The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel may soon have an identity crisis. Not to mention one heck of an inconvenience.
Orange County's only five-star hotel has been caught in a tug-of-war between Laguna Niguel and Dana Point as the neighboring communities pursue separate incorporation proposals.
At stake is $2.5 million a year in local taxes generated by the Ritz.
In a non-binding, advisory vote earlier this month, residents of Laguna Niguel's coastal strip voted to break away from their inland neighbors and become part of the proposed beachfront city of Dana Point to the south.
If they get their way, the Ritz-Carlton will wind up with an address in the new city.
The dispute will be taken up Wednesday by the county's Local Agency Formation Commission, which will determine boundaries for the proposed cities. Laguna Niguel and Dana Point residents are expected to cast final votes on incorporation in April.
Meanwhile, all this hasn't set well with the Ritz-Carlton.
"This strip is the golden goose. . . . It's turning into a real war," said Henry E. Schielein, the hotel's vice president and general manager.
One problem is that stacks of stationery and signs will have to be changed if the hotel is forced to become the Ritz-Carlton Dana Point.
Even more important, Schielein said, the resort is known internationally as the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and has promoted Laguna Niguel--and not the far older name, Dana Point--as a tour destination since opening three years ago.
Schielein admits that about all the Ritz can do is wring its hands until the final vote. "There's not much I can do except look at (the Dana Point results) as an advisory election," he said.
Of course, there is one last--albeit highly unlikely--option: "I suppose we could take the hotel, pack it up and send it inland," Schielein joked. "But unless we absolutely have to, we naturally would like to remain the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel--even if this becomes Dana Point."