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Deal Hinges on Delaying Deadline : Port Hueneme Tries to Lure Jaguar Away From L.A.

December 08, 1988|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

Jaguar can be added to the list of imported luxury cars that the Port of Hueneme has lured away from the Los Angeles Harbor if the Port Hueneme City Council approves a proposed 5-year lease with the British car manufacturer at a council meeting Wednesday.

The plan calls for Jaguar Cars to ship about 6,500 cars a year to the rapidly expanding port, which has already enticed BMW and Mercedes-Benz from Los Angeles and Mazda from Long Beach.

The cars would be prepared for shipment to dealers throughout the West. The port would earn about $400,000 a year through the lease, and the city of Port Hueneme would be paid about $20,000 to help offset increased traffic. Eighteen jobs would be created under the plan.

"We're dealing with a part of the market that will always be solid," said Anthony Taormina, executive director of the Oxnard Harbor District, which runs the port. "Even if major trade changes occur that dramatically affect automobile manufacturing, these cars will be here."

Deadline Approaches

The deal, however, could sour unless the City Council agrees to extend a Dec. 31 deadline for the harbor district to meet the terms of a 1987 negotiated settlement between the two agencies.

City planning officials, who had recommended last month that the Jaguar deal be rejected because of the harbor district's failure to abide by the settlement, said they are discussing a compromise solution.

"We don't want to stand in the way of the progress and the development of the harbor," said Tom Figg, the city's community development director. "But we also have an agreement, and we need to respect the integrity of that agreement."

The dispute arose several years ago when the harbor district announced major expansion plans, including a deep-water wharf. The city of Port Hueneme, in a lawsuit against the harbor district, contended that not enough care was taken in assessing the impact of the development on city roads and police services.

Under the 1987 negotiated settlement, the harbor district agreed to pay the city up to 5% of the port's gross revenue to help offset the impact of the expansion. In addition, the harbor district agreed that by Dec. 31, 1988, it would build an entrance gate and perimeter wall--improvements that have yet to be made.

'Caught Us by Surprise'

Taormina contends that the harbor district has sought to make those additions but has been thwarted by the need to realign nearby Hueneme Road, which the port does not own. "The city caught us by surprise," Taormina said. "Never in the past year was there ever a contention that we were in violation of an agreement."

He said that if the City Council does not approve the agreement next week, Jaguar will drop out of the deal.

About 100,000 Mazdas and 21,000 BMWs come through the port annually. Mercedes-Benz has not yet begun to ship.

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