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District's New Boundaries Are Upheld : Courts: Decision dropping Thousand Oaks and Camarillo from governing Port of Hueneme did not require vote.

June 03, 1993|BARBARA MURPHY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A county commission's decision to cut Thousand Oaks and Camarillo out of the Oxnard Harbor District was made legally, even though the affected residents did not get to vote on the matter, the state Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday.

The court said a law requiring 25% of affected voters to protest the change before an election would be called was not an undue burden placed on the electorate.

Far fewer than 25% protested when the change in boundaries was considered in 1989 and 1990.

The court ruling leaves the power to govern the Port of Hueneme primarily with residents of Oxnard and Port Hueneme, who have complained for years that they bore the brunt of the problems caused by the port, without a proportionate say in how it was run.

The decision also disqualifies two harbor district commissioners from seeking reelection next year because they live in Camarillo.

As the only deep-water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Port of Hueneme pours an estimated $200 million annually into the county's economy. Last year, about 200 vessels docked at the port's five commercial berths, carrying 760,000 metric tons of cargo, Executive Director Anthony Taormina said.

Since 1937, when the Oxnard Harbor District was formed to build and manage the port, it has been governed by a five-member board elected from a 163,000-acre zone from Oxnard through the southern half of Thousand Oaks.

The move to dramatically shrink the district boundaries--lopping off 119,000 acres and 57% of the electorate--was instigated by Oxnard and Port Hueneme officials in 1989. Citing a report that year, the cities argued that while they enjoyed a high percentage of the economic benefits of the port, they also suffered because port business generates heavy truck traffic on city streets, noise and congestion.

At the request of Oxnard and Port Hueneme, the Local Agency Formation Commission agreed to shrink the boundaries to include only those cities, as well as surrounding beaches and the unincorporated areas of El Rio and Nyeland Acres.

The district and Commissioners Stanley J. Daily and Edward J. Millan, both of Camarillo, sued to block the change. Although they won the first legal battle on technical grounds, in the latest ruling the appeals court said the earlier problems have been corrected.

Assistant County Counsel Noel Klebaum, who represents LAFCO, said the boundary change went into effect in January, 1991. The court ruling leaves the LAFCO decision in effect, Klebaum said.

Klebaum said he expects the ruling to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

"I would hope that they (the harbor district) would stop spending public funds on this, but who knows?" Klebaum said.

Anson M. Whitfield, who represents the harbor district and the commissioners, said he was not surprised by the court decision.

"It was a close question both ways," he said.

Whitfield said the full harbor district commission will decide whether to appeal the case.

Daily and Millan were allowed to run for reelection in 1990, when the boundary issue was still being fought in the courts. Klebaum said they will not be permitted to run again when their terms expire at the end of next year.

Although the commissioners argued that the boundary change deprived them of a legal right to run for reelection, the appeals court said there is no such right.

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