Ventura County coastal town divided on name: ‘Port’ or ‘Beach’? Voters will now decide
On a sunny spring day in Port Hueneme, the tiny community of about 80 people seems like a quiet place, with almost no traffic, few tourists, and nearly no shopping.
There are trees, a few gardens, and plenty of shade from giant live oaks. But the town has also been the scene of more than a few conflicts over the past few years, most recently after a huge influx of Russian immigrants was reported.
Homes have been torn down from what officials feared could be an unsightly housing development to make way for commercial-office and apartment complexes. A historic lighthouse was razed. And then there was the Russian invasion of the town’s seashore in 2015, when Russian-backed separatists from a newly formed militia occupied the beach, which lies just off the Ventura County coast, then fired mortar fire on U.S. military vehicles.
The town has been split, and its mayor is in a dispute with the county over whether to name the development Beaches or Ports.
“The Russians came,” said Councilman Mike Smith, who lives in the area and has lived next to the beach for more than a decade.
He’s been torn for years between what he considers to be the peaceful environment of his town, which he says he loves, and the influx of Russians into the area. When the Russians were coming in after the Russia annexation of Crimea in 2014, one of his neighbors was a Russian immigrant and they became friendly acquaintances.
The two men agreed there should be a name for the area, but a few town residents have disagreed with city officials. A petition was launched in February, and with the U.S. Presidential election just weeks away, the town is expecting a large response for its vote.
Smith’s decision comes about a year after he put forth a proposal to rename the area one Beach in honor of the community’s residents who served in World War II. Some residents were upset at the idea.
“Anybody who thinks you shouldn’t have something named after your community, just don’t vote,” said Frank Marrale, a member of the Port Hueneme