Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, June 21 @ 4:48 p.m. / Infrastructure, Local Government
RV Park Development Project at Crescent City Harbor In 'Weird Limbo' As Relationship Between Alex Lemus and Harbor District Sours
Communications between Alex Lemus and the Crescent City Harbor District over the lease and operation of two RV parks at the port have broken down.
Lemus, CEO of Renewable Energy Capital, said Wednesday his company’s uncovered issues with Redwood Harbor Village and Bayside RV parks and were uncomfortable taking on the liability for them.
These issues include underage children living at Redwood Harbor Village with the Harbor’s permission but without adult supervision. They also include black mold at Bayside that the port didn’t disclose as well as allegations of prostitution and drug use.
Another concern, according to Lemus, is that Bayside RV Park’s operation permit is still listed through the California Department of Housing and Community Development as belonging to the Dwelley & Frazier, not the Crescent City Harbor District.
“I gave those (concerns) to Wes White and I advised the staff, of ‘Here’s some of the things that are going on,’” Lemus told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Wednesday, referring to a March 30 conversation he had with Harbor District Board president Wes White. “I’ll do the online site and all the other things, but I’m not assuming ownership until all these issues have been addressed legally and environmentally.”
Crescent City Harbormaster Tim Petrick refuted each concern Lemus raised with the Outpost on Wednesday, including the allegation that underage children were living at the park unsupervised.
“There was a tenant killed in a head-on collision with a log truck,” Petrick said. “Her sons still live in the park. Their father is in the picture and is aware of the situation. The older son is about 21 and the younger is, I think, 16. We have spoken with the authorities and they have parental consent.”
In response to allegations of prostitution and drug sales, Petrick said potential prostitution had been reported to, and followed-up on by, the sheriff’s office. None was found. Drug sales were happening and has been a constant issue which was corrected, Petrick said.
“All of this was reported to REC before the leases were even written, let alone signed,” Petrick told the Outpost. “Registered sex offenders cannot be descriminated against as long as they are following the rules, which our handful were. I inherited all of them when I got here and I made Alex aware of them repeatedly.”
The due diligence period Lemus had to conduct inspections on both RV parks ended in November. At that point, according to Petrick, the Harbor District began asking Lemus to pay rent, provide insurance and a transition plan for the residents and to take over operating the park and assume its bills.
“As of March, he started trying to shop commissioners to get a deal and I put a stop to it,” Petrick said. “He was given one week before we involved the attorneys and that has been the deal ever since.”
On Wednesday, Petrick told the Outpost that he plans to send REC a five-day demand letter to “pay or quit,” giving the developer a chance to come to the table. If Lemus doesn’t agree to negotiate a settlement or otherwise meet the Harbor District’s demands, the Harbor District will file an unlawful retainer against REC, Petrick said.
“We’re in this weird limbo phase, but I do think it will be a lot more clear in the next couple of weeks as to where we stand and what we’re going to need to do,” he said. “One of our issues is REC has not provided us with a transition plan. We were supposed to have a transition plan of how they were going to handle the residents, and the transition plan he’s provided us is ‘nobody’s forced to leave.' But that’s not a legal document. He hasn’t given us a legal document that is a transition plan.”
As for the HCD permit to operate Bayside RV Park, Petrick said he spoke with HCD about the permit being in Dwelley and Frazier’s name, but they weren’t concerned.
“(They) said all that had to be done was to have REC file for the new permit, which we told (Lemus) repeatedly,” Petrick said. “He refused to do that. REC did not uncover anything in due diligence that wasn’t already disclosed and at the end of the due diligence period, he chose to accept the lease and take possession. He had the opportunity to extend the due diligence or walk away and he chose not to.”
Lemus, who became acquainted with the Crescent City Harbor District in 2016 when it was trying to get a solar project underway to save on energy costs, unveiled a redevelopment project for Bayside RV Park in August 2021, which included upgrading the landscaping and infrastructure and purchasing Airstream travel trailers and cabins for short-term overnight stays.
