The nod by the coastal commission was a victory for Bellwether Financial Group, the regional developer, global marina builder and operator who worked to garner approval of the mixed-use waterfront project.
The permit allows marina developers working on the redevelopment to move forward with construction by the end of 2021.
The 49-year-old harbor is getting a face lift that will include new restaurants, shops and hotels, as well as landscaping designs that will encourage locals and visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the harbor.
“We have a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to revitalize this iconic Orange County asset and create a destination for generations to come,” Joe Ueberroth, founder and president of Bellwether Financial Group, said in a press release.
He said he and his team worked closely with the California Coastal Commission to create the forward-thinking project.
The collaboration helped expedite the approval process, said Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
“It is impressive how efficiently and effectively Bellwether was able to facilitate what would be a very complex coastal commission process,” Bartlett said in a press release. “The Dana Point Harbor Revitalization Plan is the result of more than 20 years of community collaboration, and we are thrilled to now have it underway.”
Ueberroth said Bellwether Financial has many years of experience in marina redevelopment, repositioning and operations, including the complex entitlement process. This coupled with embracing and planning for a variety of special conditions was critical to ensure coastal commission approval, he said.
Distinct new plans for the marina include flip-flopping the parking and retail space, allowing hotels and public parks to be on the waterfront. The public will now have access to the docks and newly-created public areas, expanding recreational opportunities.
“A core part, and one we are perhaps most excited and proud will be an educational, sailing and water sport program for underserved youth in Orange County,” Ueberroth added.
Bellwether is partnering with community organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Orange County Youth Sailing, Surfrider, and the YMCA to provide 1,000 youths with sailing, ocean education programs, whale watching, swimming lessons and a variety of water activities yearly.
“How special will it be for these young individuals who may have rarely experienced the coast to learn how to sail, swim, see a whale or simply discover more about the ocean and marine life. It will impact their lives,” Ueberroth said.
With the coastal commission’s green light, the next step is to finalize construction plans and pull various city and county permits.
According to Ueberroth, once the revitalization is complete in 2026, Dana Point Harbor—the largest single-owned marina on the west coast—will “raise the bar for marinas and coastal developments of the future, with innovative dock technology, a thoughtful approach to public access, environmentally friendly initiatives and waterfront lifestyle amenities and services.”