SANTA ANA — The concession stand at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point won't be changing hands after all.
After a lengthy and sometimes contentious process to decide who will run the beach's concession stand for the next 10 years, the Orange County Board of Supervisors this week extended the contract of John Efstathiou, who has run the popular Salt Creek Beach concession for 22 years.
Eleven people — including Efstathiou, family members, Dana Point residents and community merchants — spoke on Efstathiou's behalf and encouraged the supervisors not to award the concession contract to Mike Ali, who runs two concession stands in Huntington Beach. Ali did not attend the meeting.
In the end, Efstathiou's support within the Dana Point community — including a petition with more than 1,300 signatures — won the day.
"What I think is compelling … is that the role of our … elected officials [is] to hear the people," said Supervisor Pat Bates, whose 5th District spans South County. "I don't think that has been demonstrated any greater in my term on this board [than today], that the people are speaking."
Efstathiou's company narrowly beat out Ali's in a written proposal for the concession contract, but Ali won handily in an oral presentation. That allowed Ali to prevail by about 500 points in the 4,000-point evaluation system.
But community support for Efstathiou convinced the Orange County Parks Commission and Board of Supervisors to continue Efstathiou's lease, despite the fact that he scored lower in the formal evaluation. Second District Supervisor John Moorlach of Costa Mesa voted not to select Efstathiou because Ali's proposal earned more points.
Jim Miller, owner of Coffee Importers in Dana Point, was one of several residents who told the board of Efstathiou's commitment to and role in the quiet seaside community.
"I have worked with John on many harbor issues and watched him work hard to make the Salt Creek concession a successful business and part of our community," Miller said. "The city of Dana Point and the Dana Point Harbor take pride in what we call family atmosphere and character that make our city and harbor special. John Efstathiou has proven in his years as a merchant … that he exemplifies the meaning of family, character and involvement in our community."
The county in September released a request for proposals for the Salt Creek Beach concession, as it is required to do once every 10 years. After evaluating competitors, the Parks Commission staff recommended awarding the contract to Ali because his proposal claimed he would bring in greater revenues, of which the county takes a portion. But after hearing from community members supporting Efstathiou, the commission voted in his favor and recommended that the Board of Supervisors do the same.