Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times
In 2019, then-City Manager Mark Denny declared homelessness as the issue of focus for the year for Dana Point—a statement that was reinforced by survey results administered to residents.
In 2020, the health and economic threat of COVID-19 declared itself to be the issue of focus for the year.
In 2021, Mayor Jamey Federico says the issue of focus will be economic recovery.
“It’s important to plan ahead for unforeseen events,” Federico said. “There are certain policies in place that help us weather the storm so that when it came time to address the fiscal impact, many of the questions of how we’d address them were already in our policies.”
As California undergoes its first phase of vaccine distribution, Federico says in his conversations with residents that many are eager for circumstances to return to normal.
“Most people are concerned about moving on from COVID and managing the fiscal impacts, which is something the city is very focused on,” Federico said.
In April, current City Manager Mike Killebrew provided a chilling forecast to city council that the financial impacts of COVID-19 on the second calendar quarter of 2020 would be devastating. In August, Killebrew reported that Fiscal Year 2021 would likely see a hit of more than $7 million.
The transient occupancy tax (TOT), the city’s largest source of revenue, is projected to have a shortfall of $5.9 million for FY21. The TOT typically accounts for about 30% of the city budget. With the hospitality and tourism industry taking a global hit, Dana Point will see the financial consequences.
But city staff has adapted to the financial uncertainties by cutting personnel costs. Job vacancies have remained unfilled and employees have been cross-trained. Employee raises have been cut from the budget, too.
“We have a dedicated, agile staff,” Federico said. “I’m really proud of how our city went above and beyond to not only adapt but to ensure the safety of our residents and to support our local businesses.”
Federico was first elected to service on city council for District 3 in 2018. He was appointed mayor in November after having served as mayor pro tem through most of 2020. As council and city staff anticipate navigating economic recovery, Federico says that an economic study conducted in 2020 will help city leaders explore alternative revenue sources.
“We’re going to have big economic milestones this year,” Federico said. “One of the other things we’re going to do this year is update the city’s General Plan. We’re hopefully going to approve the Doheny Village Revitalization Plan.”
The city is still operating under the original General Plan that was approved when the city was formed in 1989. Certain elements have seen revisions, but the entire plan has never been updated. Efforts to create an updated plan for the Doheny Village (or Capistrano Beach Village) area were first initiated in the 1980s, as well.
City staff and consultants are currently working on an environmental impact review for the Doheny Village Capital Improvement Plan, which could be available to the public as soon as February 2021.
In light of the new year, Federico has identified some areas of improvement for the city to work toward.
“One of the things we learned through COVID is the importance of community engagement,” Federico said. “It’s not one of the things we’ve been best at, particularly with our departments interacting directly with the community. We’re going to create a system where our departments have more internal communication to improve on how we serve the community.”
Hypothetically speaking, if the city’s police services is called out to respond to an issue that is more suitable for code enforcement (or vice versa), Federico says he hopes to assemble a formal plan that helps guide the departments in cross-communication and follow-up.
As for the community, Federico asks that residents and businesses continue to show the support that they have for one another.
“I would just ask our residents to continue supporting one another and our local businesses,” Federico said. “Our residents have been great in supporting one another. As the health risks of COVID are lessened with the vaccine, I hope that they can still continue to support one another.”
The next Dana Point City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. at Dana Point City Hall. Meetings are livestreamed on the City of Dana Point YouTube account.