Our Analysis: Examining the County's RFP to Potential Developers
On October 19th the County of Orange issued a request for proposals (RFP) to the three private developers who had previously qualified as potential suitors to take over the Dana Point Harbor Revitalization Project. This RFP seeks detailed proposals from the developers on how they would rebuild Dana Point Harbor and assume daily operations under a 50-year master lease. Proposals are due by March 16, 2017. We have reviewed the RFP thoroughly and have some observations to report. This is important stuff, so please read on.
[Read our article on the planned Public/Private Partnership
. Read the RFP
Why the RFP is so important:
The RFP explains to the three potential developers what the County expects from their proposals; essentially, it encapsulates the County's vision for the future of our harbor. This document is essential to understanding what the next 50 years of our harbor may look like. So what's in it?
More than 20 years have gone into planning the future of our harbor. Hundreds of meetings, many thousands of hours, deal making and compromising, and millions of taxpayer dollars resulted in a detailed plan that in 2009 was approved by the California Coastal Commission, and last year building permits were issued by the City of Dana Point to begin construction on the commercial core (shops and restaurants). It's ready to go. So we would expect the RFP to direct the developers to adhere to this approved plan, right?
Not so fast. Despite all that has been invested in the approved Revitalization Plan, the product of this investment is not specifically prescribed in the RFP. Instead, it allows the developers "
to propose any new ideas or a different vision for the DPH Revitalization Plan" (page 12). Hmm. So, the developers are free to suggest a future for our harbor contrary to what we've spent so much time and money agreeing on. Also, the RFP doesn't specify a construction timeline or deadline, nor does it place any urgency on dock replacement. And the RFP assures the developers that their proposed plans "
shall remain confidential until the conclusion of negotiations and execution of a Lease" (page 16). It even warns them of "
the risk associated with the public review process" (page 12), meaning public backlash.
Worst case scenario: The winning developer proposes a future for our harbor wildly different, perhaps far grander and more extravagant, than we've all come to expect. They are put in no rush to do it, perhaps deferring marina (docks, etc.) redevelopment into the distant future when the return on their investment might be more favorable. And we don't get to see the plan until it's too late. That's the worst case scenario.
That said, there are some encouraging signs in the RFP:
- Proposed plans must be "aesthetically pleasing", "locally sensitive", and "retain the character of the local community in the Harbor" (page 8).
- The RFP prioritizes "community involvement in the operation, maintenance and future development of the Harbor" (page 10).
- It states that "continued stakeholder engagement is vital to the success of the Harbor and the Project" (page 11), even naming the Dana Point Boaters Association among the stakeholders.
- The Twelve Guiding Principles, which have served as the foundation for all harbor redevelopment planning, are specifically referenced in the RFP (page 10), though the respondents are not necessarily obligated to them.
- And it puts the responsibility for paying the boat slip possessory interest tax (PIT) squarely on the new marina operator (page 13), eliminating the PIT double-pay that boaters have been unduly burdened by in recent years. We can't understate the achievement this is on behalf of boaters, something we've been fighting for since it was implemented. More to come on this topic.
So, while there is some cause for alarm in this RFP, there is also hope. And we're left to wonder, what should we realistically expect from the winning proposal and developer? Impossible to know, since none of us will see it until it's all been decided. But in our many meetings with Harbor and County officials over the years, including a flurry of recent meetings, we have been assured consistently that everyone desires a future for our harbor that respects our small-town charm, that retains the marina-centric character of our harbor, and avoids over commercialization of the entertainment district. We have to take them, and hold them, to their word. As do you.
We're on this, as we have been for ten years now, doing our best to guide this project to a conclusion that properly serves our Dana Point boaters, as well has our entire harbor community. Let us know how you feel. Send us a note, or submit a question, suggestion or concern here.
For the Board of Directors,
The Dana Point Boaters Association