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Kevin Steele, Dana Point

I believe the city of Dana Point has a very difficult dilemma to contend with. A group of individuals, primarily out of Capo Beach, have banded together while aligning themselves with a rich developer focused on his own personal self-interest. If you read the Dana Point Times frequently, you will find a steady stream of editorials from the “Capo Cares Crew,” Buck, Betty, Toni, Barbara and Steve. They want you to believe that our City Council is crooked, that our city is falling apart, that development is bad and that tourism will destroy our town. Over the last few years we have seen this group successfully curtail development in our town center. No new projects have been approved since Measure I passed. With the referendum on vacation rentals, we have dramatically impacted one of our cities top tax sources. Now they are working hard to replace our city manager and city attorney. In two years they will work hard to get another seat on the board, so that they will have total control. Partnering with people like Sanford Edward mean they now have deep pockets. They are truly a force to be reckoned with.

In my view our city has improved dramatically over the last decade. The vision behind the Town Center finally came to fruition, there are wonderful events being held in Dana Point consistently throughout the year, our Harbor is getting a well-deserved makeover and we finally have a solid strategy with Doheny Village. Crime is down and financially our city has taken on no debt, unlike most of our neighboring cities. There has been real progress and if this is something you support, we need to band together to rise up against what the Capo Cares people are trying to do. We are at a critical juncture in our city’s history; I think it would be a shame to let these people throw it all away.

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comments (37)

  • Very well said. They are not nice about it either, if anyone dares to stand up to them they take it very personal and turn it into drama while spreading rumors and exaggerating information to make others look bad.

    What’s sad is they have time and money, while many of us are raising families and working they have the resources that it takes to control the city and completely destroy progress and potential.

    While the city should band together against these efforts the time, money, and energy it takes cannot be underestimated and it’s much easier to stay in one’s own space and avoid them and be happy in our own little pockets of Dana Point and just hope they don’t intrude too much. . I would love to help, but it will need to be organized and there will need to be tremendous resources or it’s futile. Let me know when the meetings will start.

  • The Capo Cares contingent are convinced our city council is burning through money and yet they are pushing hard for the city to spend millions on improving Pines Park. The cost to fix beach erosion at Capo Beach would also be extraordinarily expensive, while also being determental to the environment as highlighted by the Surfrider Foundation. Unfortunately if they don’t get what they want, they can simply call Uncle Sanford to pony up a few bucks for a another referendum.

    No conflict of interest there, right Toni, Betty?

  • long time capo beach resident Reply

    TO: Kevin, Shevy and Concerned : you three are so un-informed, mis-informed and shamefully spreading lies and mis-information on so many issues. If you want to write informative letters, you all need to study the issues, fact-find, and then write about things that are actually happening in the city.

  • Interesting point, so is the women proposing the large city expenditures for a park and beach erosion repair next to her home in Capistrano Beach is the same Toni Nelson recently appointed to the Dana Point Financial Audit Committee? Seems like a massive conflict of interest.

  • 100% agree. Although a correction to the article it’s measure H that passed (not I). What do you know, we’ve had a complete stand still with development. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen. Ugh, so shortsighted. Well I guess we prevented the “traffic nightmare” or “parking nightmare” or whatever nonsense they spewed. Instead we have absolutely no one walking around downtown, and empty vacant lots. Sweet!

    • Not to mention families that have been coming here and staying in homes for generations, some over 50 years that no longer feel welcome in our city. Great message we are sending about Dana Point. .

  • Concerned in Dana Point Reply

    Chevy, Dana Point Local, actually business is not a stand still, as Long Time Capo Beach Resident rightly points out in his post, this is factually not accurate. There has been one new business that has opened since the passage of Measure H and that would be the Black Lantern Tattoo parlor on Del Prado. Obviously we’ve witnessed many business that have shuttered since H’s passage, but that is the only new business that has opened in our town center since H.. Very unfortunate. Our county is experiencing an extraordinary economic boom, interest rates are still very low and yet no new development. Unfortunately, anyone with good business sense would stay far away from Dana Point due to Capo Cares/Save Dana Point. The PAC they have created is very powerful, well funded by Sanford Edward’s and clearly they are anti-development.

