Lewis: Dana Point Citizens Want Voters to Choose

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DP Town Center Plan, City of Dana Point

Credit: City of Dana Point

Dana Point is a jewel. It has a beautiful coastline, sandy beaches and the harbor without the high density and overcrowding experienced by other beach communities. At its heart, lies Town Center.

We have this one opportunity to do it right. But many see that opportunity being squandered. This is the genesis of Measure H on the June 7th ballot. Measure H will pass control of Town Center from the city council that is susceptible to outside influence and pressure from developers, campaign donors and special interests, back to the voters.

Years ago, Dana Point residents laid out their vision for their Town Center. They called it the Town Center Plan. The plan is very popular and if properly implemented, will make Town Center a great place to stroll, to congregate with friends, to shop and to eat.

Voters feel consistently ignored by their city council. That catalyst came in 2014 when the city council approved the Majestic Project, overruling the planning commission’s denial. Prior to approval, hundreds of residents had voiced their objections to the Majestic Project’s violation of the Town Center Plan’s height restrictions, to its nearly 6 story high elevator and stairwell towers, to its lack of retail and commercial use in favor of high density housing, to its parking problems that will inevitably spill over into residential neighborhoods and to the project’s unattractive facade that is viewed as completely out of character with a beach community.

Rather than listen to the voters, the city council’s response was to approve Measure I. A vote for Measure I is an approval of the many changes the city council made to the Town Center Plan on September 15, 2015. One of the significant changes was the drastic reduction in parking requirements.

Here are some highlights of the substance of the two measures.

Who can change Town Center Plan (TCP)?

Measure H: Amends TCP to require voter approval for changes to TCP

Measure I: Requires majority approval of 5-member city council

What are the building height Limits?

Measure H: Amends TCP to mandate 3 story and 40-foot height limits unless voters change TCP

Measure I: Developer can obtain variance by Planning Commission or City Council approval

What are the parking requirements?

Measure H: 4 spaces per 1000 sq. feet for commercial (Per TCP before City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure I: 2 spaces per 1000 sq. feet for commercial (Per City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure H: 10 spaces per 1000 sq. feet for restaurants (Per TCP before City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure I: 2 spaces per 1000 sq. feet for restaurants (Per City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure H: 1.7 spaces for 1 bedroom unit (Per TCP before City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure I: 1 space for 1 bedroom unit (Per City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure H: 2.2 spaces for 2-bedroom unit (Per TCP before City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure I: 2 spaces for 2-bedroom unit (Per City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure H: 2.7 spaces for 3+-bedroom unit (Per TCP before City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure I: 2 spaces for 3+ bedroom unit (Per City Council 9/15/15 amendment)

Measure H: No parking concessions for bicycle or street parking spaces

Measure I: Spaces for bicycle parking count towards parking requirement

Measure H: Developers pay $40,000 “in lieu fees” for any parking spaces not provided on site

Measure I: Developers currently pay $15,000

How can a developer receive a variance from the TCP?

Measure H: Amends TCP plan to require any variance approval meet legal standard

Measure I: Keeps current status of majority vote of city council

What are Story Poles?

Story Poles are the wooden poles with usually red triangular flags attached placed on new construction project. Story Poles show residents show height and breadth of proposed project.

Are Story Poles required?

Measure H: Amends TCP to require Story Poles for 20 continuous days prior to project approval

Measure I: No specific time requirement

Which Measure wins?

These are competing measures. Only one can win. Which one wins?

If Measure H gets more Yes votes than Measure I, Measure H passes and Measure I is defeated.

If Measure I gets more Yes votes than Measure H, Measure I passes and Measure H is defeated.

What happens if Measure I wins?

Amendments made by city council, including the September 15, 2015 parking requirement revisions, are approved by voters. The Coastal Commission must then approve 9/15/15 city council parking changes. The Coastal Commission has scheduled its hearing on the parking changes for after the election. Measure H defeated.

What happens if Measure H wins?

Amendments made by city council to TCP, including the September 15, 2015 parking requirement revisions, are rejected by voters. Measure H amendments to TCP (stated above) are adopted. Measure I is defeated.

Here are some quotes from the 2008 Town Center Plan regarding development in Town Center:

“Ground floor retail and commercial use should be considered the primary use, particularly on Del Prado”. (Page 43) This is what was expected in the Plan and is the condition that currently exists on Town Center streets including the Lantern Streets. There is absolutely no provision in the Plan that indicates an exception for the Lantern streets. This is one loophole developers try to use.

“GOAL: Improve the Town Center as one of the city’s primary shopping districts with a small town village atmosphere.” (Page 15)

“Achieve development in the Town Center area that enhances the area as a primary business district in the city.” (Page 13)

“Promote professional business/office use on upper floors.” (Page 14)

“Dwelling Unit – multifamily (p-1) permitted or conditionally permitted above the street level only.” No exception for the Lantern Streets is provided (page 25)

Require new development to comply with the current parking regulations defined in the Dana Point Zoning Code (page 54) Zoning Code 9.75 (page 29)

Save our Town Center Plan. Save Dana Point. Vote YES on Measure H and NO on Measure I.

Debra Lewis is a Dana Point Resident and Former Mayor, Rancho Santa Margarita

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

  • Cliff

    If the Town Center Plan is as awesome as you say it is, then why are you trying to amend the plan relative to height variances? I guess the plan is great except when it isn’t, huh? Seems like you are also more than willing to shift the facts around to suit your own purposes, as evinced by the fact that ‘Measure H’ verbiage is being deleted from the voter guide due to your mis-characterization of Measure I.

    I haven’t made my mind up on this issue yet — unfortunately your obfuscation and sleight-of-hand language are making it more difficult, not less difficult, to understand the facts. People I talk to in the neighborhood feel the same and wish we had an honest broker on this! In the age of Trump, maybe that’s too much to ask.

    • David Tremblay

      Cliff, they are saying that the 2008 Town Center Plan is awesome. The City Council made changes to it in September 2015 that should not be made. Measure I ratifies those changes. Measure H upholds the 2008 Town Center Plan.

      • Cliff

        Thanks for the clarification David. Lol, you write much more clearly than the author of this article!

        • David Tremblay

          Any time. Yes on H, no on I!