business representatives, resident representatives, and a representative from the Harbor and Beach Community Alliance. While I believe that we should concentrate on those parcels which are not under lease or are under a short-term lease, this Committee will help shape the visioning process. In addition, we have hired a planning/economic team led by Sargent Town Planning, which will facilitate the process and contribute professional planning and economic reality into the process.
I believe this will be the most important undertaking for development in the Harbor over the past number of decades, and will shape development in the Harbor for the next few decades. If we do this right, we will take the vision/plan, and we can start issuing requests for proposals for development of the various parcels. Again, if we do this right, there should be no shortage of developers who want to invest in the Harbor, and the development will move relatively quickly through the approval process as we should have little or no opposition.
This is an exciting endeavor, and one which should pay huge dividends for the future of our Channel Islands Harbor.
As always, live every day to the fullest.
Mark Sandoval, Harbor Director
Ventura County Harbor Department
Editor’s Note: this message was posted on August 5, 2020.