    • concerned in Dana Point- We agree and seem to be 100% on this same side on this issue, Capo Cares policies/ Save Dana Points agenda’s have been very bad for the city.

      In particular their success in shutting down the permit process for Short term rentals, not to mentioned everything else you list.

      I’ve personally witnessed damaged caused by Save Dana Point and Capo cares actions to homeowners in Dana Point.

      It’s disappointing.

  • This letter is nothing more than an unsubstantiated hatchet job and we should be embarrassed that it’s even in print. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If Kevin Steele wants to make outrageous claims like “aligning themselves with a rich developer”, then we ought to demand that he at least provide some shred of proof to back it up. Instead, he doubles down on the muckraking, again without offering a shred of proof, that somehow Capo Cares has “successfully curtail development in our town center”. The real icing on the cake is that Mr. Steele doesn’t know the difference between Measure H and Measure I. Psst Kevin: Measure I is the smokescreen our “crooked” city council promoted to try and trick people into allowing massive development. Also, at least some of us saw through the smoke and it failed to pass.

  • Concerned in Dana Point Reply

    DP Native. Sanford Edward’s donated $20,000 to the Save Dana Point PAC. That is more than Mr. Edward’s donated to all of city council members combined over the last decade. By a lot. This is extremely easy to prove. Save Dana Point has a close affiliation with Capo Cares, they share much of the same leadership. Save Dana Point and Capo Cares were the main advocates that lobbied for Mayor Lewis and Councilman Wyatt. Their website is still operating….

    Regarding Measure H, can you point me to a single new permit that has been approved in the town center since the passage of the Measure. Outside of the Black Lantern Tattoo Parlor, I’m also not aware of any new businesses opening either. Unfortunately with our community, both Measure H and Measure I were dogs, we were were set up to lose either way.

  • New in DP = and Sad Reply

    Question for anyone out there – Why does the Capo Beach area receive 42% of the Capital Improvement budget but only pays 20% of the property tax revenue (which is only 22% of the town’s revenue, the other comes from sales, transfer and TOT,, but again, probably more business and hotels in MB and LD, thus Capo probably only pays 10-15% of the total town revenue)? As a newbie, a little worried that the wool is being pulled over everyone eyes.

    Plus, my understanding, those same people are anti-everything, except fixing their streets and their parks. I look forward to a response and hopefully the neutral FRC committee looks into this, or am I just fooling myself? Concerned, because we have so much potential yet nothing is getting developed, except tattoo parlors are opening (that should drive revenue LOL). New in DP and Sad.

  • New IN DP-

    Is the above analysis accurate? (CAP ex spent specifically in capo beach) Could you provide some reference? Also – is that value reflected the proposed budget? Or is this a historical analysis you performed? Sorry to ask for a bunch of legwork,…….

    To be fair- I have no issue with CAPO receiving a large share of CAPEX moving forward and I am not sure why anyone else would either. We did spend a lot up here in the Lantern District and don’t see a tremendous need for anything else. Monarch Beach just doesn’t have the type of city infrastructure that would need significant upgrades. (at least I don’t see them). Overall, I would suggest we do fix up CAPO.

    With that said, the great irony in so many Capo residents having some sort of personal feelings about parking in front of my house. (YES, I live near the Raintree project, and I am speaking of “SAVE DANA POINT”), is that any of these dev. fees / operating taxes from additional projects which would have eventually hit the city have been reduced. As in, why no money for CAPO improvements? A lack of development in the Lantern District has contributed.

    And before anyone say, “well, you spent too much on the LD improvements” – the fact is that “Save Dana Point” came long after those decisions were made and improvements in place. Every time some Capo resident wrote in and bashed potential development in the Lantern District I was so confused.

    I feel bad for the CAPO CARES group. I am on their email listing, and their leaderships is actually quite amazing. Unless things have changed their group simply fights hard for resources to be dedicated to their area of the city. I can respect that. No different than me fighting hard for the Lantern District improvements. I don’t see a political connection to “Save Dana Point” other than the leaders of both groups reside in that area. (Although I also only get my news through this website and beers at turks!)


    • Capo Cares does do some good work, their motives are questionable in many cases from what I have seen.

