Letter: Doheny Hotel vs. Harboring the Good Life

The Jack in the Box on Pacific Coast Highway would be leveled to make way for the Doheny Hotel. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

The Jack in the Box on Pacific Coast Highway would be leveled to make way for the Doheny Hotel. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

Craig Sink, Dana Point

Is it naïve for me to believe the Dana Point Planning Commission will follow the zoning code and faithfully execute their duty?

A comprehensive plan was developed and adopted by the city in 1993 to ensure the orderly development of Dana Point. It was decided that no building would be taller than 35 feet. The Planning Commission, appointed by the City Council, has been judicious in enforcing this rule and applicants have been denied height variances when no hardship exists.

Developer Michael Draz of Beverly Hills Hospitality Group wants to build a hotel in Dana Point on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Dana Point Harbor Drive.

The city’s General Plan allows for hotels in that zoning district, but Mr. Draz does not want to build a two- or three-story hotel. He doesn’t want a 35-foot hotel. He wants a 70-foot hotel. He wants a hotel that will dwarf the landmark pedestrian-bridge that people see as they enter Dana Point on PCH from the south.

He applied to the Planning Commission for a height variance claiming hardship. The Planning Commission, acting as a quasi-judicial body to remedy unnecessary hardships inflicted upon property owners by the unintentional consequences of the zoning process, is considering the case.

California law requires the showing of unnecessary hardship before granting a variance.

“Most states generally require that a property owner prove the existence of an unnecessary hardship in order to secure the variance relief sought,” writes Leslie Keller, a noted author and expert in zoning.

Mr. Draz purchased and assembled three properties: the Dana Point Harbor Inn, a Jack in the Box and a closed liquor store, fully aware of the zoning, and now claims a hardship. His hardship is self-inflicted. He is seeking a variance because adhering to the zoning code is less financially rewarding than not adhering to it. It is a matter of convenience and special privilege, not hardship.

The Dana Point Municipal Code requires specific findings be met before the Planning Commission can grant a variance. Among those is “that there are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applicable to the subject property which do not apply generally to other properties in the same zoning district.”

Another is “that the variance request is made on the basis of a hardship condition and not as a matter of convenience.” Yet another is “that the variance will not constitute a grant of special privilege inconsistent with the limitations on the other properties in the same zoning district with similar constraints.”

None of these findings applies to Mr. Draz’s variance request. It must be denied.

Looming changes for our City Council make campaign contributions desirable for those council members seeking higher office or re-election. Understandably, council members tend to be sympathetic to the needs of their contributors. However, Mr. Draz would be mistaken if he believes he can influence the decision of the Planning Commissioners by contributing to the council members who appoint them.

Our council members will not apply pressure to our commissioners to grant a variance, nor will our Planning Commissioners grant variances without specific findings being met. They will faithfully execute their duty for the orderly development of Dana Point.

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4 Responses to “Letter: Doheny Hotel vs. Harboring the Good Life”

  1. Dana Point Dan
    January 27, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    Obviously Mr. Draz is claiming hardship because the City of Dana Point will not allow him to make a financially feasible hotel. He has gone through a various hoops to no avail and the property may eventually have to be sold or foreclosed upon due to a few residents not wanting their peek a boo ocean views obstructed. Please note the author Craig owns a home directly across the road from the proposed hotel – search Google. I guess we will have to keep the Jack in the Box, a closed bait shop/liquor store and a run down 2 story hotel with a bunch of homeless people wandering about. What a great entry point to the city.

    To the City Manager, Mayor and City Counsel of Dana Point: Please see the big picture here and give the Southern entry to Dana Point a nice property who’s city population (not just someone who lives across the street) will benefit from the overall development of the area.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was edited due to the unauthorized use of personal information.

  2. Dana Point Dan
    January 27, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    One more thing…we have someone who wants to spend money on his own commercial property in Dana Point and we are getting in the way of creating jobs, paying taxes to the city and adding to the overall benefit of the town. All I see over our town is vacant lots with seasonal / part time tenants. The lots are too valuable to develop and the city needs to figure out what they are going to do in order to make developing financially logical. Otherwise the land will just be reserved for selling Christmas trees and strawberries. I don’t want Dana Point to become Laguna Beach or Newport but I do want there to be a profitable local business community.

  3. TH
    January 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Mr. Draz was fully aware of the zoning when he purchased the land, wasn’t he?
    Then if he can’t make a financially feasible hotel, well… too bad for him. That was a bad decision on his part. Sell the properties… because our planning commission needs to follow the zoning code!

  4. Sher Fuller
    January 31, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    I agree with Craig Sink, either we have laws and rules that are followed, or we don’t. Making “exceptions” sets a precedent and gives the impression that our City can be bought off, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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