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Developer gives city first look at project proposed for empty former mobile home park at PCH and Del Obispo
By Andrea Swayne
Seven years after a mixed-use development was proposed for the 8.9-acre former mobile home park at the gateway to Dana Point, developer Capital Hall Partners gave the Planning Commission and the public a first look at the project. The response seemed to be overwhelmingly positive, due, in part, to the design and amenities, but largely because the applicant is not asking for any variances.
At a study session on Oct. 6, owner, Capital Hall Partners (previously part of A&M Capital Real Estate LLC and now referred to in city documents as AG/A&M Doheny, LLC), along with project manager, Project Dimensions, Inc., presented architectural plans and renderings for the project which would include 168 residential condominiums, 2,471 square feet of commercial space and approximately a half-acre of park land, on the southeast corner of Del Obispo Ave. and Pacific Coast Highway.
Early on in the project—more than five years ago—there was talk of a possible 176 residential units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space allowable on the site.
The plan introduced at the Oct. 6 study session, with its proposed 168 condos and 2,471-square-foot commercial space, is well under the density originally talked about and presented with no requested variances.
“We have really made a conscious effort to work with the community, surrounding neighbors, homeowners and city staff to develop and bring a quality project that the city and community will be very proud of having at the entryway to Dana Point,” Bradley Hall of Capital Hall Partners said. “We made a conscious decision to deliver the highest quality project possible.”
Hall said he and his team made a concerted effort to respond to other public feedback indicating a concern with the amount of traffic and parking issues that would be created with such a large addition of retail space.
The new plan also has 20 percent more parking than required by city codes. Although the retail will face PCH, all access will be on Del Obispo. And the existing Denny’s restaurant on the corner will be spared.
The required setback also exceeds requirements by including a 55-foot landscaped pedestrian plaza area in front of the PCH-facing retail.
The project design includes three different styles of architecture—meant to blend harmoniously with the design of the pedestrian bridge over PCH—referred to as coastal Mediterranean, beach cottage and coastal contemporary styles. The buildings will be three stories, with residential garages on the first floor and include affordable housing units.
YEARS OF UNCERTAINTY
The previous owner, Makar Properties LLC, bought the 90-unit mobile home park on the horseshoe-shaped lot in 2005 and shut it down. By summer 2009, the Planning Commission and City Council had approved Makar’s request for a zoning change from “coastal recreational” to “residential/commercial.” The plan was then sent to the California Coastal Commission for approval.
In 2011, the land, at 34202 Del Obispo Ave., changed hands becoming the property of Capital Hall Partners, which continued to pursue Coastal Commission approval of the zoning change.
In 2012, the plan received an approval by the Coastal Commission, with modifications that included public access and parking for the San Juan Creek Bike Trail, a 25-foot setback and enhanced visitor-serving commercial uses on ground level buildings facing PCH. The Coastal Commission also added a requirement that there be adequate buffer space between the project and land to the north owned by the South Orange County Water Authority. City Council then voted unanimously to approve the General Plan amendment that cleared the way for the project to move forward.
The initial zoning change request in 2009 received no opposition; however, in 2012, the city received pushback from SOCWA and Dana Point resident, Mary Jeffries. SOCWA’s opposition was raised over the possibility of future residents having to deal with potential noise and odor emanating from the water authority’s neighboring land and a belief that the project was not in step with community character. Jeffries collected petitions from residents who agreed with her assertion that the project would bring too much density and parking issues due to her initial impression that it would have no garages.
City staff responded to the opposition with confirmation that the plan design was, at the time, far from finished, garages would have to be included by city code, and when finally submitted, would be subject to the regular developmental review process.
According to the applicant, issues related to the noise and odor concerns of SOCWA have been mitigated by working together and talking over the issues. Remedies include equipping residences with central air conditioning and constructing units bordering the plant with back walls—closets and bathrooms instead of living spaces—and fixed, in-operable windows facing in that direction.
The effort of Hall’s team to deliver a favorable project seems to have been successful, as evidenced by the positive response at the study session from the planning commissioners and audience members.
Resident Jody Payne said she was “practically swooning” over the fact that the developer was requesting no variances.
“The words ‘no variances required’ is music to everyone’s ears,” said Planning Commissioner Norm Denton.
Commissioner Susan Whittaker said she very much appreciated the applicant embracing the idea of providing an attractive gateway into the city.
“We’ve been waiting about 10 years for this,” she said. “The original attempt was brutal and from my point of view, this is a godsend for the city.”
The next step in the process will be a public hearing, which has been scheduled for Monday, Oct. 27, 6 p.m. at the Dana Point Community Center, 34052 Del Obispo Street.