Dana Point, California
A World Class City on California’s Pacific Coast
With sun, surf, and an enviable lifestyle, Dana Point, California beckons
Home to more than 35,000 residents, Dana Point is a world-class city in California’s Orange County, offering unparalleled coastal views along miles of the Pacific Ocean. As the gateway to some of the state’s most popular beaches, including Doheny State, Strands, Salt Creek and Capistrano, the city is known for its outstanding surfing and has been home to many surf industry greats, as well as product innovators in the world of water sports. Uniquely Dana Point has also been recognized by the World Cetacean Alliance as a Whale Heritage Site, the first in the United States, and a true honor for the community.
About this designation, City Manager Mike Killebrew says much of the credit goes to the two local whale tour owners, Donna Kalez and Gisele Anderson, who joined forces to make it happen. “They really took a leadership role in promoting Dana Point to the esteemed organization. A big part of our history and our industry in Dana Point is whale watching. The coast is a natural migratory path for whales, and it is big business and a big part of our culture here. The designation is an honor, and we celebrate our heritage regularly.” Don Hansen, owner of one of Dana Point’s original whale-watching tour companies was also instrumental to the city, heavily involved in the creation of a Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area, a project that was many years in the making.
Killebrew notes, “Sustainability is in our DNA. Because so much of our livelihoods, lifestyle, and culture has to do with the ocean, there is a big emphasis on sustainability and protection.”
He describes beach clean-ups and sustainability programs organized by various community groups, adding, “The city invests heavily in keeping the ocean clean, through water treatment facilities in town, and through education. Protecting the ocean is obviously top of mind not only for the city government but there’s a lot of people in town that make protecting the oceans their daily dedication.”
In other green initiatives, Dana Point has banned single-use plastics and Styrofoam with very little issue from the community. The city also invests heavily in water runoff treatment, as he explains, “We’ve got what’s known as Salt Creek in the northern part of our town, which is a drainage creek for the uphill inland areas, and we have an ozone treatment plant, right next to Salt Creek and Monarch Beach. We treat the runoff and release clean water back to the ocean.”
The installation of trash filtration screens over every storm drain also helps to keep debris out of the water and keep the city clean. Recycling and green waste disposal are also taken seriously, as well as outreach and education efforts about sustainability. “We support at least four non-profit groups for beach cleanups and other types of cleanups around town. The city will buy trash pickers, trashcans or trash bags, and gloves for participants. Our staff will help during their event. Any group that wants to volunteer and provide hours that make the community better, we will promote them,” he conveys.
Maintaining top-quality streets is another priority, and Killebrew declares that he will buy dinner for anyone who can find a pothole or a lifted sidewalk in Dana Point. Taking a more serious tone, he says, “We pride ourselves on the condition of our streets. It’s in our strategic plan. It’s a core part of our annual budgeting process, to make sure that we’re funding what needs to be funded to maintain our streets, curbs, sidewalks, storm drains, parks, and medians.
These efforts among others are paying off. In Dana Point’s latest community survey, respondents reported that they are more positive about the direction of the city and extremely satisfied with life in the city. Moreover, residents continue to overwhelmingly say that Dana Point is a place they want to share and where they are proud to live.
As for other infrastructure projects, Killebrew remarks that some of the more exciting ones are coming from private investment. A major redevelopment now underway includes a full overhaul of the city’s popular harbor, replacing docks, walkways, and upgrading buildings.
He recounts, “It’s a three to four-year project, bringing several new tenants. Two new hotels are replacing the older hotel that is down there now, which is a $400 million-plus investment, all private money. It’s not requiring any investment from the city.” The project is a partnership between Burnham Ward Properties, who will be overseeing the commercial aspects, Bellwether Financial Group, who will guide the marina side, and R.D. Olson Development, who have taken the lead on the hotel and hospitality components. “
“Private investment is flowing into the city. You will see several mixed-use developments going on and we are expecting a lot of new restaurants and other businesses move into the city with these new projects. It’s the private investment now that’s following the public investment,” says Killebrew, who stresses that the city did their own heavy lifting several years ago in an area known as the Lantern District, spending $18 million to improve streetscape and roadway elements, widen sidewalks, upgrade landscaping, and medians.
Killebrew talks about the continued evolution of the Lantern District, describing a blend of old buildings that have been revitalized and new mixed-use retail and housing options, depicting coffee shops, restaurants, and apartments with coastal views – an overall collection of innovative projects that add to the vibrancy of the city. Next on the agenda is the Doheny Village neighborhood, which is now moving forward.
