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By Lillian Boyd

In light of Danni Murphy’s resignation from the Dana Point Planning Commission in August, city council was tasked with appointing her replacement on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

The Planning Commission is comprised of five members who serve staggered four-year terms. At the council’s direction on Aug. 9, the city clerk’s office published and posted notices inviting interested residents of Dana Point to apply. A total of 10 Planning Commission applications were filed by the Sept. 17 deadline.

City council held public job interviews with the 10 applicants at its Oct. 5 meeting, where Ashok Dhingra introduced himself and provided his professional background at the podium.

“I have an innate desire to give back to the community that I live in. I have practiced that all throughout my life here in the U.S.” Dhingra said.

Upon immigrating to the U.S., Dhingra attended Cal State Los Angeles and Loyola Marymount University, earning a masters in environmental engineering technology, according to his LinkedIn.

Prior to his move to Dana Point seven years ago, Dhingra served on the Diamond Bar Planning Commission for one year and on the San Dimas Planning Commission for 16 years.

“The overall direction is set by the city council. In San Dimas, they wanted it to be a residential, bedroom community, and that’s about it,” Dhingra spoke of his experience. “As I got onto the Planning Commission, we recognized the city needed sales-tax dollars. There needs to be some commercial development.”

Dhingra added that while the city council sets the direction for the Planning Commission, the community and the community development director play important roles.

“I’m not saying you take direction and march. There’s also an important dialogue that takes place,” Dhingra said. “When you hold public hearings, there is community involvement. The community expresses their views, and those views are listened to by the city council, as well as the planning commissioners. So, sometimes the direction changes.”

Dhingra said he initially moved to Dana Point in order to be close to family, but soon realized his newfound appreciation for the city.

“What I like about City of Dana Point is the energy that this city represents, and the vibrancy. We moved here, our grandkids are going to be close, we are going to be close to the beach,” Dhingra said. “But I think in living here, we discovered living here is more than just living close to the family.”

Dhingra also serves on the homeowners association for The Strand at Headlands community.

“I think I can be part of the team that brings home the vision that city council has,” Dhingra said. “It’s a hand-in-hand, collaborative, cooperative approach.”

After two rounds of city council voting on their first pick, and then first and second pick, Dhingra earned the appointment.

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