By Kristina Pritchett
In little more than a month, Dana Point residents will head to their polling stations to cast their vote for two new City Council members. To help residents identify which candidates to support, the Dana Point Times sat down with each of the five candidates and asked them the same five questions.
In the coming weeks leading up to our special election guide, the Times will run their responses to those choice questions.
The Times asked each candidate, “What is your vision of development in the Lantern District/Town Center and Doheny Village?” and “What do you think needs to be done to improve parking in the city?”
The candidates’ responses are listed in the order their names will appear on the ballot.
Nadia Khalil, Travel Agent
When asked about what her vision for the Lantern District is, Khalil said it’s a “continued beautification and enhancement” of the city’s charm.
“Every time anybody that wants to market or advertise Dana Point, the pictures that you see are not of what’s going on today, they’re what you see yesterday. And that’s what people have fallen in love with,” Khalil said. “I don’t know when it became this big marketing project for everything we do, but I see development enhancing the charm and the beauty of the area.”
She added she wants to enhance the city’s “biggest resources” such as the ocean and the history of the city.
She said she would like to see development incorporate resources for younger generations and help them able to spend time in town and envision their futures in the city.
When asked if she supported Measure H or Measure I, she said she supported H because she was more against I and she felt that the people and authors behind I were not really in it for the city.
“I don’t think they were looking at Dana Point as the community we all see it as,” Khalil said. “Instead (it was) more of a business approach of what they could do and make instead of what they can give or how they can better our lives.”
Khalil said the simple things are critical to her vision of Doheny Village and it’s “near and dear” to her heart. She said she would want to see face lifts on the existing buildings and see charm go into the village.
“It would be great to have more little restaurants you can go to, more little shops, and clean up the area instead of approving pawn shops in there and more types of businesses, like the dollar store, that don’t bring in the destination travelers, but the transient travelers or residents,” Khalil said.
She believes the businesses that have been there for generations keep the city “mellow and grounded.”
She said she would like to see something happen with Donut World.
“I think they should do something with the Donut World and the people that hang out there for jobs, they all need jobs. We can do something like Laguna had done and make an area that is available for them to be hired or give jobs away,” Khalil said.
In regards to parking, Khalil said she doesn’t see it as a huge problem in the city because the destinations that people go to in Dana Point have parking.
She also said the city does not need any parking structures, and parking meters could be installed in the Lantern District.
“If they really want to make parking less of an issue, public transportation would come into play. Trolleys would be more available for a designated area where people can park in and be trolleyed into their destination at the Harbor or whatever is going on in the area,” Khalil said.
When asked if she thought parking could be an issue in the future, Khalil said no, but the city could alleviate parking by offering more public transportation during the busier seasons.
Paul Wyatt, Retired Engineering Executive
Wyatt said there are two key factors that need to happen for his vision of development in the Lantern District. He said the first thing is that there has to be a business that will be “a draw to the area.”
Wyatt mentioned that perhaps the city could bring in a performing arts center that the “high school can do stuff with” and it could bring in “pre-concert and pre-event traffic to build restaurants and make the area known.”
Wyatt said he believes it could take 10 years or so to completely build out.
“Secondly, because ultimately it will be the buildup of small restaurants and shops, there has to be central parking,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt added that it is important to have a parking plan because each of those businesses coming into town will rely on parking being there to help them when they are ready to establish themselves. Until parking is available there, it’s difficult to build out, he said.
When asked if he believes if the old parking regulations could make it cost prohibitive for builders to come in, Wyatt said he didn’t believe so.
“There’s not much coast to develop in Orange County, period. When developers are looking for spots, they will find some that make sense,” Wyatt said and added, “I think the money’s there, we just have to be picky.”
For his vision of development in Doheny Village, Wyatt said it’s a little more difficult.
“I think it needs code enforcement, when you look at the activity there and you attempt to get violation of code cleaned up, it would be a lot better to go there,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt said it would “be ideal” if there were a maker’s village and that there’s “no better place to put the artisans and board makers than in Doheny Village.”
