Standing Watch

Time’s Up: Putting the Clock on Waterfront Development

Could Newport Beach’s plan to put a time limit on construction projects be scaled and applied to waterfront developments at Dana Point, Channel Islands Harbor and elsewhere?

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA—Reminiscing on my favorite cartoons as a child I have to wonder: Could Orange or Ventura counties borrow from ‘The Jetsons’ and hire either Cogswell Cogs or Spacely Space Sprockets to expedite the slow-moving harbor redevelopment projects at Dana Point and Oxnard? My imagination is certainly getting the best of me here – not only are Cogswell and Spacely fictional companies there is also no way Dana Point and Channel Islands harbors would be constructed in a matter of seconds or minutes, as if we’re literally living in episodes of ‘The Jetsons.’

We’re definitely not in a position where we could build heavy infrastructure (harbors, buildings, roads, etc.) at the blink of an eye, but what if city and county governments imposed strict time limits on construction projects? The city of Newport Beach, for example, is looking to impose time limits on certain construction projects. Any one-unit or two-unit dwellings (not part of a tract development) would have to be completed within three years, according to the Newport Beach policy.

The nature of Newport Beach’s construction time restriction is taken into account here. No one is suggesting a three-year window to complete a project the scale of Dana Point Harbor. It’s not like we’re living in the era of ‘The Jetsons’ – we don’t even have flying cars.

Yet the spirit of this Newport Beach mandate should be noted. Why shouldn’t waterfront development projects, regardless of scale, be held to a strict timeline?

Dana Point Harbor, for example, could see its revitalization completed by 2030, based upon a loose timeline suggested by Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett. Let’s assume the new Dana Point Harbor is indeed completed and operational by 2030 – at least 33 years would have passed between the first chatter of revitalizing Orange County’s southernmost harbor and completion.

So much has happened in the 22 years between 1997 and 2019 – and who knows how much more change we will experience in the next 11 years (or beyond).

Similar could be said of the Channel Islands Harbor revitalization in Oxnard, which has been in the works for a little more than a decade. The project hit a rough patch during the Great Recession of 2008 and has been slow to recover since, but Ventura County Harbor Department Director Mark Sandoval was recently on record saying the revitalization is about to begin and a groundbreaking could be scheduled at some point this year.

Boaters and anglers who use King Harbor in Redondo Beach will have to wait several years before any revitalization on the South Bay waterfront becomes a reality. Plans to modernize the King Harbor waterfront were kyboshed last year, thanks to local activists pushing back hard on the project’s large-scaled elements.

Now there have been a few bright spots, such as Alamitos Bay Marina in Long Beach. The city of Long Beach spent 13 years revitalizing the marina (in phases); what began in 2005 was completed in 2018. CenterCal Properties’ shopping plaza across from Alamitos Bay Marina has made quite a bit of progress and could be completed at some point this year, even with a recent inquiry by the California Coastal Commission regarding the possible removal of palm trees. The 2nd and PCH project, which CenterCal’s CEO stated would cater to local boaters, gained momentum in 2017, when a hotel on the property site was demolished to make way for the new commercial shopping center.

Elements of Ventura Harbor have been “beautified” and revitalized in recent years, with relatively quick turnaround. Coronado and the Port of San Diego upgraded docks and a boat launch ramp at Glorietta Bay Marina by 2017, only a few years after the project’s conception. Individual projects on and around the San Diego waterfront were conceived and completed since Orange County officials first discussed a revitalization of Dana Point Harbor in 1997.

Then there are the waterfront redevelopments in Dana Point and Oxnard, where the length of time between conception and completion is generational. Orange and Ventura county officials should get started on the next harbor revitalization projects now – you know, so they’re ready to implement the next round of changes after the current plans become phased out.

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A lot of variables do go into a redevelopment project. There are negotiations, risks and market conditions to consider, among other things. But isn’t waiting 33 years to see a project come to life a little too long to wait (and this assumes the new Dana Point Harbor will indeed be completed and operational by 2030)? Plans to upgrade Channel Islands Harbor hit a major speed bump with the Great Recession of 2008, but it’s now 2019 – how much time is considered reasonable to allow for recovery from poor market conditions?

The bigger question is whether Newport Beach is onto something with its time limit mandate for smaller construction projects. Why stop at projects barely flying above the radar? Should we require all new developments to be completed within a prescribed (and reasonable) amount of time (with certain factors negotiated in advance)?

Your local city council or county board of supervisors can only make these decisions – here are a few people you can contact. Feel free to reach out to them and let them know your thoughts on revitalizations (and how long it should take for them to be realized).


City of San Diego

Mayor Kevin Faulconer

Francis Barraza

Twitter: @SDMayorsOffice


Port of San Diego

Commissioner Rafael Castellanos

Commissioner Ann Moore

Commissioner Robert “Dukie” Valderrama

Commissioner Marshall Merrifield

Commissioner Garry Bonelli

Commissioner Dan Malcolm

Commissioner Michael Zucchet


Orange County Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett (Dana Point)

Supervisor Michelle Steel (Newport Beach)


Newport Beach

Council member Marshall “Duffy” Duffield

Council member Brad Avery


Port of Los Angeles

Gene Seroka, Executive Director


Long Beach

Council member Suzie Price

Jack Cunningham


Redondo Beach

Council member Nils Nehrenheim
424-374-7168 (cell)


Marina del Rey

Supervisor Janice Hahn
Twitter: @SupJaniceHahn


Ventura Port District

Everard G. Ashworth

Jean Getchell

Jackie Gardina

Commissioner Brian Brennan

Commissioner Chris Stephens


Ventura County Board of Supervisors

Supervisor John C. Zaragoza (Oxnard/Channel Islands Harbor)