An attempt by Oxnard and Port Hueneme to shrink the Oxnard Harbor District has goaded harbor commissioners to push for its expansion.
Commissioners this week took steps to annex new territory after learning that the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme were working on plans to reduce the district's size.
"This has caused us to look at ourselves. There's no doubt about it," Harbor Commissioner Bob Jennings said. "This may have brought things to a head."
The 400-square-mile district, which governs the Port of Hueneme, includes Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Camarillo, a portion of Thousand Oaks and some unincorporated areas of the county.
Expansion has been discussed off and on since 1973, Jennings said. But indications that Oxnard and Port Hueneme will try to limit the district to only those two cities renewed the commission's interest in expansion.
Jennings said he envisions a district that encompasses all of Ventura County. The district now represents only about 50% of the county's residents, but all 630,000 people in Ventura County are affected by the port's business, Jennings said.
Grosses $4 Million
The only deep-water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Port of Hueneme annually grosses $4 million, said Anthony Taormina, district executive director. The main imports brought into the port are bananas and cars, while exports include such produce as citrus and wheat seed.
Three commissioners at a district board meeting Monday voted unanimously to prepare to annex territory to the district. Commissioners Cecil Schnelle and Ray Fletcher were absent.
Further details of the cities' proposal are to be disclosed at a news conference Friday, and the Oxnard and Port Hueneme city councils are to discuss it at a joint meeting Wednesday.
Oxnard and Port Hueneme officials have said they deserve greater representation on the harbor commission because their cities are port neighbors and bear most of its adverse effects.
None of the five commissioners lives in Port Hueneme. One comes from Oxnard. Three live in Camarillo, while the fifth resides in Thousand Oaks.
Yet Oxnard and Port Hueneme are hit hardest by the noise, pollution and road damage caused by employees and trucks that travel to and from the port, said Dick Velthoen, Port Hueneme city manager.
In addition, many of the services that the port requires, such as police aid, are provided by Port Hueneme and Oxnard. The two cities receive more economic benefits than other cities in the district, Velthoen said.
"The direct economic benefit from the port is in Port Hueneme or Oxnard," Velthoen said. "It's not diffused very far out of this area at all."
Harbor commissioners maintain that the district's economic effects are felt throughout the county and that many cities bear the impact of port traffic.
One main truck route runs through Camarillo. Port traffic using California 126 affects Fillmore and Santa Paula, Jennings said.
Formed in 1937
The Harbors and Navigation Code, the district's guiding document since it was formed in 1937, mandates that the district include all areas to which it provides social and economic benefits, Taormina said.
Additionally, it provides for annexation of territories but not their reduction, he said.
The harbor district's sphere of influence covers the entire county, according to the Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees the boundary changes and local districts.
In fact, LAFCO recommended in 1972 and again in 1985 that the harbor district's enlarge its boundaries to encompass the entire county, said Bob Braitman, the commission's executive officer.
To change the district's boundaries, the two cities or the harbor commission must file an application with LAFCO, Braitman said.
LAFCO then would hold a public hearing and approve or deny the proposal.
If 50% or more of the registered voters within the area to be annexed or detached submitted written protests at a subsequent public hearing by the harbor district, the proposal would be rejected.
If 25% to 50% of the voters protested, a special election would be held.
If less than 25% of the voters protested, the proposal would be approved and completed without a public vote, Braitman said. Attempts to expand the district in 1973 failed because the public was unwilling to accept the tax assessed upon property owners within its boundaries. The district ended taxation 12 years ago.
A tentative boundary map is scheduled to come before commissioners at their Sept. 25 meeting, Taormina said.