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By Paul Hinman, Dana Point

As a longtime resident of Dana Point, I’ve seen my share of political battles and disagreements between various City Councils and residents. A certain amount of disagreement and challenge is appropriate and should be welcomed in the public forum. Unfortunately, the current council challenge to a bona fide citizens’ initiative concerning the Town Center (now Lantern District) Plan has brought council/citizen relations to a new low.

The 2008 Town Center Plan brought together hundreds of citizens and city officials who anticipated a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, primarily commercial area with restaurants, shops and some residential and office use. Unfortunately, the first development to be considered, the Majestic Project, caused a huge public outcry because it contemplated four stories instead of three, added increased residential density and elevator towers up to 59 feet and drastically reduced parking standards. In a bold move, Councilmen Carlos Olvera, Steven Weinberg and Bill Brough overturned a Planning Commission ruling to cast the three votes required for approval. That project has now been resold to apartment developer, Raintree (Partners) and is moving forward, likely as rental units, and not condos.

A group of citizens called Dana Point Residents for Responsible Development were shocked by the council’s approval of the Majestic project and saw it as a developer giveaway that would create high density and parking issues that they felt would change the coastal village atmosphere of Dana Point. They got organized and put in countless volunteer hours walking neighborhoods to amass 4,200 signatures, and were successful in putting their initiative, Measure H, The 2015 Town Center Initiative, on the upcoming June ballot. Measure H is designed to put firm, three-story and 40-foot height limits on development, and requires existing parking standards to be preserved.

Instead of letting the ballot go to the voters for a straight yes or no vote, the council voted, on Feb. 2, to create their own competing initiative, now called Measure I. The council’s initiative proposed no new laws and only served to confuse voters at the polls, (especially with its name, “The 2016 Town Center Initiative and Public Parking Improvement Initiative”).

This is a classic David and Goliath story. Measure H was a truly grassroots effort, with volunteers and ordinary citizens working to preserve an ideal version of Dana Point. The council measure not only disregards the electoral process and citizens’ rights to literally “fight City Hall,” but it shows contempt for the 4,200 citizens who signed the citizens’ initiative.

In the coming weeks you’ll see signs saying, “Yes on H, no on I,” as well as, “No on H, yes on I.” Confusion will reign and Goliath may indeed triumph, and that will be a sad day for the citizens of Dana Point. Get informed; read the ballot literature; and be sure you know what you’re voting for or against. The nature and tenor of your town, including parking standards and types of development, will be largely determined by your votes on June 7. I urge you to vote yes on citizens’ Measure H and no on council Measure I.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Regarding the 58-foot height measurements allowed in the Majestic project: There were no height variances granted to the Majestic project. There are three elevator/utility shafts (one on each of three buildings) that measure 54, 57 and 58 feet. The Town Center Plan and building code, without variances, allow for elevators to provide ADA access to the rooftops. The elevator towers rise 14, 17 and 18 feet, respectively, above the 40-foot maximum building height. The towers take up less than 500 square feet (less than 1 percent) of the 70,000 square feet of roof space. Also allowed without a variance, is screening for rooftop mechanical equipment and rooftop perimeter walls, both at 42 inches. Regarding the four-story buildings: The areas of the project that have four stories contain four levels of residences within the 40-foot height limit and are the same height (40 feet, except for elevator towers, perimeter walls and mechanical equipment screening) as the three-story sections. The three-story sections will house 18-foot retail spaces on the ground level, topped with two stories of residential.

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comments (14)

  • Very well stated and right on Point – we the citizens need to take back our city and support Measure H

    • Vickie, contact the initiative people at and ask for a yard sign. Be sure to note which merchants post signs supporting the Council’s shameful Measure I too! They are not on their customers’ side.

  • 1st time I’ve seen an editor’s note in a letter to the editor. I guess DP Times is all in with the developers, er… the city council.

    • The editor’s note was included to clarify statements regarding building height and the portion of the project approved for four stories. We respect the variety of opinions expressed by members of the community. This information is not meant as an attempt to change anyone’s views, only to provide factual information about numbers/measurements that are often misquoted in the Soapbox section.

