We owe you an update on two important matters underway in our harbor, and an assurance that we're still busy on a lot more than our
new hats, burgees and bumper stickers
. Following are updates on two very important matters affecting the future of our harbor: 1) the progress of the County's negotiations with our new developer/operator, and 2) the status of the new Dana Point Harbor Advisory Board.
Harbor Revitalization P3 Contract
On October 17th the
Orange County Board of Supervisors selected Dana Point Harbor Partners
(DPHP) to assume responsibility for the Harbor Revitalization Plan and operate our harbor under a master lease for the next 66 years. In close partnership with our harbor merchants, your
Dana Point Boaters Association supported and applauded this selection
. In very short order after the County's selection of DPHP, the two parties began intensive contract negotiations, with an aggressive goal of returning to the Board of Supervisors with a proposed contract by the end of this year. However, as you might expect when negotiating a $250+ million investment and a lease of public property for 66 years, there are challenging gaps to close between the two parties. Yet, there is optimism expressed by both sides that a proposed contract will be ready in the first quarter of 2018.
Among the terms being negotiated between the County and DPHP are the scope, plans and phasing of the construction of the commercial district, hotel and our marinas. But even more critical to the success of this project than when our new harbor will be built and what it will all look like are the financial terms between the two parties. Who pays for what and how much? Who will be responsible for ongoing operational costs, such as dredging, harbor patrol, and so on? What are the forecasted costs for these peripheral expenses over the next 66 years? And how does this all affect what we will pay in slip fees, what the merchants will pay in rents? It's an extraordinarily complicated matter, and the County and DPHP are striving to sort this out and close the gap in their differing projections and expectations. But we understand as recently as yesterday that tangible progress is being made.
Of course all of this will have an extraordinary and transformative impact on the future of our harbor and our place in it. When will our marinas be rebuilt, how will they be reconfigured, where will my boat be after redevelopment and how much will I pay? We are working closely with both the County and DPHP to help guide these discussions and settle on some conclusions that serve our community well.
We have been pleased to participate in this process. We were asked at the onset to provide proposed terms on behalf of our recreational boating community that we believe are important to the contract. In November we presented a detailed list of proposed contract terms to the County negotiating team, then met to review and further develop them. We must limit this summary to generalities for now, but following is a brief overview of some of the terms that we believe must be addressed in the County's contract with Dana Point Harbor Partners:
- Slip rates. We believe the County must retain some governance over the determination of slip rates, with simple and publicly-disclosed formulas for assigning and managing slip fees. Slip rates must remain reasonable for our municipal harbor, yet allow the developer sufficient returns on their $100M+ marina investment.
- Customer service and maintenance standards. Metrics should be established to routinely measure marina operator performance against established standards; this data must be publicly disclosed.
- Waitlist and slip assignment management. Improvements must be made to how a unified waitlist is managed and how slips and dry storage spaces are assigned to ensure fair and equal access, and to avoid prohibited slip transfers. We presented the County with a proposed revised slip waitlist and assignment policy.
- Parking management. There must be a parking management plan to ensure boater parking is protected, especially during high-demand and holidays.
- Vessel management during construction. There must be a plan for how boats will be relocated during construction that strives to avoid displacement from the harbor. This plan must also include how slips will be assigned following construction.
- Capital reinvestment. We believe the contract between the County and DPHP should describe how future capital reinvestment in our harbor will be undertaken. During the 66-year master lease, when or under what conditions will docks require redevelopment yet again, and who will pay for it?
The list goes on, but this gives you a general idea of what we are seeking during this critical phase of contract negotiations. While of course no promises were made in our conference with the County and interactions with DPHP, our proposals were received well, taken seriously, and we understand remain part of the ongoing negotiations.
So, what's next? Over the coming weeks, even through this holiday season, negotiations continue, with new goals and expectations set with each meeting. We are hopeful that a proposed contract will be concluded by February and presented to the OC Board of Supervisors by March, April at the latest. Assuming the Supervisors approve the contract, the parties will have 90-120 days to fully execute the new lease. If all goes as planned, we will have a new marina operator by late spring. Assuming a successful permitting process, construction may commence by the end of 2018. We can also expect some community outreach events by the County and DPHP in the new year after the contract has been executed, where you can meet our new partners and see their plans for our new harbor in detail.
Dana Point Harbor Advisory Board.
To keep this section brief after the wordy update above, we'll skip over all the history on this one. If you are not caught up on this topic, please see our previous newsletters
. After a few logistical delays, mostly due to scheduling challenges, we are underway again with our harbor partners on establishing the Dana Point Harbor Advisory Board (DPHAB). We have received many excellent applications from exceedingly qualified candidates from each of the harbor stakeholder groups that will be represented on this new harbor oversight committee. We imagine it's going to be tremendously difficult to narrow this fine pool of candidates down to the final nine members. But that's exactly what will take place in early January when the selection committee meets to begin this process. Once these nine community representatives and two ex-officio members are selected, an introductory meeting will be scheduled in late January or early February, where the final membership and bylaws will be ratified, and a calendar of 2018 meetings will be scheduled. These meetings will be open to the public with agendas posted online in advance of the meeting.
Expect more to come on these and other harbor topics in the coming days and weeks. It's going to be a busy and exciting new year. And as always, thank you for your support. We are here because of you, and we couldn't do what we do without you.
Happy holidays and best wishes for a terrific new year.