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Supervisors award long-term lease on Fisherman's Wharf to L.A. firm

Under the deal, Edward M. Czuker will revitalize and operate the site at Channel Islands Harbor for up to 65 years.

June 27, 2007|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles developer won a long-term lease Tuesday for the long-neglected Fisherman's Wharf shopping center at Channel Islands Harbor in Ventura County and unveiled plans for a total overhaul of the property.

For years, the nautical-themed complex has stood as an eyesore at a busy intersection in south Oxnard, victim to poor management and political wars over redevelopment at the aging harbor. On Tuesday, however, the county Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to award developer Edward M. Czuker a lease to revitalize and operate the six-acre property for up to 65 years. The property is owned by the county's Harbor Department.

Czuker has developed more than $750 million worth of California real estate, harbor officials said, including a similar mixed-use complex in Marina del Rey.

The lease identifies two phases. In the first, Czuker has five years to obtain necessary permits from the county and the California Coastal Commission to redevelop the property.

His preference is to raze the property and start from scratch, possibly expanding onto four acres immediately south of Fisherman's Wharf. If that is not approved, he plans to rebuild the existing buildings from the ground up, harbor officials said.

In either case, the resulting center would be a mix of restaurants, shops, offices and apartments, said Harbor Director Lyn Krieger.

While gaining permits, Czuker must maintain the existing properties , possibly securing short-term restaurant tenants. He will pay the county a minimum rent of $50,000 a year, plus half of anything he earns from tenants above $100,000, according to the lease. Once permits are in hand, Czuker would be required to spend $20 million to rebuild the expanded wharf property or $10 million to redevelop the existing site.

If he cannot get permission to do either, Czuker must still spend $7 million to revitalize the existing Fisherman's Wharf. Czuker told supervisors that he planned to work collaboratively with the harbor's neighbors in drawing up blueprints for the new center.

Two other developers asked the Board of Supervisors to wait at least 30 days so they could submit their own proposals. But the majority of supervisors said they thought Czuker's was the best deal they could make, given the controversy that has surrounded any redevelopment at the harbor.

"The process was open and fair," said Supervisor Kathy Long, noting that six proposals had been debated by a harbor committee. "If this investor fails, we fail. This property has been decaying in front of our eyes for years and years."

Supervisor John Flynn was the sole dissenter. Flynn said the lease was too generous and could cost taxpayers money if the developer defaulted.

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