The Pierpont Beach area has established itself over the years as a self-preserving beach community, consistent as the tides and charming as beach cruisers. But in the grand, inevitable scheme of development in the city of Ventura, the humble façade of the Pierpont community has waited patiently, perhaps even slightly reluctantly, to have its image renovated.
But the times they are a-changin’.
Two years ago, the City Council voted for a transient occupancy tax (TOT), a bed tax paid by tourists to the city, on short-term rentals in the Pierpont area, to be adopted and reserved for spending on improvements in the community.
Since then, a sum of about $90,000 has accrued in the fund. Coupled with the news of the Anastasi development (138 condominiums, 20,000 square feet of retail, 495 parking spots) at Harbor Boulevard and Seaward Avenue gaining momentum to break ground, the timeless but weathered surf community is ripe for a makeover.
The city-adopted TOT policy collects from about 24 short-term rentals — single-family residences rented for less than 30 days — in the Pierpont neighborhoods. Throughout the years, renters come and go, leaving an indelible mark of wear and tear in an area unlike other neighborhoods in the city.
“We like visitors and friends who want to rent here,” said Kioren Moss, Pierpont Community Council (PCC) neighborhood improvement chair. “The beach is important to the city’s identity and a major reason for visitors to come here. But liability shouldn’t be at the expense of one neighborhood.”
With a $90,000 reserve still growing, the PCC has begun tossing around ideas for improving the Seaward commercial area, which has seen about 17 businesses come and go in just about as many years adding another shower at the public restrooms. Trimming the palm trees. Removing the center divider on lower Seaward Avenue to have angled parking on the south-bound lane. Paid parking during summer weekends at Marina Park could also help drive revenue for the area.
“We’re looking to make it safer and better,” said Moss. “We want to think carefully about how we spend.”
Moss lauded the city for implementing the TOT policy for Pierpont. But for years, Moss asserted, the city has been spending millions on Westside and Midtown development, leaving Pierpont to fend for itself.
“They’ve spent nothing on our neighborhoods, ever. Yet, the beach is the single most important amenity the city possesses,” declared Moss.
It’s a perfectly reasonable argument, said City Manager Rick Cole. The dire need for improvements to a neighborhood, however, lies in the eyes of the beholder.
“If you live in any part of the city, you can make an argument as to why you’re being shortchanged and why taxpayers should spend more in your neighborhood,” said Cole. “That is politics.”
Cole admitted that, indeed, over the past 20 years, the community as a whole has benefited from the Downtown renaissance. But where else the city ought to focus resources, and how, is ripe “for a healthy community debate.”
“It’s a potential win-win situation,” said Cole about the Pierpont TOT fund. “If income generated in Pierpont can be brought back into that neighborhood, there is potential for everybody in the city to benefit.”
But not everyone on the City Council agrees with restricting resources to a designated area. When the City Council voted on the Pierpont TOT policy, Neal Andrews was the lone dissenter.
The general interests of a city, he said, may not be well-served by the narrow interests of a neighborhood.
“I don’t believe in restricting the Council’s ability to move resources from where they’re needed most in the city,” Andrews professed. “Those are general funds and should be available to pay any bill in the city that needs paying.”
Using the Pierpont TOT as an example, Andrews made the case that the money could go to keeping an additional fire station or library open.
Andrews agreed that much more money is currently being spent elsewhere on capital projects and infrastructure rather than in Pierpont, but said that, over time, the essential needs of every part of the city get dealt with.
Editor’s note: What do you think would be welcome additions to Pierpont? Please send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or the comment section for this story at www.vcreporter.com to be included in a follow-up story