Dana Point harbor is getting a makeover. Not everyone’s happy about it

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A view of Dana Point harbor with the ship "Spirit of Dana Point" anchored at the Ocean Institute in the foreground, 2008. The harbor is now being redeveloped, but some people worry that it’s not giving enough access to the general public and people who can’t afford big yachts and marina fees. Photo by Tracie Hall (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to approve a redevelopment plan for the harbor at Dana Point. But some commissioners and locals worry that it’s not giving enough access to the general public — people who can’t afford big yachts and marina fees.

Gustavo Arellano, host of KCRW’s “Orange County Line,” says the Dana Point harbor was built in the late 1960s-early 1970s and killed the surfing culture. “It’s been a black hole ever since. It’s just a place where people go to put their boats. … Dana Point has been trying for decades to bring more tourism and even more locals from across Orange County down there. So about 20 years ago, Orange County, the government decided we’re going to redevelop Dana Point harbor.” 

The county entered a public-private partnership that enables the development. 

Arellano says the development involves eliminating about 130 boat spaces to make bigger boat spaces. “Immediately you have boaters themselves saying, ‘Hey we’re not going to have as much access as we used to.’”

On the other hand, Gustavo says the developer vowed to create a program that brings underprivileged youth to Dana Point harbor and give them hands-on training (though it’s unclear what that training exactly is). The hope is that maybe 10% of them will learn to sail. 

“The Coastal Commission was like, ‘10%, that’s not really a big guarantee to create equity down there.’ And the developer said, ‘Well that’s because there’s not really much of a demand of underprivileged people to be boating.’ And the commissioner responded, ‘Well maybe because they’ve never had that chance to begin with.’ So there’s that concern … since it’s all the way down … in Orange County, how are kids from Anaheim or Santa Ana supposed to have the access to go down there?”

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