In regards to parking, Wyatt said the city “is not terrible.”
“Although I would say there’s a problem up near the high school. Looking at where you can add a parking facility for the high school so they don’t park all over the neighborhoods would be a really nice thing to do,” Wyatt said.
He added that space could be tight, so it could be challenging to figure out a location.
Wyatt said if Doheny Village is successful, it could become a parking problem, but believes there is “a whole lot of land” that can be utilized.
When asked if he would push for preferred parking districts in the city, Wyatt said preferred parking districts would just push the parking issues to a different area.
“It’s not like you’re going to make it go away, you’re just going to push it to another neighborhood,” Wyatt said.
He said an idea that could work would involve the city’s trolleys.
“Realistically, you’re not going to get rid of cars down here, the question is does all the local traffic have to use cars?” Wyatt said. “From just looking at how they shuttle people in on the trolleys, if you make it more available to run the trolleys everywhere, you could begin, to even some degree, get high school students in and out. I think there’s a whole set of places you just have to make them readily available.”
Debra Lewis, Small Business Owner
Lewis said she hoped there was a “set of rules that everyone can follow” now for development in the Lantern District, which should serve as the foundation for growth.
“We should be proactive; what type of businesses, who are we looking to attract. I see it as a Paris in Dana Point, where people can walk and shop and have a cup of coffee,” Lewis said. “When I talked to people that was their vision of Town Center. I’m really hoping we move to that.”
But before that can happen, Lewis said the city needs to come up with a parking plan.
“I think that was a problem with the Town Center Plan. I think that was a problem with the city, they didn’t come up with a parking plan. They just started talking to Majestic and Raintree and said we’ll work that out later,” Lewis said. “I think the first thing we need to figure out is how we’ll get people to go to Town Center and what it is they want to go and do.”
She said she would like to see the city have an identity, and believes it could be based around music.
“Laguna Beach has art, why couldn’t we be music? We have the symphony, if we get a venue for them we could not only have the symphony, we could have all kinds of entertainment there, which would draw businesses and restaurants there along with having that destination identity,” Lewis said.
Lewis said she would begin the process by reaching out to people in the community that have been involved with music and see if there’s a location that could house the venue.
“It’s the first piece of the puzzle, where to put it, how to fund it and then go out to businesses and say, ‘here’s what we have,’” Lewis said.
She added if the city can get an identity and build around it, then “things will fall naturally into place.”
Lewis agreed Doheny Village “needs to be developed,” but said she doesn’t feel the need to dictate what should go into the area.
“It’s community outreach, it’s what do you see here in your neighborhood?” Lewis said. “I think before I could tell you what goes there, I need a lot more input and information.”
When asked if Lewis believes going back to the older parking regulations would make it cost prohibitive for developers to build, she said her reaction is “that you haven’t even tried it.”
“You have one project, Majestic that said it doesn’t pencil out for us, well of course they’re going to say that. They’re trying to get it as cheaply as possible,” Lewis said.
She added that the zoning and parking regulations are not “materially different” than what the city had before but would like to build “a better mousetrap.”
Lewis said the city could create a subcommittee to address the parking concerns in the city.
“They go to the various neighborhoods and have forums, ‘Do you have parking issues? What are they?’” Lewis said and added she makes her decisions based off the information she receives.
Lewis said to solve parking issues, she would need to look at “each area and first see what’s available.”
“Some ideas may be great; we just can’t do it there. There are things I’m sure we haven’t even thought of,” Lewis said.
Lewis said collaboration with other cities could make some of Dana Point’s initiatives “more effective.”
Penny Maynard, Nonprofit Consultant
Maynard said she agreed with the original Town Center Plan because “everyone had input.”
Maynard said she was involved with the beginning stages and even spoke with Roma Design about what they envisioned.
“I was at every public meeting where people could have a lot of input,” Maynard said. “I agreed with the plan at that time because everyone had input. I think that I agree with that now.”
