|Dana Point Boaters Association eNewsletter
Thursday, September 19, 2019
DPBA Update: So Much News to Share
Please don't let our relative silence lately suggest that we haven't been busy. Quite the opposite. We've been meaning to provide you with an update for oh so long, but the information we want to share keeps evolving, our desired tone is borderline psychotic (Are we angry today, or are we happy? Are we supportive or ready to rebel?), and there just seems so little time to do it all. But we owe you an update, and it's a long one. We encourage you to read it all, because there is plenty of important news in here, but for those of you with specific interests and little time, here are the topics we plan to cover in this newsletter and feel free to scroll to what you want to read:
- DPHP Submits Coastal Commission Application
- The Marina Plan (including a link to the latest plan)
- The Dry Storage Plan
- New Broker and Charter Rules
- SLA Rules Enforcement
- Closing Thoughts - We Hear You
DPHP Submits Coastal Commission Application
If you've visited the docks in the last couple weeks, no doubt you've seen the notices posted at the gates. Dana Point Harbor Partners has submitted its application to the California Coastal Commission for the waterside marina redevelopment project.
The Coastal Commission is difficult to predict, other than we know they take their time and they zealously protect the public interest (or at least their version of it). We expect a public hearing to be scheduled sometime mid-2020, with permits likely issued by the end of next year, and construction to begin in early 2021. Dana Point Harbor Partners is estimating a four- to five-year construction schedule for marina redevelopment.
The County of Orange, City of Dana Point, Army Corps of Engineers and of course your Dana Point Boaters Association have participated in the development and review of the proposed marina plans, and there is cautious optimism that Dana Point Harbor Partners will prevail in obtaining the entitlements necessary from the Coastal Commission to proceed to construction. That said, there will almost certainly be demands by the Commission along the way to make tweaks to the plan, likely in the interests of protecting the environment and advancing affordable coastal access.
In a late development, DPHP separated the waterside marina and Embarcadero dry storage facility in their application to the Coastal Commission, contrary to the original plan to submit them as a single combined project. Submitting these two interconnected projects separately gives DPHP more time to refine the dry storage plan without delaying implementation of the waterside marina project. Your Boaters Association supports this move, as we share DPHP's desire to deliberate the dry storage plan more thoroughly and consider alterations that might require additional reviews by the Coastal Commission. More on that in a moment. First, let's discuss the marina plan...
The Marina Plan
The marina revitalization plan remains very similar to the proposed design presented publicly last year, with minor revisions aimed mostly at ensuring safe navigation and including alterations to the dedicated broker docks. Hot off the press, you can review the latest marina plan
. This marina plan was developed in close coordination between DPHP and your Boaters Association, and incorporates many of our expectations and requests.
We are often asked how we settled on the layout of the new marina. We have explored the complexities of redeveloping our marina in previous newsletters, so we won't dwell on it in detail here, other than to revisit this excerpt from a previous newsletter:
"It's a numbers game, with two numbers prevailing over all of it: 2254 and 32. The California Coastal Commission requires that our new marina have no fewer than 2254 total recreational slips, and an average slip size not to exceed 32'. Today we have 2409 slips averaging about 29'. We also have vacancies under 30', and demand exceeding a 10-year wait in some larger categories. How do we build a marina with no fewer than 2254 slips, averaging no more than 32', while making adjustments to serve the demand? It's a 2254-piece puzzle. The proposed dock configurations are based on achieving these numbers in the confined footprint of our harbor, complying with ADA and other regulations, and in consideration of marina standards for fairway widths and navigable space, and so much more." In the end, we believe we have a marina design that achieves these goals while creating a boater-friendly experience. It was no easy task, perhaps it's not perfect, and we continue to welcome your input. The plan isn't final until it is blessed by the Coastal Commission.
