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By Andrea Swayne
The Dana Point City Council voted Tuesday to approve the mixed-use project proposed by Majestic Housing and Development for the city’s Town Center/Lantern District area, overturning a previous Planning Commission decision.
Majestic had filed an appeal to the City Council following the Planning Commission’s 2-2 vote—with Commissioner Liz Claus recused—on Oct. 6, which constituted a denial.
In a 3-1 vote, Mayor Pro Tem Steven Weinberg and Councilmen Carlos Olvera and Bill Brough gave the plan the nod with a couple of added conditions—a requirement that the plan’s covenants, conditions and restrictions include a ban on vacation rentals and that the applicant must pay the city in lieu parking fees before applying for a certificate of occupancy. The latter was added in order that the city would have the ability to “endeavor to” identify and fund additional necessary parking spaces ahead of the influx of added need.
Mayor Lisa Bartlett voted “no” based on lingering concerns over parking, she said.
Councilman Scott Schoeffel was not present. Mayor Bartlett noted that his absence was excused due to being away serving in an official capacity with the Transportation Corridor Agency in New York.
Since the project was first introduced in July, concerns raised by the public and planning commissioner had centered mainly on the developer’s requested variances, massing and issues related to parking.
On Tuesday, 27 members of the public spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, the overwhelming majority against the plan. More than a dozen mentioned parking as their major concern. Their fears, they said, stem from a current lack of parking in the area—spillover onto residential streets, especially on the weekends—and the unforeseen effect the addition of new residents and visitors will bring once the project is complete.
Resident Richard Curtis commended Majestic for responding to aesthetic concerns raised during past study sessions and hearings but was among the speakers criticizing the project’s parking component. Two of what he called “fatal flaws” are the in lieu parking fees and the Nelson Nygaard draft parking plan used in the evaluation of the project.
“What good does paying an in lieu fee for parking to the city for parking spaces when they don’t exist,” he said.
Curtis went on to say he found the Nelson Nygaard plan findings of ample open spaces irrelevant, due largely to sample parking studies being done on a Tuesday night.
“Most restaurants here have Taco Tuesday,” Curtis said. “Why? Because without it, it would be the deadest night of the week.”
Rick Morgan also expressed his disappointment with Majestic’s proposal, contrasting it with that of another developer, Capital Hall Partners, for a mixed-use project at Del Obispo Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway which is asking for no variances.
“I find tonight’s appeal—forgive the pun—the height of arrogance,” Morgan said. “I simply don’t understand why developers feel it necessary to simply ignore our rules here in Dana Point, especially when they know what the rules are in the first place …”
Three people spoke in favor of the plan’s approval, including a Building Industry Association representative, a representative speaking on behalf of the owners of the Lantern Bay Village Center and resident Carol Reimer who expressed frustration with having to travel outside of Dana Point for shopping.
Please do not toss this project,” Reimer said. “It’s wonderful and I think it should be approved.”
In its final iteration, the plan calls for 109 residential units and 32,500 square feet of retail space on seven lots, to be built in three phases.
The plan includes two variance requests. One, that the applicant be allowed to pay for 26 in lieu parking spaces amounting to $390,000 and a second that will allow portions of the plan, not fronting Pacific Coast Highway or Del Prado Avenue, to include four-story residential structures, which fall within the 40-foot maximum allowed in the Town Center Specific Plan. The TCSP, as written, allows a 40-foot maximum and three stories.
Other special considerations, to be granted via site development and conditional use permits will allow elevator towers and guard rails for roof decks to extend 42 inches above the 40-foot height maximum and a shared arrangement between retail and guest parking spaces.