By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- The conversation about the local coastal plan amendment (LCP) continued with Channel Islands Harbor Director David Sandoval saying that the only way to redevelop the harbor is by mixed-use residential development.
The Oxnard Planning Commission rejected a Local Coastal Plan Amendment during a special meeting, Aug. 15, designed to accommodate a known development project at the corner of Channel Islands Blvd. and Victoria Ave.
In the Oxnard 2017 mid-cycle 2013-2021 housing update, Sandoval said the report shows the city is running short of its recommended residential housing units.
"We need residential housing, not only in the city but in the county and the state," he said. "In addition, during 2011, as was talked about, the Oxnard 2030 general plan was approved by this commission and the city council. It calls for an urban village overlay for this site. They defined an urban village as a vibrant mixed-use, including residential, retail, and commercial."
The planning commission and city council approved that for a good reason because it recognizes that residential is needed in the city, and residential is needed at this site.
"I've heard a lot of arguments against this project since I've been here," he said. "They include loss of access, inadequate parking, loss of park space, loss of RV parking, loss of commercial fishing and recreational slips, an impact to the bike path and a structure massing and traffic."
Regarding access, Sandoval said the vehicle access would be the same with the development.
He showed a map with yellow stars that demonstrated vehicular access, as two were on Victoria Ave., and one was on Channel Islands Blvd.
"The development has exactly the same vehicular access," he said. "Opponents will argue there is more access at the site. What they are saying is you can walk from Victoria to the water, and that's not the case. In the area where the apartments will be, there is a chain barrier and a landscape knoll you will have to go over to get to the water from Victoria. The reality is that the vehicular access points are also the pedestrian access points, and the current configuration is going to be the same configuration as the development."
He recommends being able to walk from point a to point b, but the area also must promote the desire to walk from point a to point b when it comes to access.
"It is true that there is more access now because you have an open asphalt lot that will be covered with apartments," he said. "The reality of it is there is no reason to access it because there's nothing to do there. Despite the fact that you can walk around that asphalt lot and get to the water, the reality of it is what are we trying to access and protect?"
The development will have enhanced walkways, a 14-20-foot promenade, and many more reasons to visit Fisherman's Wharf.
"I would contend that it will be much enhanced with the project," he said.
The parking issue disappoints Sandoval because the city didn't get the information.
"This application was submitted in Jan. of last year," he said. "We've had numerous requests for information from the city's planning department. We've had plenty of opportunities for the planning staff to say let me know this and let me know that, and none of that occurred."
"The proposed development has 974 parking spaces, and the county code is 960, and the Oxnard code is 1,063," he continued. "When you look at it closely, the county code and city code are close, and the development does meet the city code. The parking code for residents, the county code is 641, and the city code is 645."
Commercial and retail parking under the county code is 221, he said, and the city code is 208.
"The difference is with the apartment guests," he said. "The county code is 98, and the city code is 210 guests. That means 210 spaces for 319 apartment units. From a planning perspective, codes for residential are coming down as more and more people are taking alternative modes of transportation."
That comment drew laughter from the capacity crowd.
"What the city code is saying is that at any point in time, 53 percent of the apartment residents will have a guest there that requires a parked car. I think that's too aggressive for the parking."
The city staff report says the development will reduce the park space, which he said is not the case.
"We have three areas of park space, and two of them have turf and landscape," he said. "They total .39 of an acre. They also counted a bio-swale that is 1.22 acres. It is difficult to count that bioswale as park space because it's undeveloped. Nobody wants to be there. On the Fourth of July, every useable and attractive square inch of property around the harbor is used, but nobody was in that bioswale. There is no way that should be considered park space because it's not."
The planned development will include inviting park space, he said, with family-friendly amenities and will be one acre.
"We're increasing park space and making it more inviting to the public," Sandoval said.
Losing RV spaces, he said, should be a non-issue.
"There are 22 spaces in the harbor, and it's undeveloped asphalt," he said. "There are no amenities, and we call it overnight, occupied space. You can park there and stay overnight. There are over 8,000 nights available for those 22 spaces, and in an average year, we get less than 200 people spending the night in any one year. We will be looking at an RV space as part of our visioning process. Not at this local but further south."
With the Urchin dock, he said they could've been asked for more information, but they weren't.