      The problem I have with Capo Cares is they are willing to tell mistruths to accomplish their goals and infringe on the entire cities property rights for their own self-interest. While severely mistreating and disrespecting anyone that voices an opposing view. Even refusing to discuss or compromise with opposing groups leadership, Often making outlandish claims to justify their position.

    • New in DP = and Sad Reply

      Some leg work was done. I reviewed a document which shows since FY 2005 – the Capital Improvement Program Projects and Undergrounding Projects -that 42% was spent. The Capo Beach Land Area population and property tax evaluation range being 21-22%. So, it is historical, however looking forward I see issues with the underground sewer system, the erosion issues, Pines Park and at some point beach erosion (however, I believe that is the responsibility of the homeowner). Then again, my 6th grade teacher said the oceans would rise by 3 feet within the next 20 years, yet that hasn’t happened and it’s been 35 years.

      And I am also in agreement on a few fronts: I do give credit to any group that fights for their issues. However, I am from MB and I live in an HOA, same with about 80% of MB residents. I pay for my streets to be repaved, etc…thru my HOA, and some parts of the LD have those too. My concern is fairness. Maybe the Capo area should have a special tax district or have their own HOA. But 42% is a high number. In all fairness if it was around 30% I probably wouldn’t care. But, as I read this paper and the Save Dana Point, Capo Cares websites and see so much anti-development talk, I feel that we, as a city, are missing out on so much revenue potential. And, as you state, “Save Dana Point” came long after those improvements were made.

      It’s just so sad to see so much potential lost. We literally could have an extra $4-6 million in property tax, sales tax and additional TOT tax revenue, if we got our act together and developed downtown. Then, we wouldn’t have silly arguments comparing our police services budget against Laguna Hills (which might be the biggest laugher I have seen in a while, and the Sheriff just shredded apart at the last council meeting), or cutting the great services our city staff provide to all of the residents. This city is unbelievable, yet we are missing out on the biggest economic boom in a long time. We are 8 years into an economic cycle, they don’t last too long. Just hope we don’t miss the great opportunity in front of us, that we might regret for years to come or the next down cycle hits and no developers have any interest or they have no cash (cash is abundant now but that doesn’t last forever). Sad!!!!!

      • 1. Your first paragraph makes no sense.
        2. The city’s own consultants projected $575,000 per year in city revenue from both sales tax and
        property tax at full build out of the Lantern District. Maybe you know something they dont?
        There is no $-4-6 million pot of gold hiding in the Lantern District, just misspent capital.

        • New in DP - and Sad Reply

          1st paragraph is pretty clear – Capo received 42% of the Capital Improvement Budget but paid way less (at least since 2005). And, the comment on the Ocean rising is kind of a joke, against the non stop screaming about global warming, cooling or now climate change, that a bunch of hypocrites have been spouting for the last 40 years (since earth day began), as they fly in their jets and preach to the fools who listen.

          2nd, was just a guess – but if we had 1000 extra hotel rooms and most folks stayed in town, instead of going to Laguna Beach, I would speculate the revenue would be a little higher than those consultants projected. The real point is, nothing is going on because of a few anti development types who are against everything: development, business, and the police force (our Mayor voted against the police at the last meeting, and the Mayor Pro Tem kind of did, he brought the motion to delay, but then in turn, turned so he wouldn’t look bad – and we wonder who is playing games?). And, BTW – the downtown looks good, except those ugly holes. Fill them up and let the revenue roll in.

        • 575k per year? Chose whatever discount you want for that perpetuity- but at 5% your well over 11 million dollars. (Yes I know this is theoretical and assumes full build out, and still does not prove out a profitable investment for LD)

          But my overall point is, at this time, and going forward, the lack of Development up in the Lantern District is hurting the CAPO CARES folks and really anyone else who wants to see Doheny Village fixed up. (Which I also do!)

          11 Million enough for CAPO Improvements?

          • Long-Time Resident

            It was $673K per year in estimated revenue plus $4.45 million in one-time fees for full Town Center build-out. Those were in constant 2015 dollars so a 5% discount rate would be too high. I came up with a total loss to the city of about $19 million assuming a 60 year life and 20 years to achieve full build out with a 2.5% discount rate. The net loss would probably be less since a few projects are getting built.

            I too am puzzled why Capo Cares pushed for Measure H. You can’t fix stupid.

