As the Oct. 24 Ventura County Fair Board meeting approaches, many supporters of a proposed Surfer’s Point redevelopment project hope that a decision will finally be reached.
It’s been a long time coming: Expanded to include a bike path and walkway in 1989, Surfer’s Point has since fallen into a state of disrepair, with intense erosion rendering some portions of the bike path unusable. Many supporters of Surfer’s Point rehabilitation have criticized the fair board — an agricultural board and a branch of state government — for delaying what they believe are much-needed environmental and aesthetic improvements. A fair board meeting on Sept. 26 failed to reach any kind of conclusion on the fate of Surfers’ Point.
Board President Craig Underwood argues that the board’s hesitancy was based on lack of information. “None of the board was comfortable moving ahead when we didn’t have a staff recommendation,” he says, adding that a report to that effect would be completed by Board CEO Barbara Voester prior to next week’s meeting.
Meanwhile, City Engineer Rick Raives remains optimistic, and is quick to point out that while the planning phase for Surfer’s Point improvements has run into the long term — Raives himself has been working on the project for eight years — there is a vast range of interested parties to be represented.
In addition to the Ventura County Fair Board, which owns the property, “stakeholders” in this issue include the state, which owns the bike path running through the area, the California Coastal Commission, the Surfrider Foundation, the Coastal Conservancy and the Ventura County Bicycle Coalition. All of whom have been involved in some capacity with the planning phase.
And on the eve of what many hope will be a final decision, Raives notes that there has been a lot of progress over the last decade. He recalls that, in 1995, “the major players — the parks department, the fairgrounds and the coastal commission — were really not seeing eye-to-eye on what the project needed to be.”
A complete proposal was handed to the fair board early this year.
The proposed redevelopment resets the bike path further inland to avoid erosion and uses reinforcement to prevent further depletion onshore. From the fair board’s perspective, this could potentially encroach on parking and be detrimental to the yearly county fair.
Raives estimates that 1.25 acres of the fairgrounds would be affected.
“The city’s perspective is: We’re coming up with a project which we believe is the only project that has a consensus support and is able to get a permit from the coastal commission,” Raives says of city involvement. Shoreline Drive is the only portion of the property in question that belongs to the city.
“On a personal level, I think that the project is a real benefit for the public,” says board member Ginger Gherardi, who proposed a vote among the board in favor of accepting the concept, if not the exact scheme, during the September meeting. Had her motion passed, the project would have received enough support to proceed to the coastal commission, where it could have been reviewed and possibly rewarded a construction permit. None of Gherardi’s colleagues on the board seconded her motion, however.
“There are a variety of things the fair is getting out of this,” says Gherardi. “A paved parking area, drainage, better use of the back end of the property. I think it will be an asset all around to the community, and we’ll retain the property so it’s not like we’re losing anything, although parking is questionable.” n
For more information regarding the Oct. 24 Fair Board meeting, call 648-3376 or visit www.seasidepark.org