The nine City Council hopefuls sound off on issues facing the city, both related and unrelated to development projects
As part of the Dana Point Times’ ongoing election coverage, the nine candidates vying for a trio of open seats on the Dana Point City Council were asked a series of five questions regarding issues facing the city.
Following are the answers to the first two, presented in reverse alphabetical order.
The remainder will run weekly, through Oct. 24.
The three open seats on the five-member council are being vacated by Mayor Lisa Bartlett, who running for the Fifth District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors; Councilman Bill Brough, who is a candidate for the California Assembly 73rd District seat and Mayor Pro Tem Steven Weinberg, who is terming out.
This week’s questions are as follows:
Question One: What are a few of the most important issues the city is currently facing—not including Town Center/Lantern District, Doheny Village and Harbor revitalization—and how would you address them?
We must continue to be good stewards of the people’s money and I will be fiscally responsible, maintaining balanced budgets with healthy reserves and provide for future capital improvements. Dana Point is a five-star city and I will ensure your money is wisely spent providing the best quality of life for residents and visitors.
With continued community policing and our Homeless Task Force in place we should explore including other stakeholders and study successfully drafted homeless ordinances to tackle this serious problem.
As Dana Point grows, parking is an issue all over town. Much like San Clemente has done, our city should work with owners to pave vacant lots and provide free public parking. The recently approved Capo Beach Church pilot parking program to pave the vacant lot at Doheny Park and Domingo is a step in the right direction.
Skatepark and Senior Center
We need to upgrade our facilities serving our youth and seniors in keeping with our five-star service to the community. We need to upgrade our Senior Center to keep up with the growth of our aging population. I will strive to see a skatepark built, working with residents to determine the best location.
I believe Dana Point has been very well governed and as a result, we are fortunate to live in a city with very few pressing problems. We do, however, face an election where a majority of the City Council will be newly elected and entrusted with maintaining the successful progress of the city and our quality of life. And in reality, many of the issues the City Council will be confronted with over the next four years are not yet known at this time.
As a result, the true issue facing the voters is the responsibility to elect individuals to the City Council who have the leadership traits, character and governing philosophy to best lead the city into the future. I subscribe to the maxim that “the government that governs best, governs least.” In addressing issues as a city councilman, I will ensure that our decisions are justified as being within the core functions of city government. As a lawyer, I also will analyze and implement policy according to the rule of law. And as a Marine officer, you can be sure I will always act in the best interests of the entire community, not my own.
The most important issue facing our community today is the rebuilding and strengthening of our local economy, which is still reeling from effects of the Great Recession. We need to focus on supporting and improving local business, thereby bringing more jobs and more money to our community. Improvements in the local economy not only financially benefit our residents, but also provide more resources to the city. The more resources the city has, the more it can improve public safety, our streets and parks, as well as providing interesting and enriching community programs.
In my opinion, we can support local business and spur job growth by streamlining and reducing the numerous and often times onerous ordinances and regulations at the city, state and federal levels. I will fight for Dana Point on every level, in an effort to bring prosperity and wellbeing to all residents. I am a firm believer in working together to build consensus and create partnerships where everyone participates and has a voice.
Traffic congestion is becoming a major problem, in part due to construction activities. However, the city continues to offer activities that also generate traffic issues. We need to begin to find alternate parking locations and a trolley system that can move within the city. Policy 4.6 of the Town Center Plan states “Create additional public parking which would include one and preferably two facilities prior to beginning roadway construction.” It was identified many years ago that this was important, yet no major progress has taken place. With the future plans and construction that will impact this city, it is imperative that a concerted effort be made to mitigate this growing problem.
Another concern is the condition of certain areas of the city. I would like to have a priority list that looks at ALL areas of the city to improve and enhance the look of Dana Point, not just the high traffic locations that are more visible to the visitors. Out of sight, out of mind does not work for me.
A community that doesn’t feel safe is no community at all. Residents or visitors walking in Dana Point, whether on the Headlands trail, the bike path to the beach, or Town Center sidewalks can feel as confident at 10 p.m. as they do at 10 a.m. That is a powerful and positive statement about our city. Protecting the well-being of our citizens by supporting strong local law enforcement will be one of my top priorities.
Public safety is our foundation. But what will we build on that foundation? Our next City Council will be charged with creating the best Dana Point we can possibly be. We need a team of visionary pragmatists who can define Dana Point as a world-class destination while maintaining the cozy, small-town feel we all cherish.
We should promote quality tourism rather than quantity. Packing every parking space while our shops, restaurants and hotels are not full seems counterproductive. The key is attracting more visitors who check-in, eat out and spend money at our businesses, without imposing unreasonable burdens on our residents. Offering top-tier attractions rooted in music, arts and culture, will benefit our residents, visitors and businesses in countless ways.
We need to work to make the city more business friendly to attract small business and retain small businesses. This can be done my limiting commercial fees and no new taxes.