          • Michael H Frost

            LTR- thanks for the details. that makes sense

  • At least $25 million in hard construction costs and associated legal and planning expense was spent during 2014 – 2015 on the Lantern District. Some of that was financed by selling $3.5 million in Capo Beach parkland and transferring the proceeds to fund the Lantern District.

    Nothing remotely close to that has ever been spent in Capo Beach. “New in DP” is apparently unaware of where the real money has been spent. As to Michael’s comment about no one saying anything before the LD funds were all spent, the Save DP crew was at the April 14 2014 meeting when the council voted to put all our financial eggs in the LD basket and protested that decision in the meeting and a subsequent letter to the DP Times. The decision by council members Bill Brough, Carlos Olvera and Steven Weinberg to sink so much of our city’s net worth into that project will be remembered as the worst council decision ever. That kind of ignorant decision making is why we need a Financial Review Committee. Too many of our council members were and are financially illiterate.

  • The continued attacks on individuals and civic organizations is disappointing, especially when the real issues are being ignored. Here are some of them again:
    — Expenses up 40%+ while revenues only grew 3% over 10 years
    — City staff of 70 now vs 48 ten years ago, with no change in population
    — The highest budget per capita for police services of any contract city in the county. Making excuses about why we are higher than Laguna Hills willfully misses the point. We are higher than EVERY other city, at $319/citizen. (Compare to: San Clemente – $203, Laguna Niguel – $166, for example.)

    Why do supporters of our legacy councilmen Viczorek, Muller, and Tomlinson choose to focus not on these facts, but on smear campaigns to discredit others and to try to divide the city? The whole city is affected by their legacy of fiscal mismanagement, not just Capo Beach or Monarch Beach or Dana Point or Town Center. A more constructive approach would be to either explain and defend these financial decisions, or join the effort to change course and get our financial house in order. For instance, why were Mayor Lewis and Councilman Wyatt the only council members pushing to review the police contract? (Some have called this anti-police, which is silly. Reviewing contracts is just sound fiscal management, especially when the contract is the highest around.)

    We are overdue for a comprehensive review of city finances. Why wouldn’t everyone support this? If we join together to solve our problems, we can keep Dana Point the great city it is, for all of us.

  • New in DP and Sad Reply

    Continued attacks from who? Since I never voted for any of the council members it’s interesting that those who attack most stick up for those who ran on an anti-growth platform (from reading this Jay and Steve are in the back pocket of the anti-growth group). If you want better finances I would say bringing in tourist and others to shop, eat and spend the night, would be far better than cutting police services, or fining people for smoking? We need to make downtown a great place to go to, not a sad looking empty lot hole, like it is now. So sad the world is moving forward yet this beautiful town is stuck in the 1970s and the anti-growth, anti- everything mentality.

  • Jay-

    I am for the development of Lantern District, including flexibility in zoning/product definition on specific sites in order for an owner/developer to be profitable. I live very close to the Raintree project and cannot wait for that site to be built out. I absolutely love the BevMo building (less the sign driving north). Overall, I believe the vast majority of the LD commercial area is pretty ugly and contributes significantly to residential issues such as junk landlords, crappy tenants, and couches and appliances just being thrown out into the alleyways and streets. I believe private development is the only long term solution to what we try and fix with the local code enforcement.

    With all that said, if your metrics are correct I completely agree that we should analyze this trend. A lack of reasoning from the council on why these numbers are going in this direction disturbs me as someone who voted for these folks.

    I am annoyed we seem to pay a premium for Police Services and I get to watch the same drug dealer operate out of the front of circle K for the last three years.

  • New & Sad,

    First, I heard that Capo Cares started when one of the founding members was told by city employees that Capo Beach was just “blue collar people” and that they don’t pay attention to the area because “no one in Capistrano Beach cares.” Classy, right? There started the need for a group of people who care and volunteer to improve, as well as preserve, came straight out of City Hall.