The Dry Storage Plan
As we described above, Dana Point Harbor Partners separated the dry storage (Embarcadero) plan from the waterside marina in their application to the California Coastal Commission. DPHP desires more time to examine and refine the plan for dry storage, and we support their patience. In a turf war lost years ago on behalf of our boaters, back when the County developed the scope of the Harbor Revitalization Plan, a significant portion of the real estate dedicated to the Embarcadero was lost to retail parking. This loss has already happened, with day-use parking reduced to 100 spaces. However, the California Coastal Commission, in their overarching Local Coastal Program for Dana Point Harbor, mandated that the redevelopment plan preserve the existing 493 long-term dry storage spaces and original 334 day-use spaces. So, with less real estate to work with, the plan from the beginning has been to go vertical (much like urban real estate planning). As you may recall, the County's original plan was for a pair of large, enormously expensive "boat barns" with automated gantry lift systems. The community opposed this solution, and the County eventually scrapped the barns. (For the record, we continue to oppose the boat barns, just in case someone decides to sneak them back into the plan.)
But unless we surrender some of the existing long-term storage capacity, which we are resistant to do, vertical storage will be inevitable. In DPHP's latest concepts, a portion of the Embarcadero will include open boat storage racks, with boats retrieved by specialized fork lifts. There will also continue to be surface storage for sailboats and vessels with towers. But the proper mix and layout remain a daunting design challenge that requires further study. As does the placement of vessels during construction.
Another matter is the Coastal Commission-mandated 334 day-use parking spaces. Even the Coastal Commission acknowledges that this may exceed the safe throughput capacity of the launch ramps. Might this be an opportunity to adjust the day-use capacity to better serve the long-term storage facility? DPHP has demonstrated that properly managed and enforced, even 100 day-use spaces are more than enough for existing demand. There was not a day this summer on which the constrained 100 day-use spaces reached capacity; for this, DPHP deserves commendation.
Adjustments to the 334-space requirement will require special (and time consuming) consideration by the Coastal Commission, hence the move to separate the application from the waterside marina plan. We intend to continue to collaborate closely with DPHP on the plan for the Embarcadero dry storage facility to ensure it properly serves our boating community.
New Broker and Charter Rules
DPHP recently implemented new rules for boat brokers and charter operators, especially where the two overlap. These new rules affect a narrow segment of our Dana Point Harbor community, but they have generated disproportionate buzz, and some misinformation, so let's offer some clarification and detail.
In general terms, the new rules:
- Eliminate percentage (of sales) rents paid by brokers.
- Implement increased commercial rates for broker slips (in lieu of percentage rents).
- Restrict the use of broker slips to boat sales and subleases to buyers of brokered vessels only.
- Prohibit the use of broker slips for all other purposes, including charters.
- Require all subleases to be managed by the Marina at Dana Point and limited to two years.
- Require all charters to be registered and managed by the Marina at Dana Point.
Over the years, Dana Point Harbor boat brokers have accumulated as many as 15 to 20 or more recreational boat slips each, presently totaling 92 slips allocated to brokers. However, at any given time, only a fraction of these slips is occupied by vessels for sale. Instead, broker slips are more often subleased to boat buyers (often as an incentive to purchase the vessel), charter operators and others. Charter operators often pay a percentage of their revenue to the brokers, who effectively profit from subleasing their slips. And arguably, subleasing broker slips to boat buyers and charter operators (and others) allows boaters to bypass the waitlists.
Your Dana Point Boaters Association supports a proportionately-sized and healthy broker market in our harbor. Dana Point boaters and prospective buyers benefit from having local brokers facilitate the sales of all manner of vessels, from lower-cost used boats to brand new yachts. And we support allocating a limited number of slips of various sizes to this endeavor. However, we also believe that the significant expansion over the years of the broker slip inventory, and their prevalent use for subleases, charters and purposes other than boat sales, undermines the recreational boating experience and is contrary to the vision of the Dana Point Tidelands Act that created our harbor. So, we support rules that limit the use of broker slips to
boat sales only
, and which motivate the brokers to reassess their slip inventory and make extraneous slips available to the waitlists.
That said, we are concerned that the new com
mercial slips rates may be averse to brokers of lower-cost used vessels, which generate lower profit margins than the sale of new and high-cost yachts. As a publicly-owned municipal boat harbor with protections of affordable coastal access, we must remain a harbor that supports brokers of lower-cost vessels. DPHP has promised us that they remain committed to supporting these brokers; we are highly skeptical and will be watching developments closely.
