By Beverli Jinn
A few days ago my desk calendar offered this thought for the day from writer Eric Hoffer: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
I was there in 2006 (or was it 2007?) when city council voted to proceed with plans to revitalize the Dana Point Town Center.
Well OK, it wasn’t really that simple. A subcommittee of 11 active citizens and two council members was formed months earlier to study the advisability of building the Center. ROMA Design Group was hired to develop plans. Toward the end of the process, community meetings were held at the Senior Center to report progress and assess the mood of the citizens on the proposal.
The final meeting was scheduled—at which more voices could be heard—and votes of the council were cast. As it happened, the decision was inconclusive. The voice of the council wallowed in indecision: yes, no, maybe so.
Eventually the council voted to proceed with the process. Pacific Coast Highway and Del Prado Avenue would become two-way roads from Blue Lantern to Copper Lantern. This stretch would be known as the gateway portion of the project and would include street improvements, landscaping, signage and new striping on the roads.
The California Coastal Commission approved the plans.
Only one thing is certain, however. Six years later we’re still without a town center. Oh sure, there is a large new building nearing completion at Copper Lantern and PCH. We can hope that new tenants will take possession soon. We can hope that other investors will be encouraged to follow suit, but it’s going to take more than our hopes.
In one of last month’s issues of the DP Times, interviews with our city council members were not really optimistic. Bill Brough bemoaned the long period of time that has passed since the original approval and insisted, “The time is now.”
Scott Schoeffel said progress on Town Center is at the top of his list. But all will depend upon the city’s ability to attract and retain qualified investors. He pointed out that, to no one’s surprise, development projects are “well outside the city’s control or influence.”
Steven Weinberg said the city must be fiscally responsible and keep our reserves healthy for a rainy day. Completing the Doheny Village plan and the short-term rental issue must come first.
“The economy is slowly recovering,” Lisa Bartlett said. She would like to focus on projects that increase the value of Dana Point as a coastal city and international resort destination.
And our newest councilman, Carlos Olvera? “Funding is the issue,” he said.
Can we be surprised? Is the economy really recovering? Can we really hope that investors are going to appear and miraculously rescue us from our financial doldrums?
In the news the other day was a story about boat owners who lost their boats to Hurricane Sandy. Boat sales are at an all time high. Yes, indeed. Insurance claims are saving the day for boaters while homes are destroyed and homeowners have no way to replace what they have lost.
What does all this have to do with Dana Point? Just this: Our economy is not improving! Our city council members seem to agree that it is just a matter of time until our beautiful city recovers from its financial woes. They optimistically assure us that they are looking out for us, and better days are coming.
But what else can our fearless leaders do? Town Center isn’t the only issue facing them. Should they throw in the towel? Should they urge us to be patient? Should they go for the plan and take their chances? After all, the city takes great pride in being financially healthy. Sometimes you just have to take a calculated risk, whether it is a thriving town center or a business investment—of any kind—that has hope for customers.
Personally, my vote goes to taking a chance. Can you imagine how beautiful this project will be? Can you anticipate the joy of living in this city by the sea? Can you?