Oceanside Sea Center calls on City Council to move forward with harbor lease agreement

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Sea Center asked the City Council to move forward with the harbor lease agreement, during meeting public comments on Wednesday.

“We’re the right project for Oceanside Harbor, we want you to take action to move the project forward,” Capt. Joe Cacciola, Oceanside Sea Center principal partner, said.

The 2,300-square-foot building and six dock spaces at 315 Harbor Drive are currently occupied by Helgren’s Sportsfishing, which has held the lease for 38 years.

Oceanside opened up the lease to requests for proposals (RFP), and Oceanside Sea Center was told they won the RFP on Sept. 6.

Cacciola said two days later the company was informed there was glitch in the selection process, and have not had a meeting with the city since.

All three partners addressed council on Wednesday to share the benefits of the company, and the need for the full dock and building spaces promised in the RFP.

Oceanside Sea Center is comprised of two boat captains and a nonprofit research group. Each has operated in Oceanside for years. Together they promise to bring sportsfishing, boat tours and education to the harbor.

Partner Ernie Prieto, who owns Chubasco Sportsfishing, said Oceanside Sea Center intends to offer open party sportsfishing, which Helgren’s Sportsfishing claimed would end if the rival company were awarded the lease.

He added education would also be a major component of operations.

“We can make Oceanside Sea Center a destination point at the harbor,” Prieto said. “It’s an opportunity for the city to flourish with environmental education.”

Partner Chugey Sepulveda, research director of the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research, said the institute has helped state and federal fish management efforts for 20 years, and will continue to do so.

He said the harbor building would be an ideal office space to accommodate public visits and expand education efforts.

“Our goal is to try to keep resources available and accessible in a sustainable fashion,” Sepulveda said.

The City Council did not reply to the public comments. Prior to the meeting Councilman Jack Feller said the city is still in negotiations.

On Sept. 21 Helgren’s Sportsfishing addressed the City Council about the lease.

At that meeting council discussed a lease proposal in closed session with no reportable action. It’s assumed the discussion was about a lease with Oceanside Sea Center.

During the meeting’s public comments close to 30 people voiced support for Helgren’s Sportsfishing to continue its long-standing lease.

Then in late October Michelle Skaggs-Lawrence, city manager, told The Coast News the city put a new offer on the table.

“There is an effort to see if we can have the premises shared by users,” Lawrence said. “Terms have been offered.”

Doug Eddow, city real estate manager, said the notification that Oceanside Sea Center had won the RFP was withdrawn, so a shared lease could be considered.

Oceanside Sea Center did not confirm they were informed of changes.

An update is expected within 60 days.

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