History of Channel Islands Harbor

The Channel Islands Harbor is a gem on the California coast between Port Hueneme and Ventura. It was built as a recreational harbor in the 1960s and 1970s on 310 acres of land and water, with approximately 2,150 boat slips, as well as marina facilities, restaurants, sportfishing facilities, chandleries and shops.
The Harbor is divided into three areas (west, east and peninsula) served by separate public roads, with each area providing different services. The west side consists of marinas, a linear park, restaurants, residential development and retail businesses. The peninsula is dominated by hotel development, marinas, apartments and condominiums. The east side is primarily commercial and serves boaters by offering boat yards, a marine supply store, boat sales, law enforcement, administration and search and rescue facilities.

The Harbor is owned and operated by the County of Ventura. The majority of the Harbor is operated by businesses that have been granted long-term ground leases by the Board of Supervisors.

Channel Islands Harbor is a combined shore-protection project and small craft harbor located at the southern end of the Santa Barbara Channel[1] in the town of Oxnard, California. The US Army Corps of Engineers formed the harbor in 1960 by scooping out sand dunes and wetlands and depositing the surplus sand at the nearby beaches of Port Hueneme.[2] The horse-shoe shaped harbor contains 166 acres of water surrounded by 126 acres of land[3] and supports more than 2,500 vessels,[2] four yacht clubs, and nine full-service marinas.[4] It is a frequent point of departure for all five of the nearby Channel Islands, the closest of which is Anacapa Island. It has become the fifth largest harbor for small-craft recreation in the state of California[5] and is a waterfront resort, recreation, and dining marketplace. Recreational activities include diving, boat charters, sea kayaking, sportfishing, and whale watching (gray whales January through early April; blue and humpback whales July to September). The Ventura County Maritime Museum is located within the harbor and offers a regularly rotating exhibit, maritime-themed art, and model ships. Every three years it is host to the Channel Islands Tall Ships Festival which includes between two and five large sailing vessels as well as thousands of visitors.

The harbor waters connect to the north with Mandalay Bay, a residential 129-unit waterfront development built by a company called Shamrock/ Voss, a joint venture of Shamrock Holdings Inc. of Burbank and Voss Construction Co. Inc. of Oxnard in 1987. The development is arranged in six tracts of single-family homes and townhouses standing on reinforced concrete bulkheads along a series of short navigable canal-like waterways.[6] Between 1950 and 1981 Mandalay Bay was a permitted oil field waste disposal site which caused the release of numerous hazardous chemicals.[7] The records of what was dumped were subsequently lost, resulting in calls for an investigation and millions of dollars in lawsuits from home buyers who were told the area was safe for habitation.[8]

The Channel Islands Harbor has a long, colorful history, having been carved out of the sand dunes, which at one time served the needs of Hollywood’s silver screen stars. The process began with the dredging of the Harbor in 1960. After five years of preparation, the Harbor was dedicated on May 30, 1965 by Richard Bard, an organizer and financial supporter of the project. Today, Channel Islands Harbor serves as a center of recreation, boating, shopping, and water sports activities. Special events are held at the Harbor throughout the year.

Located on California’s Gold Coast, midway between the world-famous seaside cities of Santa Barbara and Malibu, Channel Islands, as we locals call it begins and ends along Oxnard’s smooth beaches. The soft sands of Hollywood Beach and world-famous surfing at Silverstrand Beach are all highlights of a typical morning or evening walk. The scenic Channel Islands Harbor, centerpiece of activity at the beach offers a lively choice of pastimes. From water-related recreation, casual dining and shopping to the many special events scheduled year round – there’s always something to do. Celebration of the Whales, the summer Concert by the Sea series, 4th of July fireworks and the holiday boat Parade of Lights are just a few of our annual attractions. Full-time resort living is offered at the new Channel Islands Waterfront Homes, boasting unmatched marina views.

Channel Islands Harbor is known as the Gateway to the Channel Islands. Five of the eight islands that make up this chain along the California coast are National Parks. Anacapa, with its trademark 40’ high Arch Rock is the closest, just 11 miles off our shore. The Channel Islands are one of the world’s largest breeding grounds for sea lions and seals and are the only known breeding grounds for the once almost extinct Brown Pelican. Oceanographer Jacque Cousteau, on his maiden voyage aboard his beloved vessel Calypso documented the Islands’ unique sensitive habitat in a film titled; “Channel Islands, At the Edge of the Human Tide.” Scuba diving, boating, kayaking, and sightseeing are unmatched here. Daily excursions are made via Island Packers, located at Marine Emporium.