Now on to the charters... Boat charters, whether they be fishing excursions or sunset cruises, are integral to the recreational boating experience. However, nearly every boat harbor along our coast is contending with illegal charter operators - those that operate contrary to the rules, often without proper safety equipment or insurance. Dana Point Harbor is no different. We support efforts by law enforcement, the County of Orange and Dana Point Harbor Partners to eradicate non-permitted charter operators. Essential to this effort is identifying, permitting and monitoring
legal charter operators. So long as it's done in a way that supports a diverse and affordable charter market, while also allowing the charter operators to thrive, we support corralling the charter operators under DPHP for permitting and monitoring.
On a related note, some Dana Point charter operators have found themselves in the predicament of occupying slips assigned to a boat broker, which of course are no longer allowed to sublease to charter operators. Most of these permitted operators have been offered to remain in business, so long as the broker relinquishes their slip and the charter operator agrees to the new charter rules, including a flat commercial slip rate in lieu of their previous percentage rents.
Dana Point Harbor Partners is obligated by their lease agreement with the County of Orange to enforce the rules of our slip license agreements. Many of these rules predate DPHP and were loosely enforced, if at all, by the County's marina operators. Some of these rules are new, either dictated by the County or added by DPHP. In any case, our SLAs include conditions - ole and new - that we are obligated to comply with as tenants of our marina. As DPHP begins to enforce the terms of our SLAs, some of our boaters are learning the hard way that these rules exist.
Your Boaters Association leadership communicates regularly with marina management to examine the conditions of our SLAs, and we strive to eliminate or modify rules that adversely affect our community without a worthwhile benefit. Also, we have urged DPHP to de-prioritize the enforcement of rules unrelated to safety or liability. And to their credit, there remain some conditions of our SLAs that DPHP has been agreeable to taking a soft approach to enforcing (for instance, how many of us keep our paddleboards and kayaks on the docks?). In other cases, DPHP is taking a stricter approach than their predecessors, such as with dinghies that obstruct safe navigation of the fairways. Recently a few boaters found their dinghies temporarily impounded after complaints were raised by their dock neighbors.
In any case, we are all obligated to familiarize ourselves with the terms of our slip license agreements. That said, we also believe it is essential for marina management to signal any new enforcement activities, whether the rules are new or old; we will do our best to alert you as we become aware of them. And please know that we are working diligently with DPHP to ensure that rules are appropriate and add value to our community, and that their enforcement is fair and even-handed. Please let us know your experiences in this regard.
Closing Thoughts - We Hear You
Rarely a day goes by where we don't hear from so many of you - your emails, voicemails, stopping us on the docks. Your comments, complaints, suggestions, your gratitude, and even name calling. We get it all, all the time. And it all matters to us. If we were to measure the collective mood of our community by your feedback, we would conclude that we are experiencing both the anxiety and excitement of change. The past year hasn't been entirely smooth sailing, and we've heard about it loud and clear from many of you. And please know that when we agree - which is often - we make our charge at marina management to advocate for you. No doubt we elicit, "Oh no, what do they want now?" when they see us coming. Sometimes we achieve agreeable resolutions and compromise, sometimes we don't. But we are always trying.
And as much as the twists and turns of the path towards Harbor Revitalization may challenge us, we must never lose sight of the ultimate destination. In that regard, despite occasional headwinds, we believe we remain on the right course. We have seen the plans for the future of our harbor up close, we have participated in their development, and we remain excited for them. There are so many fantastic details yet to be revealed, and we can't wait to broadcast them. When we do, and especially when we finally get to see, feel and experience all of them, we remain confident that this will all have been worth it.
And finally this... Your DPBA leadership team is committed to protecting and advancing the interests of our Dana Point boating community. We are your voice on all matters affecting our harbor. But we only succeed with your support. Your attention, input and moral support most of all. But also financial support. It takes very little to fund what we do, but it's not free. Every dollar counts. If you can spare $10, $25, $50 or $100 to the cause, it goes a long way to keeping us on track, please
to donate! Thank you.