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.