She added that she also agreed with the original building heights and mixed use zoning.
When asked if she supported Measure H or I, she said she saw both sides.
“I think the residents need to have input, it’s important. This is a beach community and there’s a certain culture to the beach community, and we want to maintain it,” Maynard said. “They live here and they have a right to a say. I respect the vote, and I respect people that own property and want to do something with it but it needs to be part of what is going on and what people have a vision on.”
Maynard said parking is a significant issue when it comes to development in Doheny Village, and that discussion and cooperation is key to figuring out a plan.
“It’s important that Doheny Village planners have meetings, but there needs to be a lot more direct input from the residents to ensure parking is dealt with,” she said.
She added that if a parking committee works on the plan, it could be beneficial.
“I just think we should all work together,” Maynard said.
When asked how she would asses parking in the city now and what can be done to meet future parking needs, Maynard said “as long as there’s a study, and input for Doheny Village, then you will know what the needs are.”
In regards to consideration of a parking structure in the city, Maynard said technically speaking, there were already enough spots and “there wasn’t a need for a garage” according to city research on the subject. Maynard said if there’s a point “when there’s a need” for a parking garage, “then it should happen.”
She added that because there was so much discussion with the Town Center Plan when it was approved, there wasn’t “a lot of criticism or negative comments.”
She adds that she understands people may park closer to the business they are visiting, but it could go into residential neighborhoods, “which can be a concern.”
But ultimately, Maynard said she would want to hear from residents.
“I just think I go back to feedback from people, I think there was not enough here and that brought up some of the contentiousness there,” Maynard said.
Michelle Brough, Businesswoman/Investment Attorney
Brough said since the Town Center Plan passed, “the vision is already structurally laid out” for development in the area.
“It’s really implementing that vision and the people have voted to go back to the 2008 parking vision, which is fine. The voters have spoken. So I think moving forward, we need to implement the plan, get the vision going and complete the projects so we can move on to Doheny Village and on to the Harbor,” Brough said.
When asked if she believes the parking regulations will deter future developers from coming into the city, Brough said “that’s always a possibility,” but she hopes it is not the case.
“I probably would have done things differently in 2008, but I wasn’t there. I didn’t vote on it and no one asked for my opinion on it. I probably would have dealt with parking issues at that time. … We need to go forward and not repeat mistakes that were made,” Brough said.
In Doheny Village, Brough said she would like to hear input from everyone.
“The way I do things is I like to bring everyone to the table. Whether it’s the residents, neighbors and businesses, everyone who has an interest or stake in the project or the city even, (should) come to the table and be allowed to voice their opinions,” Brough said. “I do not believe in excluding people whether they agree or disagree with me. That’s irrelevant. Everybody needs to be heard from because everyone has an opinion on it.”
Brough said parking in the Lantern District has been decided based off Measure H, but the plan for the Dana Point Harbor parking plan needs to be looked at again.
“Measure H passed, so what’s done is done there. The Harbor has a plan in place, I think a 2006 plan that was before the ‘swipy’ phones and everything. So my guess is that things have changed,” Brough said. “I think it needs to be looked at again, and we need to take a realistic approach and listen and have the experts come in and give their opinion and have their opinion broadcast to the public, and people can agree or disagree and state why.”
She added she believes it’s a council person’s responsibility to “bring people together” and “listen to different views.”
“I do have a lot of experiences of working in the community with Planning Commission and working in D.C. and working on the state level. In all of those areas, I feel bringing everyone together is the best solution,” Brough said.
When asked if she would push for shared parking in Doheny Village, she said she would need to look at the things that are planned before deciding.
“In my mind, a pedestrian-type area is people walking. And the more spots you put on a building, the more people want to drive,” Brough said. “My goal would be to facilitate, obviously have enough parking, but to facilitate the walking idea. If you have people walking and people driving, people don’t always pay attention. You run the risk.”