Stewart: Dana Point Town Center Development Headed to Voters

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Dana Point Residents for Responsible Development (DPRRD) has been notified by the Orange County Registrar of Voters that its 2015 Town Center Initiative is now qualified to be a special election ballot measure.

That means Dana Point voters will have the opportunity to vote on the future development of the Town Center (now re-branded as “Lantern District”), a 75-acre mixed-use district in the center of the City of Dana Point bounded by Pacific Coast Highway and Del Prado streets.

DPRRD supports development projects in the Town Center that follow the criteria established in the approved 2008 Town Center Plan. That plan was adopted after 32 community planning meetings and outreach to and feedback from Dana Point residents and businesses. Because the Town Center is located in the Coastal Zone, the plan was submitted to and approved by the California Coastal Commission. The Town Center Plan promotes the creation of a business district in a village atmosphere with shops, offices, restaurants and convenient parking needed for its success. In the last two years, Dana Point has spent over $21 million on Town Center infrastructure improvements, funded from City reserves.

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY

Dana Point Residents for Responsible Development (DPRRD) was formed in 2014 to inform and represent residents regarding proposed Town Center projects because City planning staff and the City Council were ignoring the concerns of residents to grant planning concessions that favored developers. DPRRD supports responsible development that takes into consideration the concerns and quality of living of Dana Point residents.

The catalyst for DPRRD to act came in October 2014 when three Dana Point Councilmen, Bill Brough, Carlos Olvera and Steven Weinberg, voted to approve a project that deviated significantly from the building standards set in the Town Center Plan. The Planning Commission had previously denied approval for the project with hundreds of residents attending numerous Commission meetings to voice their objections including impact on density, height, views, traffic and parking. The three council members voted to overturn the decision of the Planning commission and ignore large-scale vocal opposition from the community.

In 2015, the City began proposing a drastic reduction in the parking requirements for new development in Town Center, saving developers millions and leaving the cost of needed parking on the backs of Dana Point taxpayers. The Initiative process was launched in April 2015 in an effort to prevent further projects and variances to the Town Center Plan that would favor developers at the expense of residents. In September 2015 the City Council approved reducing the parking requirements in the Town Center Plan.

THE 2015 TOWN CENTER INITIATIVE

The 2015 Town Center Initiative amends the Town Center (Lantern District) Plan. It eliminates Council discretion to give developers particular concessions that undermine the Plan’s intent and diminish the community village aesthetic that was envisioned in the 2008 plan. Specifically the Initiative requires that developers adhere to the limits of three stories, 40-foot maximum building height, and provide for commercial development on street level frontages.

Residents enthusiastically supported the Town Center Initiative effort! In September, 4,240 signatures of Dana Point residents were submitted to the City to qualify the Initiative as a ballot measure and a special election. The large number of signatures reflects residents’ desire to have a voice in determining the future development of their city and a consistent vision of what residents think the city center should look like.

Passage of the Initiative by Dana Point voters will provide a consistent and fair basis for future development in Town Center. Without the Initiative, developers have an economic incentive to challenge and overturn the aesthetic vision of Dana Point established by consensus in the 2008 Plan. Following the Plan will protect the community’s desired future for Dana Point.

The City Council will take up the Initiative at their November 3 meeting – this Tuesday night at 6 PM. (Insert Agenda) They have the option of avoiding the cost of an election by adopting the Initiative language as municipal code. Dana Point residents are urged to attend and make their feelings known to the Council.

Steve Stewart and his wife Sharon have been homeowners in Dana Point for 28 years. They have raised two children and have been very active in the community. Steve has operated a commodity trading business in town since 1988.