Until recently Oxnard’s coastal history was recorded back to the days when Chumash Indians lived and fished here, commuting to the offshore islands in canoes. But when the remains of a prehistoric Dwarf Mammoth were discovered on San Miguel Island, geologists theorized that originally the chain of islands were joined as one large island, Santa Rosae, then divided after the last ice age when the continental ice sheets melted. Some still contend the islands were actually part of the mainland but this theory is now widely disputed. Juan Cabrillo, the Portuguese explorer who discovered California, is said to be buried in an unmarked grave on San Miguel Island.

Spaniards shot teal and mallard in the cattail marshes. In the late 1800’s Thomas Bard built a shipping wharf at Hueneme and the area’s housing market began.

In 1926 there was no greater star in Hollywood than Rudolph Valentino. When his movie, “The Sheik” was filmed alongside the artesian well that is now called Lakeshore Drive, it cast Oxnard’s beaches into the limelight. Metro-Goldwin-Mayer came first and all other studios followed. Because of the large movie crews, accommodations in Oxnard and neighboring Hueneme were filled to overflowing. Eleanor Boardman, Hedda Hopper and Buster Collier were reported as buying beach property and the dream of a new Hollywood beside the sea was born. Land developers flocked to the area to capitalize on this new found playground of the stars. Three independent and highly competitive subdivisions sprang up. Hollywood by the Sea was the most prominent, with streets named after familiar streets in Hollywood such as Sunset Drive, Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga Drive (so as the stars wouldn’t be homesick.) Hollywood Beach and Silverstrand Beach were also developed and during 1927 at least a hundred beach cottages were built. Making movies was booming at the beach but the dream soon faded. When talkies were introduced it was determined that sound equipment was costly and the gamble of making pictures on location was too uncertain. Sound stages were built on the studio lots.

Throughout the 1930’s the focus in Oxnard was on recreation. Clark Gable spent much time here enjoying the lavish duck hunting brought on by the lush cattail marsh. There was growing enthusiasm for a pleasure boat harbor to be built in these salt marshes. The Bard family honored this vision and donated land which in 1939 became Hueneme Harbor. The deep-sea port not only provided a harbor for hauling Ventura County produce to markets anywhere in the world but also answered the need for pleasure boat access. This activity stimulated interest in Oxnard’s beaches once again and real estate developers launched an aggressive marketing campaign focusing on the beaches’ investment values and its rich recreational opportunities. Soon after the port was dredged, however, it fell under government control and became a military installation during World War II.
The demand for pleasure craft berths continued and in 1956 the Bards again donated 112 acres of prime coastal land for this use. It seemed as if the dream would finally come to fruition. Voters authorized revenue bonds to cover expense of construction but they didn’t sell and the Harbor was put on hold. Suddenly in 1960, the Army Corp of engineers began digging. Erosion was threatening Navy installations at Port Hueneme and dredging the harbor basin provided the sand to replenish what had washed away. Sands, it seems, had shifted in favor of a small craft marina.

Individual leaseholds were sold to fore thinking entrepreneurs and investors included the legendary John Wayne. On Memorial Day in 1965, Channel Islands Harbor was dedicated. Several streets were lost to make way for the new Harbor and now the large beach was truly separated. Today, Hollywood Beach lies on the West side of the Harbor and Hollywood by the Sea and Silverstrand Beach flank the East.

In each of these beachside communities you’ll see a variety of housing styles. Redevelopment is constant on this rare coastal land. Older houses are often razed to be replaced with custom-built luxury beach homes.
However, it is often one of the original cottages, having been lovingly maintained and perhaps passed down for generations, that add to the unique charm of our little paradise by the sea. Look for Casa Valentino or Grandma’s Cabin for a taste of nostalgia.

