Ventura County harbor director replies to op-ed, addressing harbor redevelopment

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A war of words between community groups and the local governments is playing out on the pages of Ventura County Star, as Ventura County Harbor Director Mark Sandoval penned an op-ed on May 6, in response to an April 7 letter submitted to the same publication by a member of the Harbor and Beach Community Alliance (HBCA). Both op-ed letters addressed the ongoing planning of Channel Island Harbor’s revitalization.

Sandoval said he wrote the op-ed to address allegations made in the April 6 letter and later during a public meeting about Fisherman’s Wharf.

“The [HBCA] column states the county is delaying the Hyatt Hotel project and Whale’s Tail restaurant replacement in deference to an ‘apartment developer’s projects,’ an allegation that is simply untrue,” Sandoval wrote. “The Harbor Department is working to facilitate three construction projects on the peninsula, which requires a great deal of coordination.”

The harbor director added county officials are working on a rock revetment project, marina, and demolition and construction of a new hotel, all at once.

Sandoval reiterated the county is making progress on bringing the Channel Islands Harbor redevelopment online, which has been in the works for more than a decade.

“We anticipate the Casa Sirena to begin the four-month demolition process in October. In addition, we have been working closely with the owner of Fresco’s, and anticipate that refurbishment of the old Whale’s Tail will also be moving forward in a few months,” Sandoval said.

He added the Fisherman’s Wharf project is currently making its way through the city of Oxnard’s planning process.

HBCA’s Debbie Mitchel, in her April 6 op-ed, accused Ventura County of foul play.

“Ventura County owns the harbor land and has shamefully allowed many of the moderately priced visitor-serving facilities, including Fisherman’s Wharf, the Casa Sirena Hotel on Peninsula Road and the Whale’s Tail restaurant on Harbor Boulevard, to deteriorate,” she wrote.

“The community believes the county has a hidden motive for holding up the hotel project,” she continued later in her letter. “It is apparent the county is more concerned about the apartment developer’s “undetermined project” on Peninsula Road than the public-supported and Coastal Commission-approved hotel, restaurant and marina.”

The new Channel Islands Harbor, when completed, would not be made to look like Marina del Rey or Newport Beach, Sandoval continued in his op-ed.

“I believe that this mixed-use project would be an asset for the harbor and region around the harbor. I would be the first one to push back on a development the likes of which are prevalent in Marina Del Rey and Newport Beach, but that is not the case with this project,” Sandoval wrote.

He also pushed back on those who claimed the harbor’s new buildings would be too large and out of scale.

“There is an argument that the mass and height of the residential buildings would ruin the harbor,” Sandoval said. “There are currently residential buildings in the harbor as tall as this residential development and over three times as long as this residential development. In addition, the universally supported hotel project in the harbor will be as tall and longer than this residential development.”

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