A change in zoning was necessary to protect what Killebrew says is the “existing long-time industrial and commercial area, which was the birthplace of the surfing industry.” He mentions surf and sailing pioneer, Hobie Alter, who had his original shop in the area, amidst many others who were at the forefront of the industry. “In Doheny Village, there are welders, plumbers and surfboard fabrication shops that all stayed in the new zoning, but then on the main boulevard, there are more opportunities for mixed-use redevelopment of that area.”
Watermen’s Plaza, along Pacific Coast Highway, pays tribute to the surfing history of Dana Point, in the form of murals and bronze life-size statues of those who helped to put the city on the map, while also making their mark on the world. Those featured include: Endless Summer filmmaker Bruce Brown, Hobie Cat creator Hobie Alter, legendary surfers Joyce Hoffman and Phil Edwards, and Surfer magazine founder John Severson, all created by Dana Point native, and artist, Bill Limebrook. More statues are planned.
Tourism is big business in Dana Point, which has 1,800 hotel rooms, 800 of which are divided between two five-star resorts, the Ritz Carlton, and Waldorf Astoria, along with a variety of other high-quality options. “They roll through visitors with 75% occupancy, so they bring in a lot of folks every year,” Killebrew relays. “We have so much to offer from whale watching to great beaches to our beautiful harbor. Tourism in the city brings over a million visitors each year.”
Through negotiations with the state of California, the city took control of a section of the Pacific Coast Highway to beautify it. Killebrew shares the city’s reasoning for this effort, saying, “If you’re running a town, and you want to capture somebody’s interest and make it an experience, you want to slow the speeds down and provide an opportunity for people to kind of catch their breath, see something, and pull over and check it out. So, we put medians almost north to south, they’re all palm tree-lined, and they’re beautiful.”
He adds, “During the holidays, we light them up. The city spends a lot of money on our holiday lighting program.” The city also partners with entities such as Visit Dana Point and the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce to market all that it has to offer, with the Assistant City Manager sitting on the board of each as a nonvoting member, looking for new opportunities to collaborate with the hotel and local business sectors.
With an official motto that states, ‘Harboring the Good Life,’ the city of Dana Point is moving forward into continued success.
As for what drives him personally, Killebrew, a resident of Dana Point for nearly 25 years, offers, “The passion for me is to foster whatever makes the community a community where people get together and celebrate life. I’ve got a sign in my office that says, ‘It’s a Beautiful Day in Dana Point.’ It could be the gloomiest day, I could be having the hardest day ever, for whatever reason dealing with whatever issues, and I’ve always got a top of mind that we are very blessed to live here.”
AT A GLANCE
Dana Point, California
What: A coastal city with major infrastructure investment happening
Where: Orange County, California
Onyx Paving Company Inc. – www.onyxpavingco.com
Onyx Paving has been a trusted name in the asphalt paving industry since established in 1990. In 2018, the company underwent a change in ownership as Corey Kirschner and Anthony Steen took the helm, driven by a passion to build and expand upon the solid foundation that had been laid. Together, they embarked on a new venture, establishing a Public Works General Contracting Division that has since taken off with remarkable success. This move has resulted in Onyx having an extraordinary annual average growth rate of 53% over the last 5 years, propelling the company to new heights of excellence. In 2019, the duo launched Pavement Rehab Co., to specialize in smaller scale subcontracting projects. Further solidifying Onyx Paving’s reputation as an industry leader that is always adapting and innovating to meet the needs of its customers.
The Kirschner brothers, Corey, Jay, and Justin, along with brother-in-law Jackson Hulse, have played a vital role in the management and successful execution of over $200,000,000 contracted projects undertaken by Onyx alone. Their leadership and expertise have been instrumental in driving the company’s growth and expansion over the years.
When it comes to the asphalt paving and concrete crews, Field Operations Manager Justin Kirschner says “there is a level of dedication and passion our team has for going above and beyond to ensure that every project is completed to the highest standards.” Superintendents Tyler Henry, Mark Andrade, and Benito Chavez have played a key role in the success of the company through their expertise and effective management.
Onyx places high value in building great relationships with the clients they serve by engaging in open and honest communication. This means being transparent about processes and procedures and being willing to listen to feedback and address concerns in a timely and respectful manner.
Vice President Jay Kirschner points out “another key factor in building strong relationships is to take a proactive approach to community engagement. This may involve attending town hall meetings, participating in local events, and working closely with community leaders to understand the unique needs and priorities of the customers.”
CEO Corey Kirschner has high expectations of his team and a relentless focus on building a sustainable company for the next generation. On being selected as a preferred contractor for the City of Dana Point, Ca. “We truly appreciate the recognition and chance to collaborate with a high-caliber agency like Dana Point. Our goal is to foster trust and cultivate a favorable reputation as a dependable and trustworthy partner not only for Dana Point but for all city agencies in southern CA.”
To learn more, please visit our website: onyxpaving.com