The artesian lake where Valentino romanced the ladies, is since dry and is recognized only by the name, Lakeshore Drive at Hollywood by the Sea. Silverstrand Beach, now more famous for its world class surfing and fish tacos than for its movie stars still holds its glamour. The Southern break wall is formed from the remains of the sunken luxury liner, La Janelle whose story is told in a display at the Maritime Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The scenic shores and cobblestoned Fisherman’s Wharf are still a popular site for filmakers. A watchful eye will recognize local beach and marina homes featured in the nightime soap, “Melrose Place,” as well as scenes in “Passions,” “High Tide,” and “Back to the Future II.”

South of the deep port is Hueneme Beach. Rows of beachfront homes and condominiums line the shores. A memorial to those lost in the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 is erected at the foot of the Hueneme Pier. A few miles down the road is our area’s newest pride, the University of Channel Islands.

From the Channel Islands bridge, you’ll see the development we commonly refer to as Mandalay Bay. Saltwater canals surround these single family town homes and estates, each featuring its own private boat dock. Harbor Island is a luxury condominium complex featuring large floorplans, private elevators and an exclusive marina and yacht club. Dredging is currently underway to extend the canals to make room for more homes, parks and public waterways.

Oxnard’s coastline continues north to include the gorgeous Mandalay Beach Resort. This five star beachfront compound, with its landmark bell tower and beachfront boardwalk, is a shining star for our Channel Islands community. The Colony, whose gated community of condominiums and townhomes feature lush landscape and Spanish Architecture that complements the surrounding resort. Oxnard State Beach, with it’s scenic sand dunes and palm-lined offer acres of green grass for family gatherings, recreation and kite flying. Here, the City offers one of the few handicap assessable beaches with a paved walkway right to the water’s edge.
Closing the Oxnard city limits is Mandalay Shores (formerly known as Oxnard Shores). In these few square miles of prime beachfront is a close-knit coastal community, again with an eclectic collection of housing. From custom-built beachfront estates, to a myriad of single family homes, condominiums, apartments and even one of the few Ocean-side mobile home parks in Southern California.

Channel Islands Harbor is located about 110 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles and 1.6 kilometers upcoast (northwest) of Port Hueneme (Fig. 1). The harbor consists of entrance jetties and an offshore breakwater which were constructed to provide a solution to a downcoast beach erosion problem and to provide a small-craft harbor. Before the harbor construction, a serious erosion problem existed downcoast (southeast) of Port Hueneme which has been attributed to diversion of littoral sands into the Hueneme Canyon by the Port Hueneme north jetty. Presently, sand trapped at Channel Islands Harbor is bypassed to the south of Port Hueneme by periodic dredging (U.S. Army Engineer District, Los Angeles, 1948; Herron and Harris, 1966).

The offshore breakwater is 700 meters long, is located 600 meters offshore in a water depth of 9 meters, and trends roughly parallel to the shore. The design of the sand trap was developed empirically by considering the configuration of the Santa Monica, California, breakwater fillet and by developing diffraction patterns for generally prevailing waves (U.S. Army Engineer District, Los Angeles, 1948; Herron and Harris, 1966).
Subdivided between 1969 and 1973 by the Oxnard Marina Development Co., the two phases of Mandalay Bay west of the Edison Canal were built before the introduction of mandatory environmental reviews.

The Channel Islands Waterfront Homeowners Association (CIWHA) is a volunteer association composed of owners of single family homes located in the Channel Islands harbor section of Oxnard, California. The primary mission of the CIWHA is to serve as a liaison between the City of Oxnard and the homeowners.
The Channel Islands Waterfront Homeowners Association began over 35 years ago. It grew from the developers’ deed restrictions requiring there be a homeowner-controlled architectural committee. Although compliance with the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCR’s) is required of all homeowners, membership in the Association is voluntary. The Association does not own any common areas, nor does it contract out for any community services. Streets, sidewalks, green belts, and other infrastructure are publicly owned and maintained by the City of Oxnard.

Over the years the Association has brought homeowners together and has been responsible for efforts to beautify, protect, and enhance the area. With projects and committees running the gamut from seawall repairs and maintenance to water quality, landscaping, architecture review, police, security and noise abatement, volunteer homeowners have given thousands of hours to assure that Mandalay Bay maintains its distinct and comfortable laid-back ambiance.

Commonly known as Mandalay Bay, the marina north of Channel Islands Boulevard is surrounded by approximately 730 single-family homes. Most detached homes are located on the east side of the main channel, and most zero lot-line townhomes are located on the west side. All of the homes have adjacent docks which are individually owned.