The first Youth Board in 2001 recommended that the City Council provide a skateboard park for kids. I led the fight to create the Youth Board and I think it is time we accept that recommendation. I will work with the South Coast Water District to identify land on their 30 acres that can be used for a skateboard park. I have already spoken to current board members and candidates for the board and all are in favor of working together on this possibility. I will also work with Water Board members to collect and recycle our dry season run-off.
The city needs to continue on the path of fiscal conservatism. 2015 begins a new two-year budget cycle. I will work to see we operate the city in the most efficient manner and at the lowest cost possible, while still making sure we provide the services our residents want. I will propose the compensation for council members be reduced by eliminating the car allowance and the health insurance allowance. I will do the same for Planning Commission compensation. I will propose that the employee retirement program be changed from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, in order to limit the future liability of the city.
There are several issues: Parking is a problem in much of the city. Having worked at all the events in our parks this summer for the Dana Point 5th Marines, there is not adequate parking. When a concert is held in Lantern Bay Park, the parking lots for the Harbor fill up and chase away customers. Street parking is also full. Plus, the overflow at the high school experienced inadequate shuttle service.
I support the addition of strategically staged parking structures and paved lots, and the proposed summer trolley shuttle. The city has leased the lot next to El Patio Cafe, where the Farmers Market will relocate. I believe a public/private partnership, running busses from central locations, would be viable.
I also support tying in the beautiful medians with palm trees that run from Monarch Beach through main Dana Point, with a similar treatment for the median running from the Coast Highway/Doheny Park Road intersection to the signal at Las Vegas. Right now it is unsightly asphalt.
Next, we need to work with the state and county to develop a landscaping and maintenance plan for Coast Highway and Doheny Park Road, including palm trees and painting the pedestrian bridge.
With the big three straight off the table; this is where the candidates should separate. I have made it known from day one that our kids are my driving force for this election bid. Not just mine, but “OURS.” They represent “Generation Next” and need to be mentored and guided; otherwise we’re going to be a lackluster and confused town in the years ahead. Our city needs to step up its outreach, with support for local clubs that give a positive influence, as well as create new ideas for parental support, activities and amenities.
My first focus, (which quickly became the bandwagon campaign topic), a safe skatepark, will be just a primary step. Again, I need to reiterate WHEREVER we can collectively decide to put this prize, it will be beneficial for generations of happy kids and parents to come. I will work to incubate and grow new ideas for our youth to participate in. Activities are a driving force to occupy our youth and divert their attention from the downward spiral of drug abuse. We need to put in the effort to help them, so in return, they motivate themselves to grow and help us!
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt
Question Two: With major development projects in the city either underway or being considered—Town Center/Lantern District, Doheny Village and Harbor revitalization—and the strong opinions about them being voice by the public and the sitting City Council, which project(s) are of the greatest concern to you? As a council member, how would you balance the desire to add responsible developments with the need to preserve the city’s character?
Two proposed projects concern me: The Majestic Development and Doheny Hotel.
Both continually seek many variances that do not conform to our city’s master plans. One example is our Town Center Plan, which limits building height within the Lantern District to 40 feet with three stories. Outside this area, the maximum height allowed, is 35 feet. When elected, the residents of Dana Point can put their trust in me to enforce all master plan policies. PERIOD.
The balance of responsible private development while preserving our city’s small town character is really quite simple—approve plans that meet or exceed our city’s master plans that include the finest architectural quality, environmentally responsible design and fall within our city’s master plan guidelines and policies. PERIOD.
As a 28-year resident, my passion is retaining our small town charm. It’s why we live here. It is why people visit Dana Point. I have the vision and fiscally responsible business sense to navigate our city through this very important juncture.
Please visit AL4DP.com/issues to read my complete campaign platform that also includes my vision for Doheny Village. My devotion is to “keep Dana Point beautiful” and I appreciate your trust in me with your vote on Nov. 4.
As your city councilman, I would approach each development project on a case-by-case basis. I support maintaining Dana Point’s positive momentum and modernizing our city. However, I will never forget that I represent all of the citizens, not any particular group, and I will always strive to balance every viewpoint and make decisions in the best interests of the entire community. In doing so, I believe the key to responsible development is to execute it according to the rule of law.
For example, the Town Center plan is the main “law” concerning land use and development in that area. It was drafted and adopted after long and extensive input from all stakeholders and residents. Coming together as a community to develop the Town Center plan was the best way to balance the competing interests of our city. We should do the same for Doheny Village and develop a plan specific to that area in a similar manner. We are moving forward as a city and I am optimistic for our future. Let’s continue to work together to improve our community, while always making sure to respect and take into account the various viewpoints of everyone throughout our city.
All of the current projects and those in the future are of a major concern to me. I believe that community development is a shared responsibility between the city and the developer of a project. Zoning laws enacted by the city provide a guideline for both parties to determine what is appropriate for a particular site. I have developed properties in the city of Brea and understand how the process works. The development process, if done properly, can result in homes, offices and stores that the community truly considers an asset. Developments should benefit the community, the owner and those who live and work at the development. Today’s buildings are more environmentally friendly and efficient than their predecessors. Drought tolerant landscaping, water saving fixtures, LED light fixtures and energy efficient appliances all help to conserve precious natural resources.
