Byline: Taylor Hill
DANA POINT — The Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) outlining the plans for Dana Point Harbor’s marina rebuild project has Dana Point residents and beach-goers concerned about the future of Baby Beach.
The report, released Sept. 21, outlined plans to reconstruct and reconfigure the docks in the harbor’s East and West basins, updating the 35-year-old docks to meet Americans with Disabilities Act and California Department of Boating and Waterways standards.
After reading the report and seeing the planned dock expansion in front of Dana Point Harbor’s Baby Beach area — a popular family beach for swimming, as well as for launching stand-up paddleboards and other human-powered craft — Dana Point resident Paul Sampedro organized and formed the group Save Baby Beach.
The group, which has 418 “likes” on Facebook and received more than 600 signatures on a petition opposing the plan, believes the described expansion of the adjacent OC Sailing and Events Center docks could block public access and have a negative effect on the environment.
“Our concern is for the people in the community who use Baby Beach,” Sampedro said. “These proposed new docks could restrict the recreational use of the basin, and that’s why we got involved.”
While the marina rebuild project includes multiple phases involving both the landside and waterside portions of the marina, Save Baby Beach members are focusing on the western extension of the current 890 linear feet of dock at the OC Sailing and Events Center, which they said could reduce the usable space at Baby Beach by 20 percent.
According to the plan, the sailing center will utilize the new docks built farther west of the existing docks, while the old sailing center docks will be reconfigured and used as private slips for Dana Point Harbor boaters.
The beach, which includes a roped-off swim area and is utilized as a launching area for standup paddleboards and kayaks, would essentially lose 110 feet of linear water area to the new dock space. The plan would put boaters in close proximity to human-powered craft and the swimming area, Save Baby Beach members said.
The plan has been proposed in the SEIR — and the report states, “The project will not interfere with the public’s right of access to the sea and does not have any effect on the use of dry sand or rocky coastal beaches.”
Sampedro, who is one of the founders of SUP Alliance — an organization focused on protecting stand-up paddleboarders’ rights — said the organization wants to see the harbor slip rebuild occur, but members want the negative impacts to Baby Beach mitigated.
Overall, the marina rebuild project shows a planned increase in the average slip size for the harbor’s 2,400 slips — from 29 feet to 32 feet. But the California Coastal Commission conditioned its approval of the project on no more than 155 slips being eliminated in the harbor.
Bruce Heyman, president of the group Boaters for Dana Point Harbor, said that harbor officials are trying to figure out how to get larger boat slips in the harbor without losing more than 155 slips.
“By taking over the current OC Sailing and Events Center slips and converting them into private slips, they get a few more slips to add to the total number for the West Basin,” said Heyman, who is opposed to the extension.
Heyman said he believes docks could be added to the East Anchorage without the negative impact involved in the proposed OC Sailing and Events Center docks. But boater parking has been limited on that side of the harbor by the planned commercial and restaurant expansion included in the landside portion of the Dana Point Harbor Revitalization plan.
“They’re not building anything in the East Anchorage, because they don’t want to provide the boater parking,” Heyman said. “They need the parking for the expansion of the stores and restaurants on that side, so they’re jamming all the boater parking and storage into as small a space as possible.”
Throughout the process, Dana Point Harbor director Brad Gross has maintained that the development plans outlined in the SEIR for the Dana Point Harbor Marina Improvement Project are still just possibilities, and what is outlined does not necessarily represent what ultimately will be created.
“He’s looking for input, and he says that what is being documented may never be built,” Sampedro said. “That means we have a few opportunities to have an impact on what actually gets built. We’re not trying to be an obstructionist group; we want good things to happen in the harbor and the impactful things to be mitigated.”
For more information on Save Baby Beach, visit the group’s Facebook page at savebabybeach.com. For more information on Boaters for Dana Point Harbor, visit boaters4dph.com. To view the draft SEIR, visit ocdph.com.