by Brian Pendleton, Business Operations Manager Ventura Port District
RE: Letter to editor in December 29, 2016 Ventura Breeze “Ventura Harbor should slow down”
It is with great excitement that after 16 years of planning effort, the Sondermann Ring Project, which is now known as Portside, is under construction. This project will provide much needed market rate and affordable rental housing as well as new recreational amenities including a new public park, new boat slips, and a public launch ramp for personal watercraft such as kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. It will also preserve and enhance public coastal access, an ocean view corridor and increase the City’s inventory of park and open space. The project was approved by the Ventura Port District, City of Ventura and the California Coastal Commission.
Recently, suggestions have been made that the Port District is being too hasty in considering additional improvements to our Harbor. In May 2016, the Port District issued a request for proposals (for new visitor serving uses at two undeveloped Port District sites). Some seven months later, in November three development teams were invited to participate in a community meeting to present their proposals. The meeting was widely publicized and well attended – and presented exciting new uses that will benefit the Harbor, the City of Ventura, and our county. Proposals under consideration include a three-story boutique hotel with on-site event capabilities, a two-story hybrid hostel, and/or a mixed-use project with fisherman and farmers market, and restaurants with live entertainment. All proposals being considered are required to provide parking solutions, be financially self-sufficient, and pay lease revenue to the Port District, amongst many other RFP requirements.
One proposal the District received was rejected for being non-responsive to the RFP. It was called the Ventura Ocean Center. The proposal lacked an experienced development team, identified the “developer” as an unformed 501c3 non-profit entity, had no project pipeline or experience developing projects in coastal California, had no detailed project budget, revenue or ground rent projections, provided $1 per year for 100 years in guaranteed ground rent to the District, and lacked a ready source of development funding, relying instead on future grant applications and fundraising efforts to construct and operate the project.
The Port District is a special district and generates its revenues primarily through real estate leases of the various tenants at Ventura Harbor. This accounts for nearly 90 percent of all operational revenues. These revenues are budgeted annually and used to provide a safe and navigable harbor and a seaside destination that benefits residents, visitors, fisherman, and boaters alike. The District has taken seriously its responsibility to city tax payers to evaluate each proposal on its merits including future rental income to the District.
In the next six months, we expect that the Commission will further refine which team or teams to enter real estate negotiations. As we know from our 16-year long experience with the Portside Development, any proposed project selected for further consideration will undergo lengthy and rigorous public vetting and environmental review processes by the Port District Commission, City of Ventura, California Coastal Commission as well as other regulatory bodies. This essential review will assure that the project which moves forward will be consistent with our many coastal development policies involving affordable coastal lodging, view corridor preservation and public coastal access.
With the leadership and guidance of our Commission, we will continue to move through the RFP selection process and carefully plan for other Harbor improvements. All of which will help to secure a vibrant Harbor for all to enjoy and an economically viable future for the District.