Matthew Miller, Dana Point
When driving into Dana Point from I-5, I’m always struck by the beauty of the ocean to the left and the impressive bridge that greets everyone. Then I see the illuminated signs: Denny’s, Del Taco, Carls Jr., McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Chevron, Arco… and I feel let down, because my town looks like it’s sponsored by chains that detract from the peaceful nights here. I was briefly comforted when I saw “The Row” transformation, which houses my favorite breakfast hangout: Stacks. Then I saw Subway’s new signs, which for some reason needed to be side by side on the angled facades, as if one illuminated sign isn’t enough. This further takes away from how our city is perceived by guests.
Where PCH splits at Del Prado, we were greeted with a classy city sign that reads “Dana Point Lantern District.” Above it now is the new red sign for BevMo!. Really? They have signs on all the other facades too, so does it have to be the main focal point as you drive into town? Who in the heck approved this? It’s a slap in the face. Do you want your city to look and feel a certain way, or more importantly, do you know what you don’t want? Then ask the city to utilize tools that other nearby cities have used and add some teeth to our municipal code!
Go ahead and Google Laguna Beach’s sign code right now; look at their Pictorial Guide from 2002, and then try to imagine billboards or an internally illuminated sign being allowed there. Try to imagine a building design getting approved in San Clemente that isn’t Spanish style. Why does Dana Point do it differently by allowing anything? Our City Council has spent countless millions redeveloping Town Center to spur development; shouldn’t they now update the code to reflect the style and scale of Dana Point?
Remember the Majestic project that spurred Ballot Measure H? The vocal minority railed against the Commissioners and Council for allowing such an out of place development, but to their credit, the city didn’t have any other choice. There is nothing specific in our municipal code to dictate appearance, scale or style. After just three or four more developments, our town could look and feel completely foreign.
In the meantime, signs for “Welcome to the Lantern District” may as well read “Welcome to BevMo!.” I strongly encourage the city to rewrite the municipal code, and create better standards that reflect the charm and history of our great town. For now, I discourage everyone from shopping at Subway and BevMo until they remove their excessive signage at our town’s gateways.
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