With three commissioner terms set to expire on Thursday, March 23, the Planning Commission will see one new member and two returning members behind the dais.
During its meeting on Tuesday night, March 21, the Dana Point City Council voted unanimously to appoint Luke Boughen and returning commissioners Ashok Dhingra and Eric Nelson to the Planning Commission.
As an attorney with experience representing public agencies, Boughen listed the General Plan update, maintaining the city’s culture and livability, and improving public safety with traffic and e-bikes as priority items in front of the Planning Commission.
Boughen has served as a Traffic Improvement Subcommittee member for the past eight years and has worked on the Parking and Circulation Task Force.
When asked how he believes the city should balance the need for affordable housing with the concern for overdevelopment, Boughen noted that he’s worked with organizations that promote affordable housing throughout Orange County and recognizes that it’s challenging in a coastal city to get the same “bang for your buck” from development.
Boughen added that the proposed Victoria Apartments project alone would get the city close to its Regional Housing Needs Allotment for the 2021-2029 housing cycle. For this housing cycle, the state’s Housing and Community Development Department charged Dana Point with the task of planning for 530 new housing units.
Of the 530 new housing units the city must plan for, 147 are allocated toward very-low-income housing; 84 assigned to low-income housing; 101 for moderate-income housing; and 198 are dedicated for above-moderate-income housing.
The Victoria Apartments project proposes an additional 53 low-income housing units, distributed between very-low, low- and moderate-income housing units.
Boughen pointed out that while the Victoria Apartments would bring in new affordable housing units, he voiced concerns with the project’s large size and scale, aesthetics, style and design.
Dhingra has served as a Planning Commissioner in Dana Point since October 2021, though he also served as a Planning Commissioner in Diamond Bar and San Dimas before moving to Dana Point more than eight years ago.
“This is, I believe, my way of giving back to the community that I’m living in,” Dhingra said. “And I’ve done that in the previous two communities that I lived in.”
As a civil and structural engineer, Dhingra previously served as the senior vice president of AECOM, an infrastructure consulting firm.
When asked what Dhingra felt the Planning Commission handled well and what it could have handled better, he said he thought the accessory dwelling unit ordinance was done well, though he wished he could have worked on the short-term rental ordinance more.
Dhingra added that he looked forward to working on the General Plan update, specifically the circulation and Housing Element. Over the next 10 years, Dhingra said he’d like to see homelessness addressed through the Housing Element.
“I foresee in 10 years from now, a city more vibrant than it is today, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a very vibrant city right now,” Dhingra said.
Nelson, a 12-year Dana Point resident, has served as a Planning Commissioner over the past four years.
“My experience in land use, planning and development, I believe, provides a unique insight into the process of development, redevelopment in what is now a largely built-out community, as well as my daily real-world experience addressing issues from parking, traffic, zoning conformance, CEQA review, just to name a few,” Nelson said.
Disagreeing with Dhingra, Nelson felt that the Planning Commission did a great job with the STR ordinance, adding that he chaired the process on a subcommittee.
“At the end, there were happy people and there were angry people, but I think it was a balanced outcome, so I’m actually very proud of what we delivered to the council,” Nelson said.
Nelson highlighted recent bluff failures, the General Plan update, the harbor revitalization and the proposed Victoria Apartments as issues and projects that he looks forward to addressing in his next term.
“The challenges facing the city today look slightly different than they did four years ago, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that continued collaborative effort,” Nelson said.
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