In April 2022, Lemus entered into lease agreements with the Harbor District to operate Redwood Harbor Village and Bayside. Those agreements wouldn’t take effect until after a 180-day due diligence period that would allow Lemus to determine if the project was feasible and to work with the current tenants on a relocation plan.
In September 2022, Lemus said he wanted to finalize REC’s takeover of the parks beginning in 2023 and promised not to evict or raise rents on tenants who were in good standing for 12 months after the leases took effect.
In December, Harbor Commissioners gave Lemus the green light for him to begin renovating Redwood Harbor Village, which involved him moving the current residents to Bayside.
Those improvements were expected to start Feb. 1 and under the lease agreements, REC would pay a monthly rent of $35,000 for Redwood Harbor Village and $33,333 for Bayside.
On Wednesday, Lemus said REC has paid a “deposit on the first month’s rent,” as well as $39,000 in repairs. He estimates REC has put in about $100,000 plus labor in work at Redwood Harbor Village.
They’ve also moved most of the long-term Redwood Harbor Village residents to Bayside, he said.
“We’ve got that in a really good spot and it’s going to be used for what its intended purpose was, to focus on out-of-town visitors and tourists to come in and spend a few days, leave, pay their TOT [Transient Occupancy Tax] and people are really, really happy,” Lemus said.
According to Lemus, Bayside is not included in that transition plan.
Petrick, however, said in January or February, REC sent the Harbor District $35,000 for one month’s rent at Redwood Harbor Village — with Lemus saying it’s a deposit, though a deposit wasn’t mentioned in the lease. But that’s the only payment the Harbor District has received from REC, Petrick said.
Meanwhile, since Lemus took over Bayside, long-term resident Kami Schnacker said there have been some issues with the transition of Redwood Harbor Village residents to the park she lives at with her husband and children.
Those issues include a reduction in office hours, which make it difficult for Schnacker to get her mail or pay her rent, and a lack of maintenance at the park. According to Schnacker, while Harbor District staff clean the bathrooms and run the office, they’re not employed by Lemus and can’t do park maintenance.
“We have one of their park benches in our space. It’s rotted and rusted and we’ve asked it to be moved, but no one from the Harbor is allowed to do that and Lemus’s people are not doing it even though they said they will,” Schnacker told the Outpost. “Our sewage, the connections have been overrun because the grasses and the sands are not being maintained, so we’re having to do all of that ourselves or leave it. The grassy areas that are behind the trailers in some spaces, none of it is being mowed or Weed-eated. It is as tall as my 8-year-old.”
Schnacker said the showers in the restroom are also not draining and are not being fixed, though one stall had an 'out of order' sign on it on Saturday. She said she’s brought this to the attention of Daniel Lemus, Alex Lemus’s son who manages the property, but nothing has been done.
“Most of what I’m talking about you can drive through and see it,” she said. “Honestly, I’m surprised people don’t see it and drive away.”
The lack in maintenance and landscaping at Bayside, according to Petrick, is due to the legal issues between Lemus and the Harbor District.
Harbor District staff are doing the “bare minimum” — the bathrooms are still getting cleaned and they’ll respond in case a water line breaks or there’s another emergency. But they don’t have the staff to address day-to-day maintenance, Petrick said.
“We’re kind of in this weird catch-22. We’re not getting the income for it that we’re supposed to be getting and (Lemus) is supposed to be doing it, so we’re just doing the bare minimum right now while we work with the legal process on it,” Petrick said. “Because we hadn’t really planned on having the staff and the means to be doing this right now because we thought he was going to be doing what he said he would do.”
Shnacker, who was one of the more vocal residents who raised concerns about Lemus’s development project, said she also hasn’t received a relocation plan — one of the promises Lemus made to the Harbor when taking on the leases.
Schnacker and other residents had worked with True North Organizing Network who helped facilitate communication with REC.
“Since then everything’s kind of petered out,” she told the Outpost. “I don’t see residents talking to each other much about it. We do see that some Redwood Harbor guys have come in, but we’re not being contacted about anything. I think most of the people in Bayside, who have been in Bayside, have a ‘Well, it went away,’ kind of frame of mind.”