Letter: Chop the Doheny Hotel

Lifts at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Dana Point Harbor Drive demonstrate the proposed height of the 258-room Doheny Hotel. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

Lifts at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Dana Point Harbor Drive demonstrate the proposed height of the 258-room Doheny Hotel. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

Philip Krajeski, Dana Point

I recently attended a community meeting held by the Beverly Hills Hospitality Group to discuss the proposed Doheny Hotel. As a resident of the Lantern Village and, more importantly, as someone dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of Dana Point, I admit that I was opposed to the size and scope of the project right from the start. However, to allow me to make a more informed decision, I began researching the project online.

In an Orange County Register article (“258-room Dana Point hotel proposal under public review,” August 13, 2013) I learned that this project first came to the attention of the residents of Dana Point in 2011, generating “ letters in opposition … about the hotel’s size and its potential effects on traffic, neighborhood parking and aesthetics.” I also learned in a Dana Point Times article (“Reaching for New Heights,” November 15, 2013) that an environmental impact report commissioned by the city stated that this project would have “significant unavoidable environmental effects,” particularly related to aesthetics, building height and expanse.

Here are my takeaway points from the community meeting:

Michael Draz, CEO of the Beverly Hills Hospitality Group, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to help manage the debt he took on to buy up the three properties, where he would like to build the Doheny Hotel. He and his public relations firm will do their best to spin this bankruptcy filing as a positive development, because he was able to get better terms on the loan. But the fact remains, he is under a great deal of pressure to move this project through the planning stages and bring him closer to his desired goal: a substantial payday when he sells this property to the Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

Despite BHHG claims, this hotel will significantly change the views of the ocean from the Lantern Village and all approaches along Pacific Coast Highway. All you need to do is view their artist renderings to see this. If you do not get a chance to see one of these renderings at meeting, you can see on the top of page 11 of the November 8-14 issue of the Dana Point Times.

As I sat and listened to the presentation, the most cogent argument against this project became clear: They have no plan in place that works within the current city height limit of 35 feet. This is a parameter that was set after years of careful planning to create our Town Center vision. When I pressed them on this, Bob Theel, the Dana Point based consultant working with BHHG stated “35 feet is not realistic … when trying to create a hotel that would be worthy of a four star rating.”

Again, how invested are you as a resident of Dana Point in the rating of this hotel? I personally am more concerned with the decreased parking, terrible aesthetics and snarled traffic around the hotel than their star rating or ability to interest Hyatt.

I would not be so insulted and aggravated by this presumptuous move of theirs if they had presented a primary Doheny Hotel plan that worked within the current 35 feet limit, and an alternative plan based on the small chance they would receive a height variance to allow them to build to the full 60.5 feet required by the current plan. Imagine the precedent we would set as a city if we immediately changed our height variance for them?

I don’t want to stop the Doheny Hotel. I want to chop the Doheny Hotel down to size. I do think that a smaller, boutique hotel project could be a good fit in this location—a project that respected our current height restrictions and had a more pleasant aesthetic.

If you agree, please join me to voice our opinions Monday, December 9 at City Hall, when the Planning Commission will be conducting a public hearing regarding the Doheny Hotel proposal.

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5 Responses to “Letter: Chop the Doheny Hotel”

  1. Joe
    November 28, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    I also went to the Planning Commission meeting on 11-19, as well as the Harbor Coffee Chat presentation on 11-15. One of the developer’s representatives stated that a smaller hotel would not be economical. After the presentation and Q&A were over, I asked one of the reps what would happen if the height or other variances being asked for were not granted. The individual stated the developer would probably sell the lots.

    So while you would like to see a scaled down hotel vs the current 258 room proposal, there is no guarantee such a choice actually exists. It’s possible another developer could build one, but it’s also possible the lots will be leased out to some more fast food restaurants to go along with the A’s Burgers, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., McDonalds, and Del Taco, that are already in the area.

