CARLSBAD — A local business owner is asking for the public’s support after his struggles with the California State Parks culminated in an “unfair” performance review that he believes may jeopardize his contract negotiations.
Anthony Marcotti, owner of The Camp Store at South Carlsbad State Beach, has rallied friends, customers and others to his aid over the state agency’s recent concession performance evaluation of his business, which he deemed unreasonable and “out of touch.”
According to Marcotti, The Camp Store scored 51 out of 100, or 51%, on its performance evaluation, which is completed by the state park system “to appraise how a business is meeting the purpose and the provisions of their contract.”
The review was conducted on Aug. 12 for the contract period from May 1, 2020, through July 31, 2022.
“As we stated in our response, ‘We do not accept your team’s findings, your logic, your opinions, or this score,'” Marcotti wrote to the parks department in response to the score. “And as a result of that, we will not be signing this performance evaluation and will not be returning it by Sept. 16 as requested.”
Despite putting more than $500,000 of his own money into building and landscaping upgrades, the parks department docked Marcotti in five categories, making the following remarks: “Hours of (operation) not consistent with the contract; items referenced in the contract are not available for purchase; rental and laundry services not advertised; merch displays need improvement; events/activities listed in the interpretive plan have been minimal, and live music has been in conflict with pre-planned interpretive programs.”
Under the “Bonds/Insurance” category, the parks department claimed all of the company’s insurance policies were expired. But Marcotti has written confirmation from his insurance provider that all of his policies are in good standing.
“Every single one of these items is current and up to date,” Marcotti wrote on his website. “The entire portfolio was sent to the District office again on August 11, 2022, when we renewed our State Compensation Insurance Fund policy which now runs from 8/11/22 to 8/11/23.”
Marcotti said he had reached a breaking point after unsuccessfully trying to renegotiate his contract and has even filed harassment claims against several parks employees in the Carlsbad office and a park ranger.
Representatives from the San Diego branch did not respond to questions before the deadline.
“It’s not a friendly atmosphere,” Marcotti said of his relationship with the state. “When I got the keys, the whole inside was so gross and filled with squirrel pee. The contract isn’t fair, and it’s no wonder the park system is the way it is.”
Marcotti, who has developed two surf resorts in Indonesia and Fiji, said the trouble began three years earlier during the request for proposal (RFP) process. In 2019, Marcotti and at least two others bid for the concessions contract at the campground.
Initially, the parks department awarded the contract to a limited liability company not in good standing with the state.
After Marcotti questioned the award, the parks department pulled the deal and eventually gave him the contract. Since then, he’s poured thousands of dollars into building, landscaping, fencing and electrical connections.
“These RFPs are pretty comprehensive things,” Marcotti said. “There were over 100 pages of descriptions of what I thought the space could look like. (The parks department) tipped off the (company) that they weren’t in good standing and still allowed them to submit. I thought it was shady.”
Marcotti spent $150,000 to landscape the property with mulch and decomposed granite, plus several hundred thousand dollars to reframe the building, pour new concrete, install new doors, windows, flooring, siding and an outdoor fireplace, paint, purchase new tables and kitchen equipment and eventually install solar panels.
According to Marcotti, he doubled his original budget, borrowing money from his parents, taking out a Small Business Administration loan and selling components from one of his resorts.
“I didn’t get any emergency funds,” Marcotti said. “Ultimately, I took $15,000 from the state because this was insanely expensive. I don’t think anyone has ever done it to this extent. I wanted something that fits in with the community and the houses.”
Another source of contention has been over a lack of parking. Marcotti said there are no parking spaces available for the store after his allotted spaces were converted for other purposes.
Most of The Camp Store customers walk or bike to his store from nearby neighborhoods, while other customers must park along Avenida Encinas or at a nearby Ralph’s supermarket. But Marcotti said he should have an additional 24 parking spots, which would improve his traffic.
Other issues Marcotti has with the review include operating hours (he’s open 60 hours per week year-round, more than the previous concessionaire who was reportedly open just eight months per year), goods and services, construction improvements, pricing, customer service, safety, gas and electric and several COVID shutdowns, to name a few.
As a result of two years of intense dealings with the state, at least 50 friends and customers, if not more, started sending emails to State Parks representatives in support of Marcotti.
“It is so far beyond inept, illogical, and unreasonable to offer someone the idea of this and accept their bid for the project and then completely work against them in every facet of the implementation of said project,” Matthew Allen wrote in an email to state parks representatives. “As the state parks representatives, you guys have accepted a business partnership with this family and small business that greatly benefits you and the community, and yet you guys are actively working to make them fail.”
Among the many challenges are state and county taxes and fees impacting Marcotti’sprofit margins and bottom line. Currently, 15% of all gross revenue — nearly eight times the market rate for other small businesses, according to Marcotti — is owed to the state.
For July, The Camp Store racked up $29,000 in state taxes. Additionally, Marcotti said he must pay a yearly tab of $8,000 to the county for what he described as “property taxes on a state-owned building.”
The Camp Store offers live music daily, another source of contention with the state. While Marcotti highlighted three pages of his proposal, including a stage design, he must y $100 per month for a special permit to have “amplified” music, according to his response letter to the state.
“It’s like the mafia,” Marcotti said.