Laguna Makes a Splash in Plate Sales



An example of the city’s plate promotion.

Laguna Beach won the three-way smack down against Dana Point and Santa Monica for which city would purchase the most whale tail license plates since the newly redesigned plate went on sale in August.


Mayors of the three coastal towns agreed to compete in the friendly six-week competition when asked by the California Coastal Commission to promote the newly released plates. Laguna is committed to promoting the license plate sales through decals that were created for the local Laguna Beach transit system buses, says a statement from the city’s Visitor’s Bureau.


Forty-three Laguna locals bought the plate with the distinctive flukes, according to Chris Parry, public education program director for the commission. Dana Point residents bought 40, while just 20 Santa Monica residents paid the $50 price for the specialized plate. “On a per capita basis, Laguna did a lot more than most,” said Parry, pointing out that 960 of the plates were sold statewide in the same period.


Whale tail artist Bill Atkins and his personalized plate.

Laguna artist Bill Atkins played a major role in re-designing the whale tail plate, which supplanted another created by another Laguna artist. Whale muralist Wyland’s specialty license plate was decommissioned when in 2008 he sought a share of royalties. Wyland project director Steve Creech said the anticipated revenue was earmarked for foundation work, not for Wyland personally.


First produced as a license plate in 1997, the Wyland whale tail became a symbol for the Coastal Commission’s conservation efforts. Roughly 200,000 were sold, raising $60.2 million, one of the most popular specialty plates ever sold.


Of the $50 initial fee to obtain a whale tail license plate, a small portion goes to Department of Motor Vehicles as an administrative fee, Parry said. The majority of the fee as well as $40 a year renewal fees this year funded $340,000 in targeted grants, such as underwriting coastal clean-ups and other educational programs, as well as $280,000 for competitive grants, Parry said.


A sampling of educational programs include Crystal Cove Alliance wheelchair access, Dana Point Ocean Institute Learning Center, Orange County Coastkeeper for the Kids’ Ocean Day program and Tides Center for restoration at Upper Newport Bay.


“Congratulations to Laguna Beach, which really stepped up in a big way!” Parry said.


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  1. Pam Bieman

    Shame on California Coast Commission and Dept of Motor Vehicles that in my mind has taken advantage once again of what should be and always will be the rip off of the image of the original Whale Tail Licence Plate designed by Wyland without the recognition.

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