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: Daniel Parolek, Opticos Design, Inc. principal, listens to input from Larry Robinson, owner of two Capistrano Beach businesses, Wednesday at Capo Beach Church during the Doheny Village design charrette. Photo: Andrea Swayne
Daniel Parolek, Opticos Design, Inc. principal, listens to input from Larry Robinson, owner of two Capistrano Beach businesses, Wednesday at Capo Beach Church during the Doheny Village design charrette. Photo: Andrea Swayne

Stakeholders provide input at design charrette for Doheny Village future zoning code

By Andrea Swayne

Dana Point has taken the next step in working toward a land use plan and zoning code for the Doheny Village Plan in the form of a four-day design charrette.

Opticos Design, Inc. has been retained by the city to work with the land use plan created in 2011 by ROMA Design Group to create a form-based code which will serve to guide future development in the neighborhood.

The event kicked off with an opening presentation on Tuesday and continued with all-day design studio sessions and daily recaps on Wednesday and Thursday.

On opening night Daniel Parolek, principal of Opticos Design, emphasized his company’s discovery—through a number of interviews conducted with a variety of stakeholders—of a desire among the community to celebrate and preserve the surfing heritage in Dana Point.

“It’s really important for a place like Doheny Village, for the team to truly understand what makes the place unique—what historically, culturally, from a physical form standpoint—and build upon those unique characteristics to look at the evolution and long-term strategy for defining the place and letting it evolve,” Parolek said. “Particularly in a place like this where there is such a really rich history, particularly the surf culture—SURFER Magazine, Hobie, surfboard shaping—that although it’s not necessarily present in the physical form any longer, it’s important to make sure that the village retains its unique character.”

Other concerns, wants and needs of the community that were heard loud and clear included a desire to combat the impression of compromised public safety in the area, and a lack of space for children to play when the former school site was taken away from the neighborhood.

“One-on-one and group interviews allowed us to really understand the place in a much more thorough way than we could get from just reading through documents,” Parolek said. “And then most helpful in a process like this … is utilizing community members’ knowledge of the place … to make corrections as we’re working, to fine tune our thoughts as we put them down on paper.”

Members of the public—approximately 50 to 75 each day—visited the charrette, being held at Capo Beach Church, 25975 Domingo Avenue in Capistrano Beach, to talk with Opticos planners and designers as they worked on actual drawings depicting various uses for the land in the Doheny Village area.

“We have learned a lot about how Doheny Village has been compromised over the last 30 to 40 years with the school going away, on- and off-ramps cutting it off from the beach and the addition of large retail, big box environments on Doheny Park Road,” Parolek said. “We understand the unique characteristics we can latch onto in making this design—surf history, the train and the maker culture of design and fabrication oriented businesses and craftspeople.”

Discussions ran from the types of businesses and housing desired to parking and the possibility of returning a school site to the area.

Drawings of everything from ball fields to roadway roundabouts were posted for attendees to critique and discuss with the planners.

“The goal is to get at least three feedback loops through this process,” Ursula Luna-Reynosa, director of community development said after the daily recap meeting Wednesday. “We appreciate people showing up to share their ideas. There was a good group this evening, people who asked some good questions, brought up some good points and gave the (Opticos) team a lot of things to think about.”

The charrette approach to creating new code for the area was more of a city decision to proceed in the direction of form-based code—a method that facilitates the creation of a type of neighborhood designed to the community’s specs by first emphasizing building “form” before building “use.”

“We chose Opticos Design—one of the leading firms for creating form-based codes—and the charrette is really a part of their process,” she said, adding that part of the beauty of the charrette is that community concerns are talked about and problems/solutions are flushed out during the process.

“The success (of the process) will be gauged upon the participation,” Luna-Reynosa said. “When you look at the total population of Dana Point versus the number who showed up, we’d like to see more people. But there were some folks with great ideas who came through during the day. Hopefully we’ll get some more through Thursday and the report out on Saturday should draw a good crowd.”

A closing presentation, providing a full recap of the week’s work will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Daily updates, including draft designs and videos of recap presentations, are available on the city’s website at

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