      • That would be believable if you EVER corrected letters that supported the Council’s/developers’ side. Come on. Own up. You’ve never corrected anyone on the non-citizen side. How about Carlos Oliveria’s ridiculous comments supporting Measure I? You’d have to be a moron to not notice that he voted against the measure and then wrote an op Ed in favor of it. And how about those self-serving history pieces? And Doug Chotkevys going on about how the current Council has no responsibility for extending the Strandsgate cases? Wake up. Anyone can see he’s trying to distance his current gravy train from the scandal.. It’s not going to work. They’ve been in office a year and a half and didn’t lift a finger. We don’t buy that and we don’t buy your excuses. Be fair or correct no one, but don’t apologize for your Council buddies and then pile on the citizens!

        • The DP Times does not correct the opinions of community members. Whether elected officials or ordinary citizens, we respect the rights of all to express their opinion. Should a letter from a developer or City Council member contain incorrect information, an editor’s note, clarification or correction would be in order. Regarding “ridiculous comments” by Carlos Olvera, please remember, his comments are his opinion regarding why he supports Measure I. Readers are welcome to interpret, and respond to, opinion pieces as they see fit. You found his comments ridiculous and shared your opinion on the matter. Thank you for reading and responding. Further, it has been a well documented fact that Olvera voted against the measure and later wrote an opinion piece in favor of it. He was asked for an explanation of why he changed his mind and declined to offer one.
          We also respect your opinions stated here about Olvera’s history column and Chotkevy’s comments. “It’s History,” has been a longtime addition to the paper, borne of Olvera’s interest in local history and his experience in the Dana Point Historical Society and the OC Historical Commission. Political agenda has never been a part of the column, nor will it ever be. Your opinion regarding Doug Chotkevys’ comments is also respected. Thank you for sharing.
          Our job is not to try to sway the opinions of our readers, only to present information and let our readers decide how they feel about issues. We consider it a bonus when readers care enough to share their views.

  • Paul Hinman’s letter is spot on. I’m chagrined to see the “editor” show his/her bias once more by commenting on a citizen’s letter. This was also done on a letter I read about crime in Capo Beach and another one by, I think, Steve Stewart, about this same initiative topic. It’s funny how the editors don’t feel they need to comment on or correct misleading statements by City officials. Why didn’t the editor point out that Carlos Olivera wrote a lengthy guest opinion lauding Council Measure I, but did not point out that he actually voted against the measure he was supporting? I suspect he is also specifically precluded from actively promoting the Council’s ballot measure according to election law. I hope someone is reporting this to the Fair Political Practices organization.

    Check out, too, the biased reporting in the puff piece on the Strandsgate issue in this week’s paper. Why didn’t they interview the guy who did the Records Request, or the Surfrider people? Instead the City Manager is allowed to get away with blatantly slanted comments distancing the current Council from the Strandsgate scandal, and inferring that all the gate, trails and Ocean Institute costs are somehow due to the City’s largesse, and not, as is perfectly clear to citizens, a shameful penalty that will cost taxpayers $300k unless he gets Strands LLC to pay the tab. Since they just allocated $160K in legal fees to sue Sanford Edwards for the legal bills still outstanding, I wouldn’t be counting on getting the $300K back.

    We all know your advertisers won’t be pleased if you report these things in an unbiased manner, but come on — have some courage! Let’s see if you have the guts to print this letter in the paper. Who can the people count on to get the real story out there?

    • The editor’s note was added for clarification of facts related to the portions of the project (railing due to roof decks, elevator towers and screening of rooftop mechanical elements, approved without variances) that rise above the 40-foot limit, as well as to clarify the fact that the sections planned for four stories are, in actuality, the same height as the three-story sections.

      The note posted alongside the letter to the editor regarding crime in Capo Beach, referred only to a small set of numbers supporting the blanket assertion that “crime is up” across the board. The full report presented by law enforcement at the meeting showed crime has also fallen in other categories. The clarification was added in the interest of presenting the full story/the full set of statistics for those who were unable to attend.

      • How did you miss the fact that 4 stories instead of 3 in the same height adds another whole floor of density? You miss the point. We want a coastal village not a condo canyon. Amd now Raintree is bringing apartments instead of condos. If the people of Dana Point knew what was in store for them they never would have bought into the Town Center Plan. Talk about bait and switch!

