Commission could approve, deny or chose to continue the discussion for a third time
By Andrea Papagianis
Residents will once again have a chance to share their thoughts on the proposed Doheny Hotel Monday as the Planning Commission continues its public hearing on the development.
It could be the first time commissioners and the public hear updated plans for the more than 250-room, four-star hotel project at Dana Point Harbor Drive and Pacific Coast Highway. A decision could come on the highly contested project.
In December, hotel developer Beverly Hills Hospitality Group announced plans would be altered to address community concerns of height, density, traffic and parking. The developer said it would modify “Option B” in the project’s draft-Environmental Impact Report—that was made available to the public last summer—to utilize 0.76 acres of Lantern Bay Park for the hotel’s front driveway.
The draft-EIR laid out a project alternative utilizing an adjoining slope with Lantern Bay Park. Changes suggested using a portion of the parkland to ease access to the hotel’s entrance, add parking spaces and serve as an additional loading dock to one proposed on PCH.
If the commission approves the project with alternatives, the City Council would have to approve the 30-foot easement, since the land was deeded to the city by Orange County for park use. The land is unused. At the December meeting, City Attorney Patrick Munoz said if the commission and council choose to move forward with the project, a case could be made that parking fulfills this requirement.
As it stands now, the proposed hotel site includes a Jack in the Box, vacant store and 46-room hotel. All buildings would be demolished. Plans for the hotel include conference rooms, restaurants, rooftop lounge amenities and an underground parking structure with 275 spaces.
The project has drawn the community’s ire as it combines three lots, and asks for a variance to the city’s 35-foot height limit to build up to five stories—or 60.5 feet.
But plan changes have yet to be presented to the commission and public in an official setting. The city is also still finalizing a staff report, the city’s Community Development Director Ursula Luna-Reynosa confirmed.
Residents expected a decision in February, after the commission continued a December public hearing on the matter. At that meeting, the developer noted changes would be made but in February no presentation was given. More questions were asked than answered at the meeting as the commission opted to continue the debate until adjusted plans could be heard.
“We cannot discuss the merits of the project because we do not have a project before us this evening,” Commissioner April O’Connor said during the Feb. 11 meeting.
Rather than a project update, the crowd, of more than 50 at the Dana Point Community Center, heard from consultants with UltraSystems, who were finalizing the project’s EIR.
Under California Environmental Quality Act guidelines, the draft-EIR provided alternatives that could “feasibly meet” the developer’s objectives while lessening or avoiding significant impacts. As it reads in the EIR, “Option B” would increase the number of rooms and onsite parking spaces by acquiring park space. According to the report, this alternative “does not avoid significant or unavoidable impacts.”
The commission could finalize the EIR Monday night but it is not yet known what action will be taken on the project. Staff has recommended the commission either approve or deny the developer’s permit applications for coastal development, height variance, conditional use and site development—meaning after Monday, residents still may not know where the project stands.
Commissioner Norm Denton has recused himself from the debate because his homeowners association owns nearby land.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday, April 14 at the Dana Point Community Center, 34052 Del Obispo St.
The commission will also discuss a proposed project at The Ritz-Carlton to relocate and expand conference facilities.
View the commission’s agenda below: