By Andrea Papagianis
The Dana Point City Council voted unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting, directing staff to move forward with a five-phase construction plan to kick-start the Town Center Project.
“As I tell my wife, don’t buy green bananas, I’m tired of waiting,” said Mayor Steven Weinberg, who served on the Town Center Subcommittee eight years ago.
“We’ve got to get this show on the road. I’d like to see my children see this thing completed and I’d like to see myself see this completed,” he said.
Taking a new approach to the construction of Town Center, Brad Fowler, city director of Public Works and Engineering, unveiled a phased plan to council members that would have the least impact on local businesses and the city’s budget.
The revitalization plan aims to make downtown Dana Point a pedestrian friendly destination through a series of public improvements and streetscape changes—like the conversion of Del Prado Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway to two-way streets between Blue Lantern and Copper Lantern.
Plans consist of widened sidewalks, right-of-way road features, bus stop improvements, landscape beautification and general infrastructure upgrades—the latter to be completed by the South Coast Water District.
The approved five-part line of attack would first tackle construction along Pacific Coast Highway.
Fowler said first phase work at the street level would be completed before SCWD begins work on underground utilities during the project’s second phase. Starting construction on PCH would also leave the flow of traffic “generally un-impacted,” he said.
The council and California Coastal Commission approved the $19 million project—designed by the San Francisco based ROMA Design Group—in 2008, but when the economy halted, so did Town Center construction plans.
“These things don’t just happen overnight,” said City Manager Doug Chotkevys, who pointed to the work city staff has done over the past five years.
At a recent Civic Association Coffee Chat, Chotkevys said the national economic downturn was not an excuse, but a reality. In order to stay in the black, the city had to trim spending and postpone projects—like Town Center.
But the city staff’s work on the project did not stop there, he said.
In 2009, city staff identified 35 properties along Del Prado Avenue that would become hard to access because street improvements would alter the elevation between buildings and sidewalks. Staff met with property owners to make design modifications.
The Planning Commission approved the final environmental-impact report and subsequent environmental analysis in November 2011, which was appealed to the city—by American Commercial Equities, LLC, which owns properties along Del Prado Avenue—in early 2012.
City Council denied the appeal and spent the next several months resolving legal issues.
Over the past few months, Chotkevys said, he has worked closely with Congressman Darrell Issa’s office and Majestic Housing & Development to relocate the U.S. Post Office sorting facility on Del Prado. He hopes to host a meeting with postal service representatives next month to allow the public to weigh in on the possible relocation.
Currently, construction is being done on the gateway project—this segment of the project will give the southern end of downtown a facelift where Del Prado Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway meet.
For now, Chotkevys said the “stars are in alignment” and with council approval to move forward and a “little luck” phased project construction is likely to begin this fall.
The council approved phasing strategy is comprised of five parts:
Phase A: Pacific Coast Highway from Copper Lantern to Blue Lantern
• Demolition of sidewalks to allow for the installation of curb cutouts for widened sections of the road and revised sidewalks
• Installation of storm drains along Pacific Coast Highway and on the northern portion of Del Prado Avenue between PCH and Ruby Lantern
• Installation of traffic signals, electric lines, bus pads and general bus stop improvements
• Removal of existing Tipu tress and planting of Palm trees along Pacific Coast Highway
Phase B: Pacific Coast Highway Underground Utility Work
• South Coast Water District to make water, sewer and reclaimed water improvements on Pacific Coast Highway and the northern section of Del Prado Avenue from Ruby Lantern to Blue Lantern
Phase C: Pacific Coast Highway and Del Prado Avenue (between Ruby Lantern and Blue Lantern)
• Construction of right-of-way improvements on Pacific Coast Highway from Blue Lantern to Ruby Lantern and on Del Prado Avenue from PCH to Ruby Lantern
• Construction of medians on PCH, including planting palm trees and other landscaping
• Resurfacing and restriping PCH and Del Prado between PCH and Ruby Lantern
• Conversion of PCH and Del Prado (to Ruby Lantern) from one-way to two-way streets
Phase D: Del Prado Avenue Underground Utility Work
• South Coast Water District to make water, sewer and reclaimed water improvements along the remainder of Del Prado Avenue
Phase E: Del Prado Avenue from Ruby Lantern to Golden Lantern
• Demolition and the installation of new curbs, gutters, sidewalks and the removal of existing Tipu trees and planting of palms
• Removal of existing traffic signals and installation of new stop signs, traffic striping, street lighting, landscaping, street furniture, historic markers, banner poles and way finding signage