Director’s Message: Visioning, Planning & Development Updates

Summer finally broke through, and I see the sun most mornings – it sure is nice.  As I write this, across the channel is the San Salvador, a full-size replica of explorer Juan Cabrillo’s flagship galleon.  This tallship was brought to the Harbor by the Maritime Museum, and she will be docked beside the Museum until September 4 and open for public tours.  Our Maritime Museum does a wonderful job of bringing historical/cultural craft and interesting events to the Harbor, and we are lucky to have the Maritime Museum as part of the Harbor.

The big news this month was the Oxnard Planning Commission hearing for the Fisherman’s Wharf proposed project.  The Commission effectively denied the project, moving it forward to the Oxnard City Council.  The denial was not because of the residential or the height of the project, but because City staff believes there are inconsistencies with some of the Oxnard planning policies, specifically related to parking, access, fishing docks, park space and bike paths.  The City does not appear to have a problem with residential at that site, or the 55-foot height limit, at least according to the Planning Director in a recent VC Star article.

At the Planning Commission hearing, I mentioned privileged residents who are fortunate to live around the Harbor and beach, and recognized that the opposition to the project came mainly from those ranks.  I myself am one of the privileged, in that I am fortunate to live at the waterfront.  In my mind, the need to develop Fisherman’s Wharf is more for those residents who cannot live by the waterfront, and can only experience this wonderful part of the City by visiting the Harbor and beaches.  Those residents deserve facilities they can enjoy and afford.  It is up to the government agencies to allow the development for those residents, those who seek nothing more than a fun, enlivened, affordable destination for their family wanting to get out of the summer heat of their houses and apartments and enjoy, for a short time, the life we privileged few enjoy day in and day out.

Harbor Department at the Farmer’s Market

My staff and I have continued to attend the Harbor Farmer’s Market, and I have found it to be an enjoyable way to spend Sunday afternoon and converse with residents and visitors.  As we turn the corner into Fall, I cannot commit that my staff or I will be there every Sunday for four hours, but do plan to attend somewhat regularly because I believe it is important to ensure that the Harbor Department is out conversing with our visitors and residents who make the Harbor successful.

Planning and Development in the Harbor

Some exciting news this month is that we held a number of “visioning” sessions to talk about development ideas along Victoria Avenue.  In my relatively short time here, I have heard resident criticism that the Harbor Department never sought input from the public regarding possible development in the Harbor.  While there were always opportunities for public input, the complaints were that it did not occur at the outset of the planning process.  As a result, we adopted a new process which includes up-front public visioning.

This past month, we held a series of meetings regarding development along Victoria Avenue.  We did not include Fisherman’s Wharf in the visioning because there is a proposed project moving through the entitlement process for that parcel.  In addition, during the meetings we recognized that the Channel Islands Landing Boat Yard and Marina is one parcel along Victoria Avenue which has a long-term lease and is a top-quality operation which is very valuable to the Harbor.  The process did include a number of parcels which have short-term leases.

During this visioning process, we discussed a number of ideas including a fresh fish market/restaurant with open-air dining, a retro-trailer bed and breakfast park, possible expansion of the island shuttle operation in the Harbor, an RV park, dry-stack storage for stored vessels, a water-oriented recreational area, and the need for more activities for families.  I really appreciate the participation by the master lessees, the business community and the public during these meetings.  We are assisted by a planning professional, and this is the beginning of the process.  We will keep communicating ideas and gathering input, and I envision that this will ultimately result in a plan for Victoria Avenue which is universally supported, and hopefully attractive to potential developers.

As always, live every day to the fullest.

Mark Sandoval, Harbor Director
Ventura County Harbor Department

Editor’s Note: this message was published on Aug. 30, 2019.