November 2019 Director’s Message: Development Updates

The mornings are colder and the winds are here – we are definitely in Fall and heading fast into winter.  In our area of the State that normally means fire season.  While there have been a number of fires, our fire personnel have worked very hard to keep an upper hand – thanks to all.  I hope you have not been affected by the fires, and if you have, know that there are many people keeping you in our prayers.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and this is the time of year to reflect on everything we have to be thankful for.  We live at what will be the best harbor in the best region of the best State in the best country in the world.  While the differences we have in this country have never been more pronounced, and the in-fighting is as bad as it has ever been, we need to take a step back and be very thankful for what we have.  If we keep that in mind, I believe life will be gentler.

Planning and Development in the Harbor

My message and e-newsletter is later than usual because I wanted to report on a number of meetings which occurred recently.  First, I want to talk about visioning.  For those of you that do not know what visioning is, it is part of the project planning process for the Harbor that includes obtaining public input regarding a parcel or area of the Harbor which is to be developed.  This is a new part of the Harbor planning and development process, and was recommended by and is supported by those Harbor enthusiasts who follow Harbor development.  The theory is to develop a vision for the parcels for which development is contemplated, and then share that vision with prospective developers to use as projects are designed.

We have held a number of public “visioning” meetings and I must admit that the results have been a little disappointing.  Our first meeting involved a stretch along Victoria Avenue and the second meeting involved all of the developable parcels in the Harbor, including Victoria Avenue, a parcel on Harbor Boulevard known as X-3 and a small parcel behind the Paz Mar Apartments at the end of Peninsula Road.  While we have received a few innovative ideas, the second visioning meeting felt more like a complaint session regarding the history of the Harbor and the Fisherman’s Wharf development.  I will be giving some thought to the next step in the process, and still hold a belief that it is the correct approach.

The other news this month relates to Fisherman’s Wharf.  On November 7, the Oxnard City Council denied an amendment to their Coastal Plan which would allow the Fisherman’s Wharf proposed development to proceed to the Coastal Commission for review.  This denial means that the next step will likely be an appeal (known as an override) to the Coastal Commission, meaning the fight will continue.

I am disappointed in this outcome because I truly believe that this project is needed for a number of reasons.  The Fisherman’s Wharf retail village must be re-developed, and I do not believe there is a developer who will develop that site without a financial anchor for the development, such as apartments.  In addition, housing is desperately needed in the City and County, and I see no reason why it should not be at the Harbor, as long as it is not too large for the Harbor and will enable the development of the visitor-serving retail and attractions we desperately need.  Finally, that development will provide much-needed revenue to the City and Harbor Department, revenue which will save programs for the City, and revenue which will provide funds for repairing the public areas around the Harbor.

I firmly believe that the County and City truly want to work together to better the Harbor, and will continue to push in that direction.  I also recognize, and you should as well, that development which meets the objectives of attracting quality developers, generating new revenue for the City and Harbor Department, meeting the mandates of the State Coastal Commission and being acceptable to the residents around the Harbor is no small task.

Finally, on a different note, an individual came to the Electric Vehicle Charging Station opening in the Harbor and was loudly criticizing the County and Harbor Department, and another individual at the City Council hearing stated that we should “fix his park.”  I was not able to speak with either of these individuals to determine the issues, but wanted to reiterate that I am open to meet with anyone who has a complaint or concern about the Harbor.  Call me anytime and I will buy you a cup of coffee and hear your concerns, and hopefully be able to address them.

As always, live every day to the fullest.

Mark Sandoval, Director
Ventura County Harbor Department


Editor’s Note: this message was originally published on Nov. 12, 2019.