I have always been a live and let live kind of person. I don't like conflicts. I prefer harmony over anarchy. Unfortunately controversy crosses my path more often than I like. Occupational hazard, I guess.
I have no idea what triggered a recent dispute between the County of Ventura and the City of Oxnard regarding Channel Islands Harbor. However, it's apparent that a lot of beneficial economic development projects are caught in the crossfire.
When I have friends or family from out of town visit me, my favorite thing to do is take them on an electric boat tour of Channel Islands Harbor. For too many years my guests have asked why there is a large shuttered hotel in such a beautiful location. I used to answer, "It's the economy." But that doesn't hold water any more. Now that we are on the verge of the groundbreaking for a new visitor-serving hotel, a tiff between the city and the county looks like it could derail the revitalization of the peninsula in the harbor.
Fisherman's Wharf is certainly another example of the dispute between the two local governments. Here you have a site that was designated on the city's 2030 General Plan as an "Urban Village," which means residential use plus local services for the residents. When that plan was presented, the county embraced it, but the city has done everything possible to derail the project.
The squabble seems to stem from who gets to approve which projects. Historically, the County has granted approvals based on its approved public works plan. Oxnard doesn't seem to like that process any longer and wants to give projects its blessing or denial.
I don't know who should be the approving entity. I just know that a very good proposal to revive Fisherman's Wharf is caught up in the dispute. I am also hearing rumblings that the rebuild of the old Casa Sirena Marina Hotel may be facing permit challenges from the city.
It's time to lock city and the county officials in a room with a professional mediator and come to a resolution.
If you have visited Channel Islands Harbor in the last five or ten years, you likely noticed the state of disrepair Fisherman's Wharf is in. It's quite sad to see the corner that was once a bustling destination for visitors and locals alike look as if it wants to fall into the sea.
Channel Islands Harbor spent many years as the poor stepchild in Ventura County. It was one of the best assets, but ignored by many politicians and policy makers. It has taken a lot of investment on the part of private industry to pump life into it, and Harbor management has been challenged to attract viable developers to venture into projects on leased land that requires percentage rents to be paid to the County.
After a few failed attempts by various parties to redevelop Fisherman's Wharf, the perfect scenario seems to have presented itself. The trio of Thomas R. Tellefsen, Peter Mullin and Geoff Palmer are proposing a rebuild of the project that adds many public amenities and retains the flavor of the original nautical theme.
Thomas Tellefsen is the principal of Tellefsen Investments, a private asset and investment management firm in Pacific Palisades. Peter Mullin, amongst many interests, is the owner of the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard where a portion of his collection of French Art Deco era cars is on display. Geoff Palmer of G.H. Palmer Associates has been in the business of building luxury apartment units for many years.
Specifically, the proposal to revitalize Fisherman's Wharf includes refurbishing the landmark lighthouse, restoring or rebuilding many of the existing buildings, redesigning the waterfront to include a wide promenade and outdoor dining options, increasing the retail space by about 9,000 square feet, creating a public park, and providing approximately 390 luxury residential units. (Some of the previous proposals included up to 800 apartments.)
The Oxnard Chamber has studied the redevelopment proposal for Fisherman's Wharf and thoroughly supports it. The County Board of Supervisors has given the project a green light.
It's important to note that the County of Ventura owns Channel Islands Harbor and the land immediately adjacent to it up to the Channel Island Boulevard Bridge, where the City of Oxnard takes over.
Unfortunately the project has hit a couple of bumps in the road. The city of Oxnard recently amended its 2030 General Plan to require "urban villages" have specific plans (a very costly regulation!). And there seems to be some squabbling over who has the permitting authority for the site. Historically the County has had that role.
In addition to that hiccup, there is a small group of very vocal Oxnard residents that believe incorporating apartments in the project constitutes the "taking" of public property. Hello! The entire peninsula in the harbor is apartments. The project does not pencil out if the apartments are not a component. In addition, the old adage of "rooftops drive retail" is a big factor in sustaining the restaurants and retail not only at Fisherman's Wharf, but throughout Channel Islands Harbor.
Last year when the project was in front of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors for approval and many opponents spoke against it, Supervisor Steve Bennett noted other proposals had come forward in recent years, this was a quality project, and if this one doesn't move forward the site will likely continue to decay and deteriorate.
The Oxnard Chamber will continue to strongly support the proposal to bring new life to what should be a beautiful part of our community. Your support is welcome, too!
Unless you bought a house in 2006, last decade's housing collapse seems like a long time ago. The market has recovered nicely and houses are selling at a brisk rate. Unfortunately that means there are a lot of Californians who cannot afford to live where they work.
One person in Silicon Valley has made it his mission to do something about it. With financial backing from Silicon Valley tech executives, Brian Hanlon is starting a new political and housing advocacy venture in Sacramento called California YIMBY – or “Yes in My Back Yard,” a riff on the “not-in-my-backyard” phrase that characterizes neighborhood opposition to development projects.
Too many cities and counties, he says, aren’t complying with state housing law that says it’s illegal to deny or scale back affordable housing projects that meet local zoning designations and other land-use rules.
It’s an emerging political movement demanding more housing construction across California, affordable or not. Pro-growth advocacy groups have formed groups from Santa Monica to San Francisco to Sacramento.
“We want more housing, and all types of housing. So we advocate for everything from transitional homeless shelters ... to tall, luxury condos and everything in between,” Hanlon said in a Sacramento Bee article. “We are in a dire housing shortage and we’re not going to get ourselves out of that shortage if we nit-pick every project to death.”
As the state has added more than 2 million jobs since 2011, it has fallen far short of building the housing it needs to keep pace with the booming economy and rising population. On average, the state has seen an influx of 80,000 new homes per year over the past decade, when 180,000 are needed annually, according to state officials. To keep up with growing population, California needs an estimated 1.8 million new housing units by 2025, according to state projections.
Housing opponents are generally much louder than advocates are. They grab the attention of officials who are concerned about being re-elected. Many of them are retired (who have, themselves, recently moved in to a community) and have time to attending public hearing to voice their opposition.
The planned revitalization of Fisherman's Wharf in Channel Islands Harbor is a perfect example. There is a large contingency of beach and harbor dwellers who oppose the residential component of the project. The proposal has been slashed over the years from somewhere around 800 apartments to less than 400 luxury units. The opposition is still very vocal.
As a society, we need to figure out how to accommodate all of our residents, not just the ones who can afford to live at the beach. We need to locate people close to their places of employment to reduce gridlock on our freeways and surface streets.