        And don’t even THINK about talking about crime reporting. Your miserable excuse of a sherrif’s blotter showing the embarrassing and ridiculous events that are allowed to happen in a town where the Sherrif looks the other way for fear of discriminating against loiterers and transients? That stopped being funny five years ago. How about reporting, as many legitimate news outlets did, on the real crime stats for Dana Point. FBI says we were up 12% last year. How about looking into that and being a real paper with real news?

    • The Dana Point Times does not pull letters from online comments. If you would like this comment printed as a letter to the editor, email it to

  • Kudos to Andrea Swayne for having the ethics to post Robert Cahill’s letter. I suspect she is governed somewhat by the paper’s owners who are naturally compromised by those who purchase ads (but shouldn’t give in if they want to provide a fair, unbiased news source and a truly “free press” to serve the people of Dana Point). Kudos as well to Paul Hinman who very effectively described what’s really going on in our little coastal Mayberry that is looking more like Chicago every day.

    I took a look at the February 2nd Council meeting video (, council meeting, 2/2/16, item #16) and was appalled. It looked like the whole thing had been staged and Joe Muller, in particular, looked like he was struggling to remember his pre-arranged talking points. To anyone watching the citizens’ heartfelt pleas to just let the Voters’ measure stand on its own with a straight up and down vote, and then seeing the Council completely disregard those pleas and insist on their own insidious measure, it just so obviously looks like Chicago politics at its worst.

    Let’s be clear. There was NO NEED for the Council’s measure. It’s only effect is to cancel Measure H which voters could have done with a “no” vote at the polls. And the “public parking improvement” tagged onto the title is a direct LIE because the measure actually decimates parking and leaves it to residents of the Town Center area and taxpayers at large to shoulder the burden because these yahoos didn’t have enough sense to spend some of the $20 million plus on a parking structure!

    This is a clear and shameful attempt to subvert the voting process by confusing the heck out of voters. If Council Measure I passes, it will only be because of the confusion deliberately sewn by this Council. I have a hard time believing the 3 freshmen Councilmen who voted for it (Olvera later showed his true colors by publishing a guest opinion in favor of it), could possibly have come up with this insidious scheme on their own. They show a complete lack of understanding of how the City works at virtually every meeting. My schedule doesn’t allow me to attend, but I watch them all and they’re pitiful. They just stare blankly as they pass multi-million dollar budgets and seldom ask intelligent questions, or even questions that indicate they’ve read the staff reports. They frankly seem neither engaged nor very intelligent, and only seem to wake up when they talk about the “cute stuff” like business of the month or the next city sponsored parade or taxpayer funded show. And the poor citizens just go to City Hall week after week with their honest pleas and they’re met with vacuous stares. How sad. We deserve better representation and should throw these clowns to the curb. If anyone knows how to report this stuff to any kind of oversight body and get it exposed, please do us all a favor and let the world know something really smells in Dana Point and this time, it’s not Doheny Beach!

    Who was the master-mind behind this scheme that shows such contempt for the people of Dana Point? Some suspect long time City Attorney Patrick Munoz, (can’t we get a new lawyer?) who authored the Strandsgate scandal that wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on behalf of the Council’s developer buddy, but who knows? Whoever came up with it or participated in it should be exposed and run out of town –fast. Please don’t let Paul Hinman’s “Goliath” win. Vote yes on Measure H and heal Dana Point, and NO on Measure I – a pack of lies!

    • Dana Point badly needs a better city council. Hopefully the voters are fed up with the mediocre talents of the present crew and vote to get our city back on track in November. We need two new council members who want to represent the people of our city and not the interests of those who profit from it.

  • How many seats are up in November? I recall reading only one.

    We need a more aggressive approach. RECALL them ALL.

    We could do it based on (take your pick of reasons) breach of fiduciary responsibility , spending of almost million dollars of tax payer money on legal fees to restrict the legal access of the citizens to a public beach. Shameful.

    • Two seats are open in November. Scott Schoeffel is termed out after 8 years. Olvera is up for reelection, if he wants to run. Maybe he doesnt want the grief that will come from defending his record.

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