Orange County extends lease with Catalina Express

The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a lease agreement for Catalina Channel Express (or Catalina Express) to continue offering ferry service between Dana Point Harbor and Avalon, Oct. 31.

Supervisors only approved the extension, however, after Supervisor Shawn Nelson asked county staff and his colleagues about Catalina Express’s handling of parking payments.

Orange County and Catalina Express had apparently engaged in a legal battle over money the former owed the latter. Catalina Express allegedly failed to share portions of parking proceeds, per its lease, with the county, resulting in a legal claim against the shuttle service.

Nelson specifically asked county staff and his colleagues whether Catalina Express has been “a good citizen” since the legal matter resolved.

“We had some litigation with this group, where they were taking parking fees online [and] the agreement was we would get … 10 percent,” Nelson explained, adding the company, at times, didn’t always pay the county its share. “We were on the verge of trial, we were being pushed to settle [and] the board final made a decision: no, we are going to hash this out.”

The company apparently agreed to pay Orange County the amount request, according to Nelson.

Catalina Express, whose lease agreement with Orange County was set to expire Oct. 31, had been in good standing with the county after the lawsuit, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and county staff confirmed.

Catalina Express will continue offering service from Dana Point Harbor to Avalon through Oct. 31, 2020.

The ferry company’s rent is $117,903 or 5 percent of its gross revenue, whichever is greater, plus 85 percent of parking revenues generated by its passengers. Catalina Express must also pay one percent of its gross revenues toward common area maintenance.

Catalina Express paid Orange County $722,841 for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year and $634,902 for 2015-16, according to a county staff report.

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