Speakers lend support in harbor lease issue

OCEANSIDE — Over a dozen speakers addressed the City Council on Wednesday to share their support for one of two charter boat companies vying for lease space in Oceanside Harbor.

Speakers were split in giving acclaim to Helgren’s Oceanside Sportfishing, which has held a lease at Harbor Drive South for 38 years, and Oceanside Sea Center, which has operated in the harbor under a sublease from Helgren’s.

Helgren’s supporters pointed out the company’s long-standing history running a successful family sport fishing business, and its connections throughout the community.

Bait company owner James Gardner said his business depends on Helgren’s.

“We’re kind of joined at the hip, we operate on a percentage basis with them,” Gardner said.

Oceanside Sea Center advocates commended the research company for its education programs.

Carlsbad science teacher Tod Muilenberg said Oceanside Sea Center provides North County students with hands on learning experiences.

“We get to do real science, kids use oceanographic equipment, this program is one of a kind,” Muilenberg said.

Other Oceanside Sea Center supporters said the company, which is promising to build an aquarium, will move the harbor forward.

City Council members did not comment on the harbor lease agreement, which was discussed in closed session that night and is still under negotiations.

City attorney John Mullen reported that both companies would be offered a nonexclusive lease agreement. Price and terms of the lease were not shared.

The idea of a shared lease did not sit well with many speakers.

Several speakers said asking rival charter boat companies to operate out of the same location would spell disaster.

The companies are distinct, but provide very similar services.

They have already butted heads over the sublease, and whether Oceanside Sea Center paid its fair share.

A few speakers suggested that the city allow Helgren’s to continue its lease at its present location, and offer Oceanside Sea Center a lease space on the other side of the harbor.

Speakers noted the fallout of sharing a dock space and building could jeopardize Helgren’s long running success.

“Friendly competition is good,” boater Jim Jenkins said. “The part that concerns me is they need to go off in their own areas. If another group wants to come in, put it in another area of harbor and see if they’re going to be here for 38 years.”

Both companies will receive a lease agreement from the city to consider this week.

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