February 7, 2023
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Ventura County to revitalize Oxnard harbor area


At least two major projects that would further revitalize the Channel Islands Harbor could make their first public appearance as early as April 30.

Officials in Ventura County, which oversees operations at the harbor, are pushing the developers behind proposed projects at Fisherman’s Wharf and the abandoned Casa Sirena Hotel to complete lease agreements and debut initial concepts.

Accompanying those developments is a rebounding housing market that has developers moving to break ground on a number of new residential projects just north of the harbor.

“We’re significantly through lease negotiations with [the developers],” said Ventura County Harbor Department Director Lyn Krieger. “We’re hoping that we’ll have that done and also have some more details on what they’re proposing in late April or early May.”

When the economy tanked in 2008, a previous developer was unable to move forward on a redevelopment. While that’s still the plan, Channel Islands Harbor Properties — the company working on the development now — has given few details other than the project will be a mixed-use residential and commercial project. It’s unclear if the company plans to knock down the current Cape Cod style amalgamation of buildings and build new structures or remodel and expand the existing buildings.

Krieger said the company has some minimum requirements for the commercial portion and that work on traffic, feasibility and marketing studies is ongoing. One interesting point in the development plan is that the X-3 site, a small outcropping of property on the west side of the harbor between Harbor Landing and the Marine Emporium Landing that’s also under contract to Channel Island Harbor Properties, will only get developed if the company can make the Fisherman’s Wharf project work.

Bob Nahm, co-owner and manager of Seacoast Yachts and secretary-treasurer of the Channel Island Harbor Foundation, said the recovery of the harbor is just starting to take hold.

“It’s really all about the economy,” he said. “A lot of the projects that were started in the early 2000s got dropped when the bottom fell out of the market. Now those projects are back and some have new developers that think they can make it work … there’s a good vibe here that things are finally going to happen.”

The long-vacant and dilapidated Casa Sirena Hotel is another one of the pivotal developments for the harbor, but like Fisherman’s Wharf, the public hasn’t seen a concept yet. However, according to Krieger, the lease work for that site is also nearly wrapped. The site is under contract to Irvine-based Brighton Management, a privately-held real estate company that focuses on development and management of hotel properties.

Brighton is also looking to develop the former Lobster Trap restaurant as another piece of the project as well. As for the hotel, Krieger said the company is looking to demolish and build a completely new hotel with roughly the same number of rooms — 265.

“A new hotel is close,” Krieger said. “Getting Casa Sirena down and replaced is a big deal. We’re really focused on these projects right now. They’re very critical.”

5th District Supervisor John Zaragoza said he’s also putting his weight behind these projects, noting that he has a big interest in seeing the continued redevelopment of the harbor. Zaragoza said he’s pushing for the lease deals to be finalized so he can finally bring something more concrete to the public for feedback and review.

“These developments would help us tremendously to have a little more pride about what’s happening in the harbor and help the businesses there and continue our partnership with the city of  Oxnard,” he said.

Even though finalizing the lease agreements would be a big step toward moving these projects forward, the California Coastal Commission will have a say in the development process. However, Krieger said the commission has been on board as information from developers has trickled in.

“There’s a lot that needs to be amended, but we’ve been talking with Coastal Commission staff for quite a while,” she said. “We’re aiming to get these projects submitted to Coastal Commission by the end of summer or early fall. That’s moving pretty quickly. I don’t know if we’ll make that, but that’s the hope.”