Since its formation in July, the Harbor Advisory Committee has met four times, discussing construction schedules for the marina revitalization already well underway, the commercial core construction and hotel development awaiting a California Coastal Commission decision, project oversight and more.
In an emailed statement, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley noted that “the Fifth District’s Dana Point Harbor Oversight Advisory Committee remains dedicated to transparency and oversight of the Harbor Revitalization project.”
“Our first meetings consisted of educational updates from the Dana Point Harbor Partners and County of Orange Real Estate Department on the structure of the partnership, status of the Harbor revitalization financials and construction schedule,” Foley continued. “The Committee elected the two Boater Representatives to lead them as Chair and Secretary, and identified gaps in the organizational and construction documents that may lead to confusion with the public.”
Dana Point Mayor Mike Frost gave an update on the Harbor Advisory Committee’s progress at a Nov. 7 council meeting during councilmember comments, noting that the committee has hit a few milestones that he wanted to share.
“First of all, I want to say, I thank the Supervisor for setting (the committee) up,” Frost said. “It takes a lot of time and it opens everyone up for constructive criticism.”
The first update Frost wanted to share was about the harbor’s west-side improvements. Westwind Sailing Executive Director Diane Wenzel and Ocean Institute President and CEO Wendy Marshall are also members of the committee—stakeholders for the harbor’s west-side, Frost added.
“They are putting in their ideas for how to, I guess, either reimagine or refurbish, remodel that area,” Frost said. “I get the sense that that is going to be a new focus, a new family area over there with more activity.”
The primary goal of the committee isn’t to question the direction of the harbor, Frost said, but to help highlight and fix issues as the project progresses.
“While I’m sure some people would like to question the future direction, that is not the point of this committee,” Frost said.
Touching on the timeline for construction, Frost noted that the Second Amendment to the County’s Master Ground Lease Agreement with the Harbor Partners sets a deadline for commencement of construction as of January 2024.
Frost added that in general, there’s a lot of unknowns with the harbor redevelopment.
“Big, long projects, they change, schedules change, designs change, financing, there’s a lot of those things that change and it’s the perception that the county isn’t perhaps managing those changes as well as they should,” Frost said.
“Now, I say perception because there’s nothing specific that they’re necessarily doing wrong, it’s just not obvious that there’s that oversight,” Frost continued.
The two main points Frost emphasized was that the unknowns and lack of public awareness on the project breeds misinformation and mistrust and that the advisory committee feels that “the fix for that is better project management or oversight from the county.”
“This is not a knock on the Harbor Partners,” Frost said. “They’re probably spending a lot of extra time validating that what they’re doing is correct. I think the advisory committee would like a little better transparency on the county’s role in validating that the project is rolling in the right direction.”
The county’s CEO of Real Estate offered an update during the November committee meetings where it was discussed that the department would create a dedicated staff position for overseeing the revitalization.
Frost concluded his comments during the council meeting noting that he felt the committee was moving in the right direction.
“Hopefully that sort of creates a better sense of everybody understanding or feeling comfortable with the execution of the project,” Frost said.
Speaking with the Dana Point Times on Thursday, Nov. 16, Frost emphasized that “our residents and stakeholders, even if they don’t agree with the long-term direction of the harbor, they deserve to be well informed. I want our residents to know what’s going on.”
Foley noted that the Harbor Advisory Committee meetings “represent a promising start for transparency for each project phase as we all work together to revitalize and reimagine Dana Point Harbor.”
“The meetings already made a profound impact on the whole Harbor community,” Foley continued. “In previous years, the Harbor’s holiday lights stopped at the beginning of the Sailing and Events Center, but a discussion between our members led to the extension of the holiday lights through to the edge of the Ocean Institute.”
Committee meeting minutes are available on the county website at d5.ocgov.com/dana-point-harbor-updates.