By Breeana Greenberg
To forge international city-to-city relationships, the Dana Point City Council unanimously approved a Friendship City Agreement with Sorrento, Italy during its meeting on Tuesday night, Dec. 6.
While the Friendship Agreement is non-binding, City Manager Kelly Reenders explained that it is the “first step to formally exploring the potential of a match with Sorrento.”
The agreement is an effort to promote cooperation in “tourism, arts, culture, education and mutual economic initiatives, as well as cultural and artistic exchanges, and encourage friendship between the communities through common events and experiences,” the city said in a staff report.
With the formation of the new Dana Point Sister Cities nonprofit this past May, Dana Point joins the nearly 500 communities that make up Sister Cities International—a collection of cities with formal partnerships and agreements to have ongoing cultural events.
Dana Point Sister Cities has since partnered with neighboring City of Laguna Niguel and the Dana Point Historical Society to host cultural events.
“After talking with several cities in Italy, we found out that Sorrento was a good fit,” Dana Point Sister City President Bob Zasa said.
Sorrento overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, with a similar climate to Dana Point, and offers a great place for tourism, Zasa said.
“What we did was we finally got in contact with Veronica Maresca in Sorrento; she happens to be a very popular tour guide of Italy, (and) she happened to know the Mayor of Sorrento,” Zasa said. “This thing kind of fell together really quickly.”
Sorrento’s City Council has already approved the Friendship Agreement, Zasa said.
Dana Point Historical Society President Barbara Johannes explained that Dana Point was envisioned to be a Mediterranean-like coastal town similar to Sorrento.
“I have a book that Woodruff’s realtors carried around with them and showed them photos,” Johannes said, referring to Sidney Hawks Woodruff, known as one of the first developers to build homes in Dana Point. “Two of the photos they showed (were) the coastline of Dana Point and the coastline of Sorrento, Italy.”
“The book was called Dana Point: The New Sea-Coast Community on California’s Beautiful South Shore,” Johannes continued. “The photos served as an inspiration for Woodruff’s early design of Dana Point.”
With records showing that development of the city began as early as 1923, Johannes noted that approving the Friendship Agreement with Sorrento was an apt celebration of the city’s 100th anniversary of its development.
The City of Dana Point was formally incorporated in 1989.
Councilmember Jamey Federico thanked the Sister Cities nonprofit and its board for its efforts to seek out and forge city-to-city relationships.
“This is important for our city, for furthering the culture of our city, sharing the culture with another city and the exchange that will come from it,” Federico said. “Sorrento is the perfect choice.”
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Frost—who was later appointed to the mayoral role—also thanked Zasa and the Sister Cities for working hard to include other local nonprofits in its cultural events.
According to the staff report, Sorrento has invited the City of Dana Point and its artists to visit for an art expedition in Spring 2023, which would mark the first friendship event between the two cities.
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org