Fourth generation Dana Point resident Deana Christakes is looking forward to getting involved in shaping the city’s future as its newest planning commissioner.
Christakes, who was appointed to the Planning Commission during the City Council’s Sept. 19 meeting, noted that the city has reached a pivotal point in which it’s important to remember Dana Point’s unique culture and history.
“Everyone has opinions on things but everybody doesn’t get involved and I really wanted to get involved,” Christakes said. “We’re at a really critical point right now of what is the city going to be for the next 20, 30, 40 years? What are we putting in place now that is going to be something that our community can continue to enjoy and doesn’t lose what makes Dana Point so unique?”
City Council appointed Christakes to fill the vacant planning seat left by Abigail Margolle, who resigned in July after struggling to find affordable housing in Dana Point. Christakes’ term expires March 31, 2025.
Christakes noted that while she loves the neighboring towns of San Clemente and Laguna Beach, Dana Point has a distinct character that needs to be protected.
“I think it’s really important for us when we do look at what’s coming into the city is that it fits what we’re trying to do here in terms of making sure that it doesn’t turn into a Pacific City in Huntington Beach or something like that where it’s just develop, develop, develop,” Christakes said. “That it is something that fits into that kind of quirky character of our town.”
Christakes added that she wants to encourage development but from a residents-first, development-second point of view.
Having grown up in Dana Point, Christakes “went to St. Margret’s, then I went to Dana Hills High School and then I went to Saddleback and Fullerton and really stayed local,” she said. “I like to travel a lot but once you go out in the world, you see this coast that we have here is pretty incredible.”
“What is important to me is just making sure that we are creating a place that people can continue to live here and enjoy it and definitely brings visitors but that the people that grew up here have a place as well,” Christakes continued.
Christakes added that she wants to ensure that “anything we’re doing is honoring the past and what people have built and continuing that same vision.”
As the city looks to update its General Plan, Christakes noted that she’s excited to take part in the process.
“I remember when they first put the town center plan together,” Christakes said. “I can’t wait to dive into the details of that and see what does work, what has worked with the development we’ve done and what needs to be amended so it is investor friendly, but really with a focus on what works best for the residents, the community, the people that live here.”
The public artwork “really brings in so many of these creatives and these people that have been in our community but have gone to Laguna or gone elsewhere to share what they create and now we’re bringing that all back into the city and I think that is really important,” Christakes said.
Growing up working in her dad’s construction company, which operated out of the old Hobie factory, as a temporary secretary over the summers, Christakes noted that she was around the building and construction environment.
After working in eyewear manufacturing for about a decade, Christakes made the pivot “back to what I know best: construction and building.”
Over the last 13 years, Christakes has worked at Jarvis Restoration, managing the water testing division, she said.
“It’s a great company, it’s a family-owned company,” Christakes said. “We try to help people in bad situations, when their home gets flooded or has a fire or anything like that.”
“We try to do everything with integrity and can take care of people in very difficult situations,” Christakes continued. “That kind of ties in with the work of the Planning Commission, is people, especially here, I would say their first large investment is their home.”
Christakes explained that with most Planning Commission decisions, residents are primarily concerned with how their property value will be impacted.
On the Planning Commission, Christakes said she wants to ensure that “communities are safe, that people have the ability to have the lifestyle that will work for them. But in my professional side, it is very much in ensuring safety, security and upgrading homes.”
Mayor Pro Tem Jamey Federico on Tuesday night asked Christakes about her experience with the “nuts and bolts” of planning decisions relating to building codes, zoning and setbacks. Christakes admitted that she had a little, but not much experience on those matters.
Councilmember Matthew Pagano noted that “passion is a radical accelerator for learning” about the technical aspects of the position.
“There’s such great things that come from that, from knowing and having a long arch of history of your perspective of the city,” Pagano said.
Christakes noted that having grown up in Dana Point, she’s seen when the city had lots of vacant lots, when the Town Center Plan was first put together. The city’s unique history and culture is what makes it special, Christakes said.
Speaking with the Dana Point Times on Thursday, Sept. 21, Christakes said that while she brings knowledge as a longtime local to the position, “I have a lot to learn and I’m doing everything I can right now to be as prepared as possible, but I think that there are some things that can’t really be taught.”