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By Beverli Jinn

A few days ago my desk calendar offered this thought for the day from writer Eric Hoffer: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

I was there in 2006 (or was it 2007?) when city council voted to proceed with plans to revitalize the Dana Point Town Center.
Well OK, it wasn’t really that simple. A subcommittee of 11 active citizens and two council members was formed months earlier to study the advisability of building the Center. ROMA Design Group was hired to develop plans. Toward the end of the process, community meetings were held at the Senior Center to report progress and assess the mood of the citizens on the proposal.

The final meeting was scheduled—at which more voices could be heard—and votes of the council were cast. As it happened, the decision was inconclusive. The voice of the council wallowed in indecision: yes, no, maybe so.

Eventually the council voted to proceed with the process. Pacific Coast Highway and Del Prado Avenue would become two-way roads from Blue Lantern to Copper Lantern. This stretch would be known as the gateway portion of the project and would include street improvements, landscaping, signage and new striping on the roads.

The California Coastal Commission approved the plans.

Only one thing is certain, however. Six years later we’re still without a town center. Oh sure, there is a large new building nearing completion at Copper Lantern and PCH. We can hope that new tenants will take possession soon. We can hope that other investors will be encouraged to follow suit, but it’s going to take more than our hopes.

In one of last month’s issues of the DP Times, interviews with our city council members were not really optimistic. Bill Brough bemoaned the long period of time that has passed since the original approval and insisted, “The time is now.”

Scott Schoeffel said progress on Town Center is at the top of his list. But all will depend upon the city’s ability to attract and retain qualified investors. He pointed out that, to no one’s surprise, development projects are “well outside the city’s control or influence.”

Steven Weinberg said the city must be fiscally responsible and keep our reserves healthy for a rainy day. Completing the Doheny Village plan and the short-term rental issue must come first.

“The economy is slowly recovering,” Lisa Bartlett said. She would like to focus on projects that increase the value of Dana Point as a coastal city and international resort destination.
And our newest councilman, Carlos Olvera? “Funding is the issue,” he said.

Can we be surprised? Is the economy really recovering? Can we really hope that investors are going to appear and miraculously rescue us from our financial doldrums?

In the news the other day was a story about boat owners who lost their boats to Hurricane Sandy. Boat sales are at an all time high. Yes, indeed. Insurance claims are saving the day for boaters while homes are destroyed and homeowners have no way to replace what they have lost.

What does all this have to do with Dana Point? Just this: Our economy is not improving! Our city council members seem to agree that it is just a matter of time until our beautiful city recovers from its financial woes. They optimistically assure us that they are looking out for us, and better days are coming.

But what else can our fearless leaders do? Town Center isn’t the only issue facing them. Should they throw in the towel? Should they urge us to be patient? Should they go for the plan and take their chances? After all, the city takes great pride in being financially healthy. Sometimes you just have to take a calculated risk, whether it is a thriving town center or a business investment—of any kind—that has hope for customers.

Personally, my vote goes to taking a chance. Can you imagine how beautiful this project will be? Can you anticipate the joy of living in this city by the sea? Can you?

Some years ago, at her first opportunity, Beverli Jinn retired from teaching high school English. A lot of books inside her demanded to be written. Now, several years and six published books later, an altered compulsion, the care and feeding of our ocean, drives Jinn’s pen. She believes that the residents of Orange County’s South Coast can lead the way in establishing and maintaining a healthy watershed. She is the co-founder of Dana Point’s Earth/Ocean Society and is active in the DP Historical Society. Born and raised in Orange County, she has lived in Dana Point since 2001. Jinn welcomes her readers’ feedback via email at beverlijinn@cox.net.

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comments (7)

  • I couldn’t agree with you more, Beverly. What are they afraid of?

  • I second the motion! An attractive downtown area in DP is sorely lacking.

  • My wife and I moved our business and our home to Dana Point 3 years ago believing that change was coming. We are totally disappoint that we can’t walk to shopping and restaurants like we did in a suburb of Chicago. We thought we would be coming to a community that would have a vibrant center and just do not understand why this has not occurred. Funds go to creating palm tree statues along the PCH, but downtown languishes. We don’t want to be Laguna Beach for sure. And surely not San Clemente. But there is such an opportunity that our City leaders can’t get out of there own way to envision. I can see it, and so can many others. Maybe we need to vote out all and start with a clean slate. There is federal, state and county funding that our current leaders seem to be unable to tap. There is a vibrant tourist industry that would invest. Capital forms around great visions. Our community lacks the faith, fire and focus to make this happen. We made a bet 3 years ago and are disappointed. I see no reason why we can’t do something great!

  • I think Chicago is calling you back. Listen.

    • I love Chicago’s local areas, where you can spend an evening at any local shopping area then spend some time at an Irish bar with live local musicians who just love to play and entertain. David Dowling expresses exactly what is needed, but of course that won’t appease the big power guys who just want to exploit but not contribute. I have a word to describe the big power ideas. Sterile. The difference between Chicago local areas that are so alive and so community and people oriented and Dana Point: sterile.

  • Great article Beverli,

    The lack of the Towncenter being a priority is quite surprising considering the level of importance the people of Dana Point put on this project.

    In 2009 the survey conducted by True North research for the council clearly identified Towncenter as the top “non-maintenance” spending priority.

    Lack of commitment from the council to focus on this is unacceptable.

  • Sorry, late for this issue, important as it is. I took part in the discussions about Town Center when they took place, and at the time probably predicted it would get no where. Why? Because the same players are involved as are in so many of our town’s escapades. Case in point, the bridge to no where. Six million tax payers funds to build a pedestrian bridge that few use besides the homeless. What happened? In my opinion the bridge was built on the come with one purpose in mind, to provide traffic to a 20,000 square foot shopping center that was to be built by our city’s favorite developers. Town Center was based on the same logic, big rewards to our city’s favorite developers, in my opinion. In my mind this is the problem. The only thing the big developers provide is power to the planners, nothing for the people of this city. Here’s a suggestion. Plan for the people of Dana Point in mind, instead of the developers whose only benefit is to support those who get elected to our city offices. I’ve sat in public meetings while big deals are discussed, when I ask to what plans are being made for the project that will ease increased traffic from these plans I get contemptuous looks. When I suggest things for kids to do in the planning for the harbor, more contemptuous looks. Hey, these bfds have no time for those little details. Bridge to no where, no problem. A little skate park where parents can park their kids while they enjoy the harbor, horrors. A public pool for us in Dana Point to use for health purposes, silence. A big song and dance for the powerful to get wealthier, let’s party. Let’s face it, our politicians spend their time honing their conservative credentials (no regulation of paper bags, oh jeez I forgot to mention the damage plastic does to our environment and especially our oceans, I’m not stupid I just need to convince that power to keep flowing). You want representation for the people of the city, elect people of this city, instead of representatives of the power.

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