City Sues Again Over Ventura Mall Expansion

The city of Oxnard has filed a second lawsuit in its bid to stop the proposed Buenaventura Mall expansion.

Oxnard and five Ventura residents filed the latest legal action in Superior Court on Friday, this time questioning the financial arrangements and permit process of the expansion.

The suit contends that Ventura violated the state Constitution and state law, as well as its city charter and zoning ordinances, in approving the project. It also calls a deal that has Ventura reimbursing the mall developer more than $32 million over the next 20 years for public improvements a "gift of public funds."

"This lawsuit boils down to an exploration of the financing arrangements and documentation related to the approvals and the lack thereof," Oxnard City Atty. Gary Gillig said.

Three of the five Ventura residents in the suit are city of Oxnard employees.

Sears and Robinsons-May have said they will move from Oxnard's Esplanade mall to the Ventura shopping center, an action Oxnard officials say would result in a loss of more than $500,000 in annual sales tax revenues.

"We've anticipated this and . . . it doesn't change anything," Ventura City Atty. Peter Bulens said. "The idea is to delay [the expansion] as long as possible so that Oxnard can do a similar thing."

"It has nothing to do with what anyone thinks is unconstitutional or not, it has to do with who gets the business."

Oxnard initially filed suit Feb. 29 challenging Ventura's environmental review process for the proposed development. A settlement conference for that lawsuit is scheduled for Tuesday, but a resolution to the matter isn't anticipated, Gillig said.

The second lawsuit is only the latest assault on the proposed expansion. Opponents have also turned in petitions in an attempt to force a citywide referendum in July on the contentious financing issue.

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