By Andrea Swayne
Life in Dana Point in 2012 was mostly smooth sailing, even during an election year that brought big changes to the City Council, South Coast Water District and Capistrano Unified School District.
The city continued its work on longtime ongoing projects such as the Harbor, Town Center and Doheny Village revitalization projects and tackled tough issues, like revisiting the question of what should be done about short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods. Ongoing litigation remains in the court system with opponents of the hours and gates at two of the five access ways from Strand Vista Park to Strand Beach and the operators of now closed medical marijuana dispensaries. But the news of the year also contained plenty of fun, feel good stories about the people who make this community so special.
Here are brief excerpts from some of the news-making headlines over the last year. To read more about any of the stories mentioned here, and to keep up with what’s happening in the new year, be sure to visit our website at www.danapointtimes.com. While there, sign up for breaking email and Twitter alerts; and don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook.
SONGS Powers Down: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s Unit 2 was removed from the power grid for $280 million in planned maintenance, scheduled refueling and system upgrades. Later Unit 3 was also taken offline following the discovery of a water leak in its steam generator tubes. Unit 2 remained shut down after abnormal wear was also found in it. Both units would remain shut down for the remainder of 2012.
Anglers Adjust: The sportfishing community had to adjust to new regulations regarding underwater marine protection areas that went into effect on January 1 as part of the Marine Life Protection Act passed in 1999.
A Jewel in the Rough: The city’s revitalization plan for the Doheny Village, the downtown area of Capistrano Beach, came one step closer to a final plan when a second public workshop was held to gather input from the community.
Polystyrene Foam Banned: City Council voted 4-1 (Councilman Bill Brough dissenting) to adopt an ordinance banning the use of expanded polystyrene food service ware at local food vendors, city facilities and city sponsored events.
Levy Leaves: Police Chief Lt. Mark Levy announced his retirement. Levy referred to his five-year stint in Dana Point as one of the greatest experiences of his 30-year career. Lt. Lynn Koehmstedt was hired as his successor the following month.
Banning the Bag:
City Council approved an ordinance banning point-of-sale distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags at retail establishments. Modifications to the draft ordinance included an 18-month compliance exemption period for small businesses with under $4 million in gross taxable income.
New Direction for the Chamber: The Dana Point Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors hired Heather Johnston of San Clemente as the organization’s new executive director. Johnston was previously serving as executive director of the Discover Torrance Visitors Bureau.
Pot Shop Penalties: The California 4th District Court of Appeals overturned a summary judgment decision ordering a closed Dana Point medical marijuana dispensary to pay the city $2.4 million in penalties. The opinion document announced the reversal of a 2011 Orange County Superior Court ruling against Beach Cities Collective saying that unresolved disputed issues of facts in the case make the judgment ordering the collective to pay improper. The $2.4 million in this case was part of roughly $7 million total the city was awarded against Beach Cities and the other shops red-tagged and closed by the city. Court appeals continue.
Mobile Home Park Rezone: City Council approved a General Plan amendment that clears the way for a mixed-use residential and commercial project on the 9-acre piece of land (formerly a mobile home park) near Del Obispo and Pacific Coast Highway. The change allows for 18 residential units per acre—128 total, since according to City Manager Doug Chotkevys, the city will require 2 of the 9 acres be public park space.
Doris Walker Memorial: Construction of a sculpture and renaming of the Heritage Park overlook in honor of the city’s late historian Doris Walker-Smith was approved.
Loss of a Legend: Beloved surf icon and master surfboard shaper Terry Martin passed away on May 12 at his Capistrano Beach home following a battle with melanoma. He was 74. His passing leaves a legacy so interwoven into the fabric of the surfing community and the history of the sport that it is safe to say he will never be forgotten.
A Fight among Friends: A group of former volunteers of the Friends of the Library Bookstore organized in protest after being angered by what they called the unwarranted dismissal of bookstore volunteers by the Friends board. The newly formed group, Save Our Bookstore, began efforts to hold an October recall election to oust the board. The board maintained their actions were in the best interest of the store and a result of misconduct among volunteers. Recall efforts were unsuccessful and a new board was eventually elected at the annual meeting in December. No members of Save Our Bookstore were voted in and a lawsuit filed by the former Friends board against them is ongoing.
VFW on the Move: Dana Point VFW Post 9934 moved to City Hall.
Not Quite Quiet: City Council directed staff, with the help of the city attorney, to continue to pursue Quiet Zone designation for the city’s only at-grade railroad crossing at Palisades-Beach Road despite that had been halted due to unsuccessful efforts to secure insurance.
Lots of Layoffs: Southern California Edison announced intentions to lay off 730 people, about a third of the current staff at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, beginning in the fourth quarter of the year.
Chamber’s Chambers Arrested: Nichole Chambers, former President/CEO of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, was arrested on charges of grand theft. She admitted her financial wrongdoings against the chamber in her November 2010 resignation letter. She was sentenced to one year in jail, five years of probation and full restitution. A four-year state prison sentence was suspended
Rental Regulations: City Council voted to regulate and tax the city’s short-term vacation rentals rather than ban them outright or enforce an implied ban in place since they are not specifically banned in the zoning code. In November Council directed staff to begin work on a draft ordinance.
A Quarter Century of History: The Historical Society celebrated its 25th anniversary and announced the relocation of the Dana Point History Museum to City Hall.
Ocean Institute Expansion: The Ocean Institute held a groundbreaking ceremony for new Maddie James Seaside Learning Center.
Election Results: Scott Schoeffel and Carlos N. Olvera win City Council seats. Dick Dietmeier, Rick Erkeneff and Wayne Rayfield were the newly elected South Coast Water District Directors and the open CUSD trustee seat representing Dana Point was won by Amy Hanacek.
Gateway Groundbreaking: City officials gathered for the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Town Center southern gateway project.
Council Reorganized: Councilman Steven Weinberg is chosen to serve as mayor in 2013. Mayor Pro Tem will be Lisa Bartlett. Former mayor Lara Anderson termed out.
Marina Project Moves Forward: The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved certification of the Subsequent Environmental Impact Report, or SEIR, for the waterside marina improvement portion of the OC Dana Point Harbor Revitalization Plan.
Bucking a Trend: The city introduced a drug “take back” box, located in the Police Services lobby at City Hall, in an effort to curb trending medicine abuse.