“This shark doesn’t bite,” at least not according to J.P. Manoux, “second mate” of the Land Shark Hydra Terra vehicle, which was beached by the Santa Barbara City Council at its meeting July 1.
According to Manoux, the waterfront staff spent months “thoroughly researching the safety and sensibility of this kind of business in Santa Barbara” and expected routine approval for a one-year license agreement with the city.
Manoux’s brother Andre — who owns the $250,000 amphibious vehicle and its booking company, Land & Sea Tours — was so certain the council meeting would go smoothly, he spent the afternoon getting his Coast Guard certification.
Skipping the meeting proved a costly mistake. J.P. Manoux said the council did not vote with a completely educated point-of-view, citing misinformation about the size, noise and aesthetics of the vehicle. He is now attempting to salvage an agreement by providing the council with extensive documentation. The size of vehicle and the noise levels actually compare favorably to charter buses, according to J.P. Manoux.
Despite the Manoux’s effort to “be very respectful of the city’s position” they’ll face some rough waters in their attempt to win council approval. “When we vote on an issue, we cannot reconsider it for 90 days,” said Mayor Marty Blum.
Though the Land & Sea Tours license agreement, which would have yielded the city 5 percent of the Land Shark’s sales, is moot until October, Andre Manoux has not given up hope. He is asking the council to grant an exception to the existing ordinance that prohibits vehicles over 33 feet from entering the harbor parking lot, effectively land-locking the Land Shark. Waterfront Director John Bridley said, “The intent of that code was for parking purposes. We do have (larger) vehicles, unfortunately, that do enter the parking lot now, for purposes of delivery, drop offs, beer trucks, UPS trucks, and charter boat operators. … However, we’ve gotten our direction from the city council. We’re not expecting or anticipating further action.”
In addition to trying to fight city hall, Land & Sea Tours is also in search of community support for the unique vehicle. Last week its phone message pushed proponents to call Mayor Blum, and this week’s message urged calls to council members as well. The pros and cons seem to be about even, according to Blum. “People are aware but not incensed. I had people stop me on the street to say thanks (for not allowing the vehicle).”
Keeping the vehicle out of the water may be easier for the council than keeping it off the streets. With harbor access denied, in order to remain commercially viable the Land Shark will run eight 45-minute land tours per day, instead of the four 90-minute amphibious tours planned. “We are a licensed sight-seeing tour business. Now we’re sort of forced to spend more time on the streets if we’re to run as a business. …We don’t want that and they don’t want that,” said J.P. Manoux.