Stories of sculpting classes, surf and turf dinners, picking out live crabs, searching for shells in the gift shop, etc. — all such things came from Oxnard’s currently bruised and beaten Fishermen’s Wharf in its heyday. Historically speaking, Fisherman’s Wharf is truly an iconic part of Oxnard and even Ventura County, but the insistence on tearing it down for high-end rentals seems misguided. The topic of the future of Fisherman’s Wharf is scheduled to come before the Oxnard Planning Commission on Aug. 22.
The master plan for Channel Islands Harbor, mapped out in the 1970s, is visible today: Apartments here, lodging there, boat amenities throughout and food and entertainment options sprinkled along the main drives of the harbor. That includes Fisherman’s Wharf. It had so much potential, Martin V. “Bud” Smith’s grand vision of the harbor, fun for family and visitors and pride in business ownership, but the wharf, Casa Sirena and the Lobster Trap just faded into oblivion. The solution for tax revenue generation now: more apartments.
It’s curious that certain county supervisors and Oxnard City Councilmembers seem to lack understanding when it comes to carrying forward another person’s vision. But really, the solution to rehabilitation and the housing crisis is high-end rentals miles from the 101 to be built out sometime in years to come? As many locals struggle to access affordable housing, who exactly will be renting these new apartments?
In speaking with Oxnard City Manager Alex Nguyen in the past, the answer to our affordable housing crisis remains new construction. But it is curious that our local real estate experts don’t keep track of vacancy rates of new high-end rentals, homes converted to vacation rentals, etc. Such information would be critical in determining not just what else is needed, but also what is not. With so many high-end rentals on or coming to the market, from RiverPark to Wagon Wheel to the Reserve at Seabridge, plus the new Ventura Harbor apartments and those at Wells Road off the 126, maybe we need to consider what brought us to this point, an unsustainable model as our homeless population increases.
The California Coastal Commission always prioritizes access for tourists, including in housing-turned-vacation rentals at the cost of coastal residents. Even at least one local judge supported it: Cal Coast Times reporting on Feb. 29 that “A Ventura County Judge issued a tentative ruling last week striking down the city of Santa Barbara’s ban on short-term vacation rentals near the coast. [Cal Coast Times]” In reality, justice and bureaucracy show a clear track record of favoring higher income people, and in this instance, those who can rent costly apartments to expensive vacation rentals, houses locals used to call home.
It’s become abundantly clear that when it comes to coastal access, it’s either for those who are directly located on the oceanfront, aka those who can afford it, or first come, first serve, leaving many residents of Ventura County without access to the coast themselves despite the premium paid in housing costs for location. So what exactly, again, is the plan for coastal access to the Channel Islands Harbor at Fisherman’s Wharf? Those who can afford it can live by it and those who can’t will wrestle for a parking spot due to cumbersome apartments limiting access.
Being a visionary is hard work. It takes time, persistence and support. But what is this grand vision for getting rid of the quaint village of Fisherman’s Wharf for more stucco, walls and locked doors with a Mediterranean feel? The vision seems dry.
Just think of what a real investment might do in resuscitating a discarded treasure. The payoff might be a much higher value than what high-end rentals could ever offer.