"The reality is that I've been working closely with the commercial fishing sector in the harbor, including the California Sea Urchin Commission," he said. "We've assured them it will be relocated as part of the project. Not only will we relocate it to an area that is safer and more convenient to the commercial fleet. We also told them we would confer with them before we build it."
Sandoval also said the recreation docks would be rebuilt.
"This is not a marina," he said. "These are for guests and recreation, and they will be rebuilt as part of the development. It's up to us, the county, to make sure the slip mix is consistent with the mandates of the coastal commission. If we lose slips because we are relocating the urchin dock, we'll be sure that we meet the mandates of the Coastal Commission as we have done since the coastal commission existed."
He promised that the developer will meet the city's bicycle and pedestrian facility.
Sandoval said the two significant issues that were not mentioned in the staff report were structure massing and traffic issues.
"The city has supported residential through it's 2030 general plan," he said. "There is no problem putting residential there. That's why it is not being discussed tonight. The city does not have a problem with the 55-foot height. That's why it's not in the staff report."
Sandoval discussed the model on display within the council chambers, and he said it is not an unfair representation of what the building would look like. He did say that it is an unfair representation of what it will look like in the scheme of the harbor.
"It will be 683-feet long along Victoria, and it will be 53-feet high," he said. "When you start talking about massing, you start talking about view lots. In the south, there are no view lots because there are a launch ramp, industrial area, and shipyard. To the east is the Navy base. In the north, there are residences, but the retail buildings sit between those buildings and residences. The residence's views are going to be blocked by retail they're not opposed to. They'll be able to see the top of the apartments."
Across the channel are the Paz Mar Apartments, he said, and they get to see the channel and look at an asphalt lot.
"With the development, they'll be looking at nice new Mediterranean-style apartments," he said. "On Peninsula Road, you have twin condominium buildings that are 55-feet in height. They already exist. At the end of Peninsula Road, you have a Hyatt Hotel project that's been approved. It's nearly 800-feet long, longer than the development and its 55-feet high. The city supports it."
Sandoval addressed the parking issue again and said the real question is the Navy base.
"When the Navy base loads or unloads in the morning, during lunch or in the evening, it is crowded, and there are a lot of cars," he said. "The impact will be a drop in a bucket, to the impact the Navy base is having. They're only during the weekday."
After the presentation, Charwoman Diedre Frank asked about the 2016 amendment requiring a specific plan.
"You haven't addressed it," she said. "You talk about the 2011 general plan urban village designation, but you haven't commented on the 2016 specific plan amendment," she said.
Sandoval said the city already approved an overlay for an urban village, so it supports residential.
"The city recognized that's what we would be arguing and said, wait a minute, what we have to do is expand the urban village and have a specific project to support an urban village at a particular site," he said. "We knew this as soon as they did it in 2016."
Frank then asked why there isn't a specific plan to go along with the presentation.
"The public works plan is a regulatory document for the development of the harbor," Sandoval said. "The submission we made in Jan. 2018 already had the specifics of the plan. We believe the public works plan dictates the development in the harbor along with the Coastal Commission, through that notice of impending development process."
At that point, Frank interrupted him and said if that were the case, they wouldn't be at the planning commission.
"The Coastal Commission wants us to go through this process," Sandoval said.
Commissioner Daniel Chavez Jr. asked how much revenue the retail section of Fisherman's Wharf would generate, and Sandoval said approximately $1.8 million.
Commissioner Orlando Dozier wanted to get a feel for how the LCP was developed and asked if they consulted with the Port Hueneme Harbor Commission or the Naval Base.
Sandoval said that when the developer came on board, they had a "significant amount" of public meetings.
"I wasn't here at the time," he said. "We have talked to representatives from the Navy base," he said.
Dozier said he works at the Navy base and Victoria Ave is the designated truck route going in-and-out of the Navy base.
"There are times when big trucks are backing up to the light," he said. "That's a concern for me. I believe a traffic study should be included in the amendment.
Sandoval said they did do a traffic study and he understands what Dozier said.
"I live on Peninsula and work on Victoria north of the Navy base," he said. "I'm by that, two or three times a day. When the Navy base is loading, the residents from Silver Strand or this residential complex will be going the other way."
Commissioner Jeremy Meyer asked Sandoval if he was aware of the contents of the LCP throughout the process.
Sandoval said he was aware.
"Were you aware that the LCP overrode the PWP in terms of the PWP needing to comply with the LCP so the project can move forward," Meyer asked.
