Ventura Harbor district to see improvements

Ventura Harbor district to see improvements

By David Michael Courtland 04/23/2009

Ventura’s harbor management took a step toward giving the Port District a facelift Friday, holding the first of several public workshops to get feedback for a general plan.

“There’s no intention to start over; the intention is to connect the dots,” said architect David Sargent, one of the consultants who spoke at the workshop. “We’re open to all kinds of ideas. We want to make this the very best for (the public).”

The overall goal is to preserve the harbor’s strengths but improve on other elements to make the harbor more attractive to visitors. That means supporting the fishing industry and other harbor-based commercial business while drawing more tourism to the district, said Sargent.

“We’re going to make sure this plan creates a serious opportunity for the fishing industry to thrive and move around as the economy dictates,” said Sargent.

The harbor supplies 95 percent of the country’s squid catch, noted Sargent, and so, could use more frozen storage space for keeping it.

But the harbor also needs to be made more accessible to traffic, said Sargent, pointing out that someone driving down Harbor Boulevard or Olivas Park Drive doesn’t even see signs spotlighting the port.

“Right now it looks more to me like a giant parking lot,” said Sargent. “It can look more like a fishing village, and be a more profitable commercial venture.”

Many improvements can be made inexpensively in the short term, said Sargent, like redirecting the traffic on Spinnaker to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

“There’s more important things for it to do than let people drive 40 miles an hour,” said Sargent, who said crosswalks, bicycle paths and other simple traffic safety features could be added to the 4-lane street — two lanes going in each direction — without limiting boaters’ access. “Our hope is that by rethinking how Spinnaker works, it ends up being a street that you aren’t afraid to cross.”

He emphasized that bringing more traffic to the port doesn’t mean making it more congested.

“A huge part of our direction is toward transportation,” said Sargent, and “making (the harbor) a place that people are more likely to want to park at and then bike or take a shuttle.”

Sargent said he hopes a specific plan will be ready for the City Council and Coastal Commission to review in eight months to a year.

The final plan will also include a fire station, an example of how planners are making harbor zoning more consistent with Ventura’s general plan, said Port District General Manager Oscar Peña.

“The fire department would like to be able to get from Station No. 2 (at Main and Seaward streets) to here in four minutes,” something mandated by the city’s plan, explained Peña.

Meanwhile, plans for 300 new apartments on 27 acres of Port District property are waiting for the Coastal Commission to review changes in Sondermann-Ring Project’s wording, said Ventura city associate planner Brian Randall.

The project had also undergone other changes, which had been requested by the City earlier in the planning phase. The developer’s design didn’t meet new city standards. The City wanted more buildings with a variety of designs instead of 10 large buildings that all looked the same. It also had only one driveway access. The redesign broke the project down into 22 buildings on five blocks, mixed some of the residential with the commercial and added a public square.

A target date for a Coastal Commission hearing hasn’t been announced, but once the commission approves the changes, the developer can begin applying for building permits, Randall said.   

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