At its Nov. 17 meeting, City Council voted unanimously to approve the vacation of three small parcels of land it no longer needs for right-of-way in the upcoast end of the Lantern District.
As part of the construction work and return to two-way traffic on Pacific Coast Highway and Del Prado Avenue, the city added a chicane (a narrowing/turn of a road as a traffic slowing mechanism) at the PCH/Del Prado split near the Lantern District archway. With the addition of the chicane, area businesses—such as Broderick Montessori School and Keli’s—lost their front entry driveways and a piece of land there is no longer needed by the city for right-of-way in the road. A small piece of land on the former UP Sports building property is also no longer needed by the city.
“When no longer in public use, by state law (the land) can be vacated back to a property owner,” said Brad Fowler, public works director.
Fowler went on to explain that a portion of the land being returned will be buildable and the agreements to vacate include “irrevocable offers of dedication” meaning that if the city ever needs the land again, the owner must return it at no charge.
The buildable portion of the land in front of the school only extends to the allowable 10-foot setback area and the city will retain an easement on about 40 square feet of the land between the setback line and the sidewalk, along with a small patch of land on the street side of the sidewalk.
Councilman Scott Schoeffel asked whether this practice is common practice and enforceable and was assured that this is the case by City Attorney Patrick Munoz.
Resident Buck Hill asked whether the vacation of the three parcels of land—which although small are valuable property—is being done as “some kind of a political deal that is paying someone off” and how the move will benefit the citizens of Dana Point.
Munoz reiterated that the land was the property owners’ in the first place and that those owners originally gave it to the city for right-of-way and the city no longer needs it. But the larger issue, he said, is that the city was threatened with litigation by the property owners because of the loss of their entryways.
After showing the improvements would actually be good for the businesses the property owners agreed not to sue and to instead accept the return of the land, Munoz added.
The largest patch of land, behind the sidewalk and nearest the school, although recently landscaped by the city will now be maintained by the school. The land on the street side of the sidewalk will continue to be maintained by the city.
Giving the land back to the property owners also reduces the city’s liability associated with it, Munoz said, but the city’s liability for the easement for underground utilities in the area remains the same as it is in all such easement areas.