    On the question of view blockage, an individual at the planning commission meeting said the erected story poles blocked (part of) his white water view. He didn’t provide any photographic evidence to back up his claim, but if true I think that issue would have to be addressed by the developer. As far as public view blockage on PCH, I looked at page 11 of the Nov 8-14 DP Times, and it looks like from the north, the hotel is below the tree line, so no additional ocean view blockage occurs. From the south I’m guessing there is no ocean view blockage either because of the low elevation of the proposed hotel.

    If the developer’s claims about parking are correct, they are only 7 spaces short of what’s needed to handle the guests and employees. That doesn’t seem like a significant hurdle given that they are also claiming the hotel would generate $1.5 million in tax revenue for the city. While that may be a gross figure, not subtracting off current tax revenue from that location, plus tax revenue from alternative proposals, even half that amount would be sufficient to solve any parking problems.

    There’s not much I can say about the aesthetics of the hotel. I happen to like it, especially compared to what’s there or what could be built there. But I respect the views (no pun intended) of those who find it unappealing.

    As far as increased traffic, the developers did a study stating that southbound PCH traffic would be improved due to the addition of a right turn only lane, as well as allowing U turns at the corner of Dana Harbor Drive and Park Lantern. One of the opponents mentioned northbound PCH traffic, which the developers may not have addressed. Unfortunately I think summer beach and harbor traffic will dwarf any additional traffic from the hotel, to say nothing of the traffic from existing and alternative businesses at the subject site.

    Since I moved here over 30 years ago, traffic, noise, and population have increased dramatically. In my opinion, stopping the hotel will not make things better over the long term, and could actually make things worse. Over time, I anticipate an increased amount of visitors coming to the city. I would rather attract more visitors who spend a few days here, as opposed to those who just drive here in the morning and leave in the evening.

    • Joe
      November 28, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      Instead of,
      “the low elevation of the proposed hotel.”

      I should have said,
      “the low elevation at the site of the proposed hotel.”

  2. Dean
    November 29, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    The lack of an alternative low profile hotel plan tells me that the developer believes he is in a position of strength with respect to city officials. These city officials appear to be desperate for developers at this location and Town Center. Why else would they even listen to a request for variance on height?

  3. Michael Frost
    November 29, 2013 at 9:20 am #


    It’s refreshing to read a letter and a response that’s well written and focuses on the facts. Both your points of view seem well represented and truthful. (Even though clearly disagreeing)

    Personally, as a member of the community I am most concerned and unwilling to budge with neighbors losing views, especially through a variance. Almost all the other arguments (for or against) seem very subjective in nature (such as aesthetics), negligible in effect (such as parking, traffic), or irrelevant (such as a previous bankruptcy or missing a five start rating)

    It may not be feasible, but I think we all agree it’s beneficial to re-develop that area, and if possible we need to work together in creating something which will work for both the investors and our existing neighbors. In the long run, landing at a conclusion which benefits only one party will hurt the entire community.


  4. Brandon P.
    December 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm #


    Lets let the cat out the bag. The city is looking to develop anything and everything to grow the cities financial status… Right?

    Why does a growth in development, pollution (noise and environmental), traffic congestion, population and a decline of open space seem to be beneficial to our community? Being a young man who has deep roots in our coastal communities and also a soon-to-be father, my wife and I are reconsidering raising our children in Dana Point (or Anywhere in Southern California).

    Beaches are lined with trash and gated communities. Parks and open space are becoming a nuisance to council members. Public schools are over populated and valuable educators are leaving their positions in fear of…

    The last thing I want to see is a great city loose its focus on what made it great in the first place. Natural beauty, a safe place to raise children and commuinty values. How many hotels and shopping centers are needed in a coastal community? Has Hawaii’s tourism thrived because they heard they have several four star resorts? Or,is it because folks tap into their natural surroundings and find clean beaches and clear water paired with lovely local business owners that allow the tourists to escape their busy, over populated and graffitied cities?

    Please consider future generations when prostituting a cities resources.


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