Dana Point boaters were protesting the almost 90 percent increase in harbor slip fees set for October of this year
DANA POINT一 On Aug. 14 more than 50 boaters from Dana Point gathered around the Richard Henry Dana statue across from Dana West Yacht Club to protest an increase in harbor slip fees that were announced in June.
Boaters were sent a letter from Bellwether Financial, a member of the Dana Point Harbor Partners, on June 21 informing them that slip rates would increase by 26 to 90 percent starting on Oct. 1 in lieu of the harbor revitalization and renovation.
Rates for slips under 30 feet would increase by 26 percent and the rates for the largest slip between 55 and 60 feet would increase by 90 percent.
Bellwether used public marinas from Orange County including 11 marinas that were located in Newport Beach, two which were located in Huntington Harbour, and one located in Sunset Beach to determine the average market rate.
In an Aug. 10 letter addressed to Orange County, Dennis C. Winters, a legal advisor to the Dana Point Boaters’ Association, alleged that the Partners were in violation of the spirit of lease and the Tidelands Grant to the County, which states that prices will be ‘market rate’ and pricing would be reasonably determined and consistent with the limitations on pricing as mandated by the Tidelands Grant.
Winters continued by saying that the partners used the ambiguity of the term ‘market rate’, which was not defined in the master lease, to justify their methodology.
In the letter Winters states that Newport is one of the most affluent areas in Orange County and had small marinas that catered to the community’s wealthiest and the Tidelands Grant was intended to provide an alternative for boaters in Dana Point away from the monopoly of Newport marinas.
According to the 2019 census, the median household income in Newport Beach was $127,223 compared to Dana Point which was at $99,409, an almost a $30,000 difference.
Because of the fee raise many boaters are facing a significant increase in their slip fee including, Wayne Addison a member of Save Our Slips, an organization protesting the slip fee, and Dana Point boater for the past 32 years who is currently a liveaboard and retiree.
“Mine is going to go up about approximately 60 percent that is the difference between being able to enjoy some of the benefits of being retired or being on a really tight budget,” said Addison. “I am not the only one I think you talked to Jim earlier his slip rent is going up double 1,400 bucks it’s just ridiculous.”
Some boaters are afraid that the raise in the slip fee is outside their budget and they will have to leave the area and some feel they may have to sell their boat.
“I have been a liveaboard for the past eight years,” said Mari Garza, liveaboard and Dana Point Boater. “I love being down in the harbor, but if they do this, I won’t be able to afford to stay so I will probably end up having to sell my boat and maybe leave the area entirely. To live here is a fantastic lifestyle so to see what they are doing is really heartbreaking.”
Protesters wearing tee shirts that read SOS, Save Our Slips, and carrying signs calling out corporate greed and the Orange County Board of Supervisors marched around the harbor and chanted about saving Dana Point Harbor.
Walking throughout the protestors as they rounded the harbor the general consensus was that although they expected a raise they didn’t expect the jump to be so drastic without any updates to the harbor.
“I am more upset about the fact that they haven’t done any of the renovations,” said Garza. “I would probably be more accepting of the fact if the work had already been completed and they were asking for additional costs because the amenities had been improved and without that, it just seems pointless they are just trying to sock it to us, and who knows about the renovations.”
In a July 25 newsletter from the Dana Point Boaters Association, the association lists a number of grievances with the marina including crumbling docks and broken-down bathrooms. The current docks are built from concrete and covered in a layer of plywood. In some areas, you can see the concrete breaking apart and the plywood has started to warp in parts of the harbor.
The group of boaters said they planned to continue to make their voices heard between letters, peaceful marches and continuing to attend the Orange County Board of Supervisors meetings.
“We are going to make our voices heard peacefully at the board of supervisors meeting the following Tuesday and hopefully get some feedback,” said Addison.
The next board of supervisors meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24 in Santa Ana.