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Town Center Initiative stifling, Town Center and Public Parking Improvement Initiative key to Town Center Plan success
Guest Opinion: By Carlos N. Olvera, Dana Point City Councilman
In June the residents of Dana Point will be asked to vote on two ballot measures. One will be the “2015 Town Center Initiative,” and the other will be the “2016 Town Center and Public Parking Improvement Measure.” In talking with many of the residents, it is clear there is much confusion regarding these measures. I am writing this op-ed to give my opinion on these two ballot measures and to hopefully give some clarity on what these two measures will do.
The “2015 Town Center Initiative” keeps the status quo, which has stifled new development for more than 25 years. The measure will perpetuate the development of private parking spaces versus public parking. Presently, at the peak period of business and shopping there are over 700 surplus private parking spaces that cannot be used by the public. The Town Center Plan, as approved in 2008, did not include a parking plan but instead deferred to parking regulations as inherited from the county when Dana Point was incorporated—regulations that were never tailored to city needs in any way. The many empty lots throughout Town Center will remain. For a good understanding of the impact approving this ballot measure will have on our city, I recommend reviewing the Town Center Initiative Impact Report, which can be found on the city’s website at www.danapoint.org. For this reason, I am opposing this measure.
The “2016 Town Center and Public Parking Improvement Measure” promotes a pedestrian-friendly environment for shopping, dining, entertainment and a wide range of activities that give meaning and identity to Dana Point’s Town Center, now known as the Lantern District. The city-sponsored ballot measure (initiative) includes the 2008 Town Center Plan that was unanimously approved (without a parking plan) by the City Council after more than 30 public hearings held by a committee of residents, business people and council members, as well as thousands of hours spent by city staff, consultants and the Planning Commission. In addition, this ballot measure includes a public parking plan that will protect the residential neighborhoods and minimize the effects of commercial parking while increasing the number of public parking spaces.
Parking in our city has always been a priority, and this ballot measure offers a common sense solution.
For example, in the Lantern Village north of PCH, there can be permit-only parking, keeping commercial parkers out of the neighborhoods. In the Santa Clara district south of Del Prado, because it is considered in the “Coastal Zone” and subject to the California Coastal Commission, parking cannot be by permit only. Instead, a Parking Benefit District will allow residents to park as they have been, with no restrictions, and any overflow commercial parkers will have to pay for parking. This revenue could be used to help enforce the parking program and the parking laws. Both plans will be adopted on a street-by-street basis but only if more than 50 percent of the residents (or property owners) on the street agree.
The Town Center Plan, allowing for residential units above boutiques and bistro restaurants, provides for a vibrant living experience that benefits the entire city. This will ensure that the charm of our city is protected. For this reason, I support this ballot measure.