By Andrea Swayne
Despite the cancelation of a second year for the Tourism Business Improvement District’s IlluminOcean ocean-themed holiday light show, the city, county, TBID and resident volunteers have managed to put together a festive display this year in the Dana Point Harbor.
In response to community disappointment with the TBID’s August decision not to continue its $1 million IlluminOcean Harbor lights program this year, the body—made up of general managers of the city’s four largest hotels—voted in October to contribute last year’s lights and $25,000 to help with this year’s display. The offer was initially turned down by the Harbor Department—historically putting up its own display before IlluminOcean—although Harbor Director Brad Gross had agreed to assist in facilitating permits for the city to utilize the TBID’s donation.
Jim Miller, owner of The Coffee Importers and the president of the Harbor Merchants Association, disappointed at the prospect of the Harbor lights being a letdown for this year’s visitors, made a $13,000 investment in lights to string in the waterside outdoor seating area surrounding his business.
Michael Fox, owner of FoxLin Architects, who along with Mike Powers pitched a lighting plan at the October TBID meeting, stayed with the effort despite its initial thumbs-down by city and county officials and worked with Assistant City Manager Mike Killebrew on an inventory of last year’s IlluminOcean lights and a plan to somehow make use of the TBID’s donations.
“It’s taken a lot of meetings but some of the TBID’s lights are going up by Dec. 5,” Fox said. “What we did was work out a way to take the surplus lights from last year’s show and use them to complement what the city and county were already planning. The Harbor and the city have really stepped up with the median lighting and commercial areas, and Jim Miller really stepped it up as well.”
Killebrew said after his inventory he found the city would be able to successfully utilize the IlluminOcean lights not associated with the ocean-themed sculptures, Fox’s reworked lighting plan design and the TBID’s $25,000 donation—for installation, take-down, management and installation—in the effort.
“OC Parks waived permit fees and has also been instrumental in helping to get last minute permits and will help with the take-down,” Killebrew said. “The Harbor ‘saw the light’ so to speak and I think we will end up with a very festive display.”
Fox agreed, adding that he also thinks it has been worth the effort.
“I thought it was something worth pushing,” Fox said. “As long as the lights are here, I thought ‘let’s figure out a way to get them out of storage and get them hung up for the holiday’ It’s kind of a symbol to show that in the future it can continue. It’s taking a lot of time and planning and even though we were very late in the ball game it’s still going to be really great. Everyone eventually came together and so far we are happy with the result.”