Overdevelopment and homelessness are top concerns among Dana Point residents, a recent city-sanctioned survey of registered voters showed.
From Nov. 10-22, FM3 Research, a public opinion research firm, surveyed 500 of the 23,843 registered voters in Dana Point, gathering their perspectives on various issues facing the city. FM3 Senior Vice President Adam Sonenshein presented FM3’s findings during City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Keeping the small-town feel, homelessness and public safety were listed as the top three most important issues facing residents that the respondents said they would like to see the local government tackle.
Residents’ concern with development has grown since 2018, when only 12% of respondents listed it as a top city issue. In the 2022 survey, 20% of residents marked development as a top concern.
Worry over homelessness has dramatically dropped since 2018, when 41% of residents surveyed marked it as a top issue facing the city. In 2022, 17% of those surveyed noted that addressing homelessness was a top priority.
The proliferation of sober living homes was previously a top issue highlighted by residents, but it has steadily decreased since 2017, when 13% of the respondents placed the issue as a top priority. In 2022, though, just 1% said it was a top concern.
Compared to four years ago, residents surveyed have grown more concerned with the lack of affordable housing, the amount of construction activity in the city, and crime in general. Residents have grown less concerned with waste and inefficiency in city government and the number of homeless people in Dana Point.
Sonenshein noted that the drop in the percentage of residents finding homelessness a top priority is fairly unique to Dana Point.
“The level of concern about homelessness has decreased very significantly,” Sonenshein said. “I would say almost uniquely to Dana Point compared to most other cities in California, where that line is going the other way, it’s going further up, and here it’s going much further down.”
Sonenshein added that no single issue highlighted by respondents jumped out ahead of the rest.
“Almost all of the cities we work with would love to have the survey results that you have,” Sonenshein said. “Particularly as it relates to issues like an increase in satisfaction with how you’re dealing with homelessness, that you have issues but they’re not kind of, you don’t have that one thing that’s just really driving everything.”
“Just the level of satisfaction with the way that the city is providing services is really quite high,” Sonenshein continued.
Mayor Mike Frost noted that he was thrilled with the results of the community survey.
“It reinforces that we are focused on the right priorities that matter to the community, and we are making a difference in the lives of our residents and business owners,” Frost said in a media release.
“When I hear that residents are even more satisfied with the job the city is doing to provide services, I know it’s because we have such a dedicated council and city staff that emphasize doing what is best for Dana Point,” he continued.
When asked what city services residents surveyed considered the most important, residents placed providing police services, maintaining storm drains to keep beaches clean, and maintaining streets and roads at the top of that list.
Overall, 88% of residents were either very satisfied or satisfied with the city’s maintenance of public landscapes and parks, and 86% were very satisfied or satisfied with the city providing special events like holiday celebrations and community events.
“This only underscores the hard work of our team and the creative effort that is made to create special moments and memories from our residents all year long,” Frost said in the release.
Residents were less satisfied with the city providing adequate parking in Dana Point and providing cultural performing arts, though the percentage of residents very satisfied or satisfied remained at 69% and 68%, respectively.
Overall, residents surveyed noted that they felt safe around Dana Point and their own neighborhoods.
Respondents noted that they felt less safe on side streets off the main boulevards, along the beach and at the park closest to them than in their neighborhood, especially at night. However, in all cases, well over 50% of residents said they felt very safe or somewhat safe in Dana Point.
When asked what public safety services they would be most interested in the city funding, respondents listed special investigations, including home break-ins, driving under the influence enforcement, and special investigations, including fighting the use and sale of illegal drugs.
Respondents listed community outreach efforts such as social media and parking enforcement as the lowest priority in terms of public safety services.
Frost noted that another way that the city can measure its effectiveness and success at implementing its strategic plan is through the strategic plan performance measures report.
According to the most recent performance report, overall code enforcement cases increased to 1,372—up from the 1,050 reported in 2021. Since 2020, the percentage of code enforcement cases resolved with initial contact decreased from 92.6% to 80.6% in 2022.
Summer trolley ridership grew by 12,331 in the past year and 22 new businesses opened, the performance report outlined. Furthermore, in 2022, the city improved 11.33 miles of streets and renovated 16 facilities and parks.
Residents surveyed for the performance report were overwhelmingly satisfied with the city’s maintenance of streets, roads, parks and facilities.
“The road program, just taking that as an example, so a metric that helps us manage the program is the pavement management plan rating,” Public Works Director Matt Sinacori said, noting that 84% of residents surveyed were satisfied with the roadways. “You’re up in the 80s. Very few cities in Orange County can say they’re in the 80s, so that’s a benchmark that this council should be proud of.”
Mayor Pro Tem Jamey Federico said that the positive community results from the FM3 survey are a product of “sound financial policies that allow us to resource these things.”
“We’re in a fortunate position that we can resource our departments so that they can go out and do great things that make our residents happy, but I also want to say, we need to make sure we learn from this,” Federico said.
Federico added that the city could look at ways to improve the city survey and address top concerns during the next budget cycle.
“This is not all just roses for us up here,” Federico said. “For the staff, all of our staff should pat themselves on the back and celebrate somehow, but for all of us, we have a lot of work to do to make sure that we can maintain this.”
City Manager Mike Killebrew said part of the upcoming budget process will take into account the results from the community survey, strategic plan metrics and discussions that the Financial Review Commission had with each councilmember.