I think that it is completely possible to retain the character and heritage of Dana Point while at the same time allowing reasonable community development. My experience as a sensible community developer and a loyal resident of Dana Point are a perfect fit for this City Council position.
Majestic, Doheny Hotel and Union Bank all concern me because they are the first major commercial developments that this city has seen in a while. Two are within the Town Center Plan and one is not. However, all three are requesting variances of some type, and if granted, will set the tone for future requests. I am opposed to variances that would benefit the developer financially at the expense of the residents and negatively impact the coastal community character that we all desire to keep and appreciate. That is why we need a special architectural design consultant and expert in the TCP guidelines to help retain the image of what we all call “Paradise.”
These consultants would specialize in zoning requirements and design to assist the planning department when working with the developer and their proposed project. We need continuity with the TCP and surrounding areas, and the added support can go a long way in achieving the balance between adding new commercial/mixed projects and staying within the constraints desired by the people to retain the image of a coastal community.
Dana Point’s downtown should be beautiful, shoppable, walkable and parkable. It must reflect the small-town beach community we love. The Town Center Plan (TCP), developed over 10 years and 37 public meetings, is the product of that vision. Three stories and 40-foot height limits are key elements. Unfortunately, before the first project has been built, vested interests want to throw all that away. They want to create a taller, denser, more urban environment with four, even five stories. The residents of Dana Point don’t want urban.
The City Council has committed to spend almost $20 million taxpayer dollars for sidewalks and palm trees along Pacific Coast Highway and Del Prado Avenue. The goal? To spur private development to rush in and spend millions creating the pedestrian-friendly, coastal village atmosphere envisioned in the TCP.
My greatest concern is now that all Town Center project infrastructure has been secured, future city councils may significantly relax the TCP’s core requirements, or simply change them altogether, to accommodate developers. Firm, fair and consistent application of our TCP zoning will guarantee developers, landowners and residents know exactly what to expect.
The Town Center Plan is a good for Dana Point; now we need to implement it.
The Lantern District succeeds if we stick to the Master Plan. We need to ensure everything is included. Cutting line items off the original plan will only make the district look incomplete. That, in turn, will make it more difficult to attract new and interesting businesses that are so badly needed for the district to be a success.
In the 30 years I have lived in Dana Point, its character has changed. I think it started to change when the Harbor was built and “Killer Dana” no longer existed. Dana Point is no longer a sleepy little beach town. It is a first-class tourist destination and it needs a business district that will serve our residents and our tourists. We want resident-serving businesses along with restaurants and other amenities so we can enjoy our town center. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to T-shirt shops and pizza places. It is very important that we finish the Lantern District as designed and, with the aid of our development director, attract the businesses we want.
We need to complete the specific plan for Doheny Village the same way we did the Lantern District, with a subcommittee of business owners, property owners and residents all involved. That may take a little longer, but we will get a plan we all can buy into, just as we have in the Lantern District.
Of course the Harbor is important, but to the extent we have already approved their plans, all we can do is to influence the county to make sure the business owners are treated fairly and residents and tourists are welcome.
My role as a councilmember is to ensure that ongoing projects move forward according to approved plan and that any city expenditures are vetted and justified by staff with input from the public. For new projects within a specific plan area, they must adhere to the approved code, as well as incorporate the aesthetic elements that represent our city’s character. These would be considered “responsible.”
I support the Harbor revitalization but my main concerns are the Town Center Plan and Doheny Village Specific Plan, both of which involve significant city investment. The Town Center Plan went through extensive public and planning review to define standards and characteristics that create a more dynamic, interesting and walkable area. However, I am concerned that approved/proposed projects may conform to the code, yet fail to meet the spirit of the plan. Also, the Town Center plan calls for “public parking in central locations,” and these need to be considered and developed.
The proposed hotel at the Harbor entrance has drawn outrage for height, density and massing, and may be “the right project in the wrong location.”
I am also prepared to fast-track the Doheny Village master plan and other improvements in Capistrano Beach, which have been neglected for too long.
“I’m for responsible development in the Town Center.”
Sound familiar? If you look at the actual Town Center Plan, the language is vague. The creators couldn’t envision what the developers have penciled out.
Majestic’s project is too dense for the space. Never mind how ugly it looks, I feel their focus on studio and single bedroom apartments will congest the main arteries of our town. Parking will be an issue—a MAJOR issue. But the developers are trying to maximize on their investment as per the standards set forth in the TCP. Common sense tells me we have to try and work with Majestic, not as enemies, to express the current residents’ concerns and hopefully develop a compromise we can all live with.
The Harbor is extremely important as well and everyone should agree it is THE main focus of our town. It’s what makes us a unique community. Being a county-based project, we have less control but need to be deeply involved to make that diamond shine as bright as possible.
The Doheny Village plan under development is very important for our future, but let’s finish cooking our breakfast and lunch before we decide on what to eat for dinner.