Sandoval recognizes that the Public Works Plan needs to be substantially consistent with the local coastal plan.
"That's why we submitted the application," he said.
Meyer said he would then be aware of all the parking requirements and bike lane requirements the staff report included.
"You said the staff report came, and you didn't have time to respond to this, but you were aware of what needed to be complied with in the LCP for the application to be consistent," he said.
Sandoval cited the parking situation as an example and said the developer knows he needs to meet city code for parking.
"They met the county's code, but they didn't meet the city code," he said. "The question is, whose code does this project have to meet? The answer from the county's perspective is that it meets the county code. The specific project is the public works plan."
Commissioner Robert Sanchez is also concerned about the incomplete application.
"Why did it turn out that way," he asked. "Things were not specified. At some point did you say forget it and put it in there?"
Sandoval said they met with the planning department and public works staff about traffic.
"We met as many times as they wanted to meet," he said. "We understood that there were questions that needed to be answered related to traffic. They never asked to meet with us on parking. They never asked us to tell them about what we are going to do with the urchin wharf. They never asked us what we are going to do with bike lanes. They never said any of this."
Vice-Chairman Wilfred Chua admires Sandoval's courage and doesn't envy his position at the moment.
"I want to see development in that area," he said. "However, one of your arguments about the apartments is who needs access to the apartments? It's outdated. Have you thought about changing those policies changed so this project complies?"
Chua is a stickler for rules and doesn't give any waiver unless there is justification.
"You're telling me that the project is not in compliance with the policy," he said. Convince me."
Sandoval said the only policy he questions right now is the number of guests for residences in the city's code.
"I can't imagine that code would contemplate that over 50 percent of the time there would be a guest," he said. "I live in an apartment environment. There is no way that 50 percent of us in my unit would have guests at any point in time. That's too aggressive."
Renee Aiu from the Harbor and Beach Community Alliance feels the proposed Local Coastal Plan amendment requires the highest standard of scrutiny and public benefits.
"The LCPA is designed for a single project and is the only harbor within Oxnard," she said. "There are seven major reasons with this must be denied. Oxnard would lose jurisdiction over a rare and coastal asset. No city should give up its jurisdictional authority within its boundaries. The LCPA is inconsistent with 20 different local coastal plan policies. The county in its Aug. 20 letter to the commission insists that Oxnard makes it consistent with its general plan."
The county submitted no specific plan.
"They seem to believe that if they continue to insist, it will become a fact," she said. "However, the coastal commission executive director and Oxnard's local coastal plan makes it clear that the local coastal plan governs in the coastal zone. That's a fact."
After extensive public comments mostly opposed to the amendment, Planning Director Jeff Lambert said he offered the applicant team a list of concerns months in advance.
"The information we identified in the staff report that was inadequate is not new to the applicant team," he said. "We had meetings with the team that asked specific questions we identified in the staff report that was not answered, like the width of the promenade, the parking analysis, and management. We did not surprise the applicant team with those requests."
After extensive public comments speaking mostly against the amendment, Sandoval said the commissioners heard a lot, and some of it was neither accurate nor complete.
"The developer went out and met with the public and did meet with a lot of city and county departments and was changed significantly," he said. "It's unfair to say the developer closed his ears to what was said. "What we are talking about is apartments. Make no mistake about it. The question on the table does this city want apartments and would they support apartments. From the county's perspective, a pathway has already been laid out where the city supports apartments."
His common ground with the attendees is that Fisherman's Wharf needs redeveloping.
"The issue is whether we need apartments to develop it," he said. "We believe that apartments are needed to anchor this development."
Sandoval said the planning commission received over 200 letters supporting the project, despite the overwhelming opposition to the project at the meeting. He spoke of his predecessor, who proposed an aquarium at the site, but the residents opposed the project because of traffic concerns.
"Any development down there is going to cause traffic," he said. "That's the fact of the matter."
He cited Aiu's presentation, where she spoke of the privileged few and took exception to that.
"The people who are holding the pink cards (opposing the project) are the privileged few," Sandoval said. "Over 95 percent of the people here are from Silver Strand, Hollywood Beach, and Mandalay Bay. The reality of it is the opposition for this project is coming from the people at the harbor. They already have the benefit of living at the harbor. They live at the beach and live in the Oxnard waterways. What we need to do is develop the city for the people who do not live by the water."
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