Finalist Chosen in Search for Marina Operator

Times Staff Writer

After eight months of negotiations, a Bakersfield firm has emerged as the top choice to take over and rebuild an aging marina at Channel Islands Harbor near Oxnard.

Harbor Director Lynn Krieger on Tuesday told the Ventura County Board of Supervisors that Vintage Marina Partners submitted the best proposal out of eight received by the county. The deal calls for renovation of the 525 boat slips at the county-owned marina.

Krieger is recommending that the county award a 45-year lease to Vintage to operate an anchorage on the western end of the harbor, formerly known as Channel Islands Marina.

Vintage has agreed to spend at least $12 million to modernize the marina, replacing deteriorating slips with new concrete docks, renovating restrooms and offices, and upgrading public amenities at nearby park areas.

Krieger's recommendation is backed by a committee that helped her sift through the proposals. Under terms of the lease, the county can pull out of the agreement if Vintage has not rebuilt the marina within five years.

Vintage owner John Giumarra told supervisors he would beat that schedule and win over skeptics who believe the selection process was too secretive. Most of the negotiations were held in closed-door sessions with the Board of Supervisors over the last several months.

"We have a plan; we have a vision," Giumarra told board members. "We fully intend to beat all of the time frames in the lease agreement."

Supervisors put off a decision on the lease for two weeks so they could have more time to study the lengthy document.

The marina was the first area to be leased when the harbor was built in 1963. But after 40 years, it has deteriorated to the point where the current structure must be removed and rebuilt, harbor officials say.

A Camarillo family that held the previous lease failed to come to agreement with the county on new terms, opening the way for Vintage to take over.

For 20 years Vintage has operated 375 other slips at the Channel Islands Harbor, near Harbor Landing. It also runs a marina at Dana Point Harbor in Orange County and has operated slips at Marina Del Rey and King's Harbor in Redondo Beach.

Negotiations have been contentious at times as the Farrell family accused the county of dealing unfairly.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, about 30 members of the Channel Islands Yacht Club filled the boardroom to ask supervisors to grant them a separate lease.

As it stands now, the 180-member yacht club would be subtenants of Vintage if the lease is approved. Several club members expressed concern that Vintage could raise the rent on their 8,000-square-foot building beyond the $1,450 a month they pay now.

Members said the yacht club has been in the same location for 40 years and that changes could spell doom for the nonprofit organization.

"It absolutely destroys me to think that this club could go down the drain by actions that could be taken here," member Betty Larsen said.

Giumarra sought to reassure the yacht club members that his company would work with them if it was awarded the master lease.

"We don't mean to cause interference or economic harm," he said.

The renovation will result in about 100 fewer slips because the new docks must be wider to adhere to disability access laws. Larger slips are also in greater demand, Krieger said.

About 47 live-aboard tenants would not be forced to move as a result of the agreement, and slip rental prices would stay the same for at least a year, she said. After that, Vintage would likely renegotiate rents to reflect upgrades, she said.

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