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FOCUS : Beauty and Affluence Anchored Side by Side

January 19, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Behind the mile-long breakwater at Dana Point Harbor, millions of dollars worth of privately owned boats are anchored at the 2,137 boat slips in the $24-million harbor that opened in 1971.

But there's a wait to anchor a boat here, ranging from a year for a 24-foot slip that rents for $173 a month to 7 years for a 55-foot slip that rents for $485 a month.

On a typical day, hundreds of people visit Dana Point Harbor, some straying to gaze at the affluent seashore residences. These sightseers soon will have another beautiful view when Lantern Bay Estates, a gate-guarded complex of 42 multimillion-dollar homes built on the bluffs, is completed. The neighboring Lantern Bay Villa condominiums range from $350,000 to $750,000, with the prices steadily climbing.

Located at the west end of the harbor is the Orange County Marine Institute, a study and research marine facility that opened in January, 1981, which offers oceanographic classes. The institute houses two laboratory classrooms, aquariums and exhibits from the sea. An Ocean Adventure Camp is offered every summer to schoolchildren curious about marine life. Theater productions, children's programs and tours for the public are conducted continually on the Pilgrim, a tall ship owned by the institute and moored at the west end of the harbor.

The 62-acre Doheny Beach State Park includes a broad beach off which people swim, fish, surf, jet ski and parasail. The beach, which has 115 campsites, is probably one of the busiest camping areas in California. The 5-acre picnic area is equipped with tables, fire rings, food and supply concessions.

In the summer of 1985, members of a group called Hole in the Fence began carrying small palm trees through a gap in the wire fence and planting them on the beach without the state's permission. More than 20 trees were planted before anyone realized what was going on, and when the trees were discovered, a minor dispute developed over whether private individuals can make improvements on publicly owned beaches. The dispute was resolved in favor of the Hole in the Fence gang, and today this little oasis has more than 100 trees and shrubs.

The annual Whale Festival at Dana Point Harbor will be held the weekends of Feb. 25-26, March 4-5 and March 11-12. People come from all over to watch the whales migrate from Alaska to Baja California.

Seventeen sheriff's deputies regularly patrol Dana Point Harbor, but during the peak season, officers from neighboring cities are occasionally called on for assistance. Despite the number of people who use the harbor, there were only two drownings in 1988.

Although it exudes affluence, Dana Point Harbor offers plenty of entertainment for the not-so-affluent, children and senior citizens. It doesn't cost much to sit on a rock and gaze at the boats on the ocean, window shop in the many stores, smell the aromas emanating from the abundant restaurants and breathe the fresh air.

Population Population: (1987 est.) 5,786 1980-88 change: +15.4% Median Age: 29.3

Racial/ethnic mix: White: (non-Latino) 76% Latino: 20% Black: 1% Other: 3%

By sex and age: MALES: Median age: 29.3 years FEMALES: Median age: 29.2 years

Income Per capita: $15,301 Median Household: 27,876 Average Household: 31,057

Household Distribution: Less than $25,000: 45% $50,000-74,999: 16% $25,000-49,999: 33% More than $75,000: 6%

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