| SLIP FEES IN DANA POINT HARBOR
On February 8 we informed you of our recent efforts to try and reduce your slip fees. In that Boaters Blast we provided links to recent letters to the County of Orange Supervisor Pat Bates and County Counsel, as well as our recent survey of Southern California municipal, not for profit marinas and the correspondence with Harbor Director Brad Gross.
Since then we have secured recent financial information for the Tidelands Trust from the County to begin discussions about reducing our slip rates to a level comparable with other municipal, not for profit marinas included in our survey.
Just to reiterate our position; it goes something like this.
The Tidelands Trust requires that income earned from sources within the Harbor remain in the Harbor. Therefore, revenues earned should support the basic operating expenses of the Harbor, both land and waterside. Those revenues should also support reserves for future replacements and capital expenditures based on a professional reserve study that determines the long term needs of the Harbor. The amount of slip fees and rent charged the merchants in the Harbor should be no more than what is required to fund these operating expenses and programmatic reserves. In other words there should be no excess if responsible budgeting and planning were to occur.
Further, rates charged for slip fees should be consistent with "comparable" marinas in Southern California. Comparable marinas would only include those run as not for profit, publicly owned marinas that have a similar cost structure that does not include earning a profit. The current Operating Agreement between the County and its marina operators requires this "comparability" with other marinas from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
Unfortunately since the County took over operations of the Harbor it appears the transition from a for profit to a not for profit operation never took place. Slip fees and rents have been charged at rates that are equivalent to market rates in the private sector. Our slip fee increases over the past nine years (with the exception of the past two years) have been based on comparisons to private marinas, and even without the profit motive of such marinas, are not comparable to DPH due to amenities such as pools and clubhouses that we do not enjoy. We have challenged these comparisons in the past, including last year when for the first time rates were not increased.
The severe economic conditions of the past couple of years have highlighted the fact that our slip rates are severely out of line with what our market truly is; other municipal, not for profit marinas, and we think it's time this situation is addressed with a significant decrease in slip rents to bring us in line. For instance, Long Beach Marina offers 25' slips in Alamitos Bay for $256/mo, and because of an overhang allowance of up to 4'11", one can put a 29'11" boat in such slip. In DPH one could have put up to a 29'6" in a 25' slip for $373/mo, until the County changed the rules to not allow such 29' slips any longer. Nevertheless, the $117/mo higher cost to maintain a 25' slip in DPH, 31% higher than Long Beach/Alamitos, illustrates the point. These differences permeate each slip level between DPH and Long Beach, as well as the other two municipal, not for profit marinas in our study.
Some would argue that we should be paying market rates, that boaters should be charged "highest and best use" market rates. If our State and Local parks were run with similar profit goals in mind, it would not only make it difficult for many citizens to enjoy, but could be considered to constitute an unlawful tax. Our Harbor is essentially considered a park.
One recent consequence of the fact that our Harbor is currently generating a substantial profit is that funds were diverted from the Tidelands Trust to help pay for the Sheriff's Harbor Patrol for the first time this year. Since County revenues are down, Harbor Patrol costs are up, and the Tidelands Trust just happens to have a significant cash balance due to years of overcharging of Harbor boaters and merchants, it was convenient for County officials to illegally take funds from the Trust. We say illegal, because a similar diversion occurred in the early 1980's, to fund County Lifeguard services, and was determined to be illegal in court, with the County required to reimburse the Trust. Harbor Patrol Services had formerly been paid out of the County General Fund, a fact we are attempting to confirm with our other information requests.
We will continue to make our best efforts to work with those in the County to reach a common ground in determining a fair revenue structure for what is our Harbor, but we need your help. Please write your County Supervisors to let them know you expect the profit taking to end, that slip and other rental rates need to be rolled back to "comparable" market rates for a municipal, not for profit marina.
Board of Directors,
Dana Point Boaters Association
Mission Statement;The Dana Point Boaters Association advocates the preservation, enhancement, and expansion of affordable recreational boating. We work to improve the family friendly atmosphere and breadth of water-oriented actives we all enjoy in the harbor. We serve as the watchdog by ethically protecting the rights of all boaters and representing them when collective action is most effective. We actively gather information and communicate our views to educate boaters, external interests, and public officials. We build and maintain constructive, working relationships to achieve common goals with other harbor stakeholders. We will pass on our harbor to the next generation of recreational boaters in better condition than it is today.