Shannon Levin takes on Dana Point Harbor

Dana Point’s new harbor manager has an open door policy.

DANA POINT ­― Shannon Levin stepped into her new role as manager of Dana Point Harbor on June 9, after spending the previous nine years at Newport Beach’s Harbor Resources Division. She fills a new role created by O.C. Parks, roughly one year after Orange County reorganized harbor operations and did away with an independent Harbor Director.

Levin, as Dana Point Harbor’s manager, says she seeks to serve the local boating community with an “open ear in fairness and transparency.”

Getting to know everyone in the community – all the boating organizations, stakeholders, yacht clubs, businesses and recreational operations – is Levin’s approach to being transparent.   “I think that boating and public access in the harbor is something very special. It’s my job to give the public the best resources that [O.C. Parks and I] can. I want people to see me as a resource – as one of their agents.” Levin stated.

O.C. Parks has been overseeing Dana Point Harbor since May 2016.

“With O.C. Parks stepping in and my new appointment, I think we are looking at a new phase and a new paradigm down here,” Levin said. “We want to make this a really amazing destination for our boaters, visitors and commercial tenants.”

Levin also said she takes public safety very seriously. Together with Harbor Patrol, they are here to educate people on the water and to encourage people to recreate in a safe way.

“Dana Point has had some issues with stability and consistency,” Levin did say. “I’m here to listen, and I want to provide consistency and stability for the community.”

She did not elaborate on what elements of Dana Point Harbor’s operations she considered inconsistent or unstable. Nonetheless several interesting developments transpired at the South Orange County waterfront during the past few years.

An Orange County Grand Jury reviewed constant delays associated with the Dana Point Harbor Revitalization Plan and reported its findings in 2014. A portion of the report stated “a culture of leave well enough alone” existed among county employees and officials.

A brighter spotlight was shone on the harbor nearly two years later, when then-Harbor Director Brad Gross resigned shortly before county officials released the first of four audits of waterfront operations.

Publication of the three remaining county audit reports and the Harbor Department’s merger into O.C. Parks also occurring in the 12 months between Gross’s resignation and Levin’s appointment.

“I can’t speak on what happened in the past, because I wasn’t here and I do business a different way,” Levin stated. “Everyone does business a little bit differently, so there’s nothing I’m out to fix.

“I think there was a large change over the last year, and I don’t think it’s my job to necessarily make changes. I think my job here is to provide stability and confidence. I’m an ear to the people, and the changes have already occurred,” Levin continued.

Levin did state cleaning up the audits is a priority.

“The county audits almost all of their agreements, whether they’re here in Dana Point or elsewhere,” Levin commented. “So those audits really just serve…as a baseline of how we’re going to manage all of our operating agreements or our leases.”

Levin’s tenure as harbor manager will coincide with the planned revitalization of Dana Point Harbor, which has been in the works since 1997.

“That revitalization project is in the hands of the real estate office, so right now we don’t really have much to do with it,” Levin said. “I know that they’re working on it. I have no authority to speak of in regards to the revitalization.”

County officials are currently seeking a private developer to execute a multimillion-dollar plan to completely revamp the harbor’s landside and waterside elements.

Dana Point Harbor is currently home to about 2,409 boat slips in two marinas (East Basin and West Basin). Levin would be overseeing the marinas as well as the harbor’s commercial core and other basic operations.

Levin’s experience in Newport Beach included handling mooring and harbor code revisions, overseeing construction and dredging projects, managing coastal resources and tidelands and much more.

Levin collaborated with other departments and regulatory agencies on the development of Newport Beach’s Marina Park, which opened in December 2015. What was once an under-utilized stretch of beach was converted into a community center and visitor-serving marina, Levin mentioned.

The Newport Beach Harbor Resources Division “tackled a lot of high-profile, political projects…related to rent and fees, rules and regulations, commercial or residential [as well as] public trust,” Levin stated. “I think that has prepared me for this job, because we’ve done so much there that I can apply all of that knowledge here.”

Orange County officially began recruiting for a new Dana Point harbor manager in December 2016. The public job announcement stated the harbor manager would earn an annual salary between $76,960 and $136,760.

Levin, in her previous position as Newport Beach’s Harbor Resources Supervisor, earned $114,115 in regular pay in 2015, according to the California State Controller’s office.

“I’m really excited to be here [in Dana Point] and to get to know all the people and all the players. It is my job to provide the public a resource out here,” Levin told The Log.

– Sr. Content Editor Parimal M. Rohit contributed to this story.

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