It took the Anastasi Development Co. (ADC) eight years to get to the conference room at the Ventura Beach Marriott, but on Aug. 1, the company finally unveiled its plans for the lot on the corner of Seaward Avenue and Harbor Boulevard: a mixed-use community, designed to make the adjacent Pierpont Beach neighborhood “a jewel for Ventura.”
Senior Vice-President Scott Anastasi and architect Randy Morris revealed their proposal for the long-empty parcel to a near-capacity audience made up primarily of local homeowners as well as city officials. The project, which will now go to the city council for approval, is the result of several months of consultation with Pierpont residents, who expressed a variety of concerns over the new development regarding parking, traffic, building height and the potential influx of short term renters. Based on what was presented at the public meeting, the plan includes: 165 residential units, all townhomes and condominiums and no apartments; live-work facilities for lawyers, architects and others facing Harbor; 32,000 square-feet of retail space along Seaward, to be occupied mostly by cafés, restaurants and boutiques; 78 spots for parallel street parking with more underground; an outdoor stage for concerts and other performances; an athletic field; pedestrian-friendly sidewalks; and a welcoming monument to be determined later, through more conversations with members of the community.
“Every community is unique,” Anastasi said, “and the most important thing for a developer is to be sensitive to the things that are important to each community.”
But it wasn’t sensitivity to the community’s needs that kept ADC from getting to this point for so many years.
Since acquiring the land in 1999, the company has had to go through multiple stages of bureaucratic wrangling, according to Rick Nyznyk, who served as project manager from the purchase of the lot through June 2007, when he was “released from employment.” First, ADC had to appeal to the city to rezone the area, which, under Ventura’s coastal plan, did not allow for any residential development. The city council approved the change to a mixed-use zone in August 2001 and the request was then supposed to go to the California Coastal Commission, but Nyznyk said it “sat on a planner’s desk for three months” before finally getting mailed. It would take another four years before the zone change could be fully adopted, and even then, said Nyznyck, the city “had to go back to the Coastal Commission for the acceptance of the adoption of the approval.”
Despite the special circumstances involving the parcel’s initial designation as a coastal zone, Nyznyk said the delays are par for the course for major developments in Ventura.
“It is not unusual in this city for a project of this magnitude to take this long,” Nyznyk said.
City Manager Rick Cole, however, disagrees. He said the ADC has taken especially long because the Coastal Commission has “imposed fairly significant conditions on zone change.” Cole said the city had discussed partnering with ADC in order to expedite the process, “but for a variety of reasons that didn’t happen.”
“In the end, they would go to the community, listen to the community, then submit [plans] to the city, which has its downsides,” Cole said. “With a project of this size, the neighbors’ opinions are an important factor, but they’re not the only factor. There are citywide design and project issues taken into consideration during the city entitlement process.”
ADC must now file a Housing Approval Program application. Once it is approved — which could take up to six months — the company will then go back to the city council and planning commission for final approvals. It may be another year and a half to two years before any ground is broken on the project, Anastasi said.
While he found the presentation at the Marriott “encouraging,” Cole said the project “has a long way to go” — not in terms of time, but in elements that need to be improved in order to meet with city policy. The Harbor Boulevard portion needs work, he said. “Two big institutional buildings set back from the street are neither likely to be viable commercial [units] nor attractive residential [units],” he said. More is needed at the corner of Seaward and Harbor, which the developers hope to turn into a neighborhood anchor, than a restaurant and a tower, Cole said. And then there is the parking situation.
“The reality is, you’re talking about a beach community,” Cole said. “When the weather is good in the summer, you’re never going to have enough parking. And if you do have enough parking for the summer peak season, you’re going to have a huge amount of wasted parking 90 percent of the year. These are real issues. A balance has to be struck. Whether they got it exactly right, it’s too soon to take a hard, fast position on.”