Helgren’s Sportsfishing fights to hold onto its lease

Helgren’s Sportsfishing fights to hold onto its lease
Anglers await an afternoon sportfishing boat. A new lease agreement may mean the end of open party sportfishing from Oceanside Harbor. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Helgren’s Sportsfishing got word that it may lose its lease at Oceanside Harbor after 38 years.

The family owned and operated charter boat company wants to continue its business, and provide sport fishing opportunities from the harbor.

Helgren’s is as much an icon of Oceanside Harbor as the lighthouse building located next to it. For close to four decades it has offered day and overnight fishing trips, whale watching tours and burial at sea services.

Earlier this year Helgren’s was notified there would be an open request for proposals to assure there was no monopoly on the lease, which expires in May 2017.

Michael Duff, general corporate counsel for Helgren’s, said the company expected to reapply for its lease, and was told by harbor manager Paul Lawrence the city was “being fair, and there’s nothing to worry about.”

Bidding closed on May 31.

Helgren’s and another Oceanside-based company submitted proposals to lease exclusive vessel for hire rights within the harbor, an approximate 2,300 square foot building, and dock space for about six boats.

Lawrence said as of Sept. 6, no final decision has been made on the lease.

“The RFP process is ongoing and there is currently no lease completed, nor is there a date to take a recommended lease to the City Council,” Lawrence said.

Duff said Lawrence called company owner Joey Helgren on Aug. 23, to give him a heads up that another company was (preliminarily) selected.

A day prior to Lawrence’s call, a San Diego newspaper reporter contacted Helgren’s for an interview on the lease loss.

Duff said he has questions about the selection process, and how word of a tentative decision was known by the media before Lawrence told Helgren.

He said he also has concerns about the brevity of the lease applicant, which is three pages long, compared to the harbor janitorial services document, which is 30 pages.

Duff said Helgren’s had a verbal interview with the lease review committee as a preliminary step, and understood there would be an opportunity to speak to Oceanside City Council/Harbor District Board of Directors before a decision was made.

Lawrence told The Coast News on Tuesday that a request for proposal will soon be brought forward.

“What we have at this time is a staff recommendation for one of the RFP respondents,” Lawrence said.

The company, which is said to be considered for the lease (although not confirmed) is Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research. The nonprofit is know for catch and release practices, and research.

It does not provide open party sportsfishing, which is the most popular service Helgren’s offers.

This alarms Helgren’s for the welfare of its customers.

“If you don’t own a boat, and can’t afford to buy one (charter an entire boat), you have to go somewhere else,” Duff said.

Duff said he wants answers on how the tentative selection was made, and has requested documents from the city. He said he was recently notified by the city attorney that documents will be withheld until final lease negotiations.

In April, Lawrence said proposals would be scored for new vessels, a wide range of services, experience, financial statements, proposed lease terms, planned improvements and other factors.

Duff said news that there will be a public hearing soon is heartening.

He said Helgren’s has run a successful long-term business and wants to continue its relationship with the city.

He added until there is a final decision it will be business as usual for Helgren’s, which has seen a high fish count this week and had full boats for open party fishing trips.

The Coast News will continue to provide updates on lease negotiations.

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