    It feels like you should have done in depth analysis prior to moving since your concerns, and desire to tax other parts of town is so strong. You live on the farthest edge of town, and quite frankly are least effected by the issues that effect DP in reality – not simply statistics from the City website. You don’t get the impact from the drugged homeless, the sober living home abundance, or nearly the number of theft – from mailboxes, auto, or home burglaries. Capo Beach is one of the oldest parts of town, absorbed by DP in the 1980’s. There are many, many historic homes in the area, unlike in Monarch Beach. Of course it needs more road repairs that HOA driven, pre-planned communities. Most of us live here, or moved here, to avoid HOAs and the restrictive rules and fees that others appreciate. While you feel like everything is ‘stuck in the 70’s’ I’d like to remind you that not every city needs to destroy their coast line views the way Laguna Beach did with the unbelievable number of large resorts, parking garages, and massive traffic problems. Some people want a pristine & quiet way of life on the coast. Not every town needs to be a Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar, or Newport. We want a slower, safer, quaint place to raise our kids in California. To each their own, depending on what you want out of your hometown. Fortunately moving to a town more of your preferred busting coastal city is an option for everyone. Laguna Beach just passed an anti-smoking policy, anti-STR policies, and has actually dealt with their homeless – unlike Dana Point. Maybe when those issues can be handled, we can handle an increase in temporary population. Malibu, Santa Cruz and many other “old” and very expensive beach communities have established quite a high end reputation, while preserving a quiet way of life for new & long term residents. New England costal towns have done the same. We can be tourist friendly without whoring out our whole town. You’d be hard pressed to find more than a few boutique, small hotels in any of those areas that have dominating home values. Where do you realistically want to dump 1000 more hotel rooms? If the MB Club was to be demolished and a multi-story hotel put up to accommodate your proposal, and promote the TOT tax you’re fond of, I’m sure your neighborhood would have much to say. But it’s not of your concern since you’d prefer to see it in someone else’s back/front yard. We have 2 high end resorts, and are local to several small ones.

    No one in Capistrano Beach is anti-development. We have begged for better zoning, and something – ANYTHING – to be done to clean up Doheney Village. It’s an absolute hole, and needs some serious attention as the entryway into Dana Point/Capo Beach from the I-5 and SJC. But even when there is no money to spend, the city finds cash to blow on the most wasteful projects. The jet-out circles they recently put in in Capo Beach – HUGE waste of time and money. They do nothing helpful except look like wasted dollars. They can’t even get zoning, business license requirements, or signage standards (Welcome to BevMO anyone?) right for the largest project in town. We all want a great Lantern Village, but not at the expense of above ground parking lots, abuse of height restrictions, and more.

    Since you have yet to vote in a local election, maybe a wait & experience approach to what resident life in your new city is like would be an appropriate consideration. Right now, you’re judging what you cannot yet understand. I have lived here four years, and thought I knew so much before actually *living here.

    • Concerned in Dana Point Reply

      Not As New in DP,

      There is nothing wrong with being against development and I have long suspected this was a key theme for those who support Capo Cares. My personal frustration has always been that the group isn’t more clear regarding their stance. Some people like Dana Point the way it is, others would like to see it evolve. There isn’t a right or wrong position here. With Measure H and its Ballot Box requirement we have put a stake in the ground with regards the development in the city. There aren’t many developers who would consider new development in the Town Center or Doheny Village with restrictions like this in place. The fuss behind the signage at Bev Mo or 4th story of the Majestic project is absolutely ridiculous. The Bev Mo building is beautiful, far better than the shipyard that was there before it. Majestic will bring 27,000 square feet of new retail to a town center that is clearly suffering. There have been no new permit requests since Measure H passed and the only new store that has opened is the Black Lantern Tattoo parlor. Comparing us to Malibu or Santa Cruz is absurd. Both Malibu and Santa Cruz have in fact invested heavily in updating their commercial cores. Neither is in a situation where more businesses are leaving then coming into the city. Neither finds themselves in a situation where development has come to a stand still.

      The sober living issue in Capo Beach is an issue occurring up and down the coast. It was caused by policies enacted at the state and federal levels and it is something that has to be dealt with very carefully. By law they are considered a disabled class of people and discrimination by our city is illegal. Right or wrong, policies can not be put in place at the local level to control them. Newport Beach learned the hard way with a $10 million settlement.

      The California Coastal Act is also very clear regarding the laws around providing affordable accommodations. Fact is most of our low coast motels have closed down and now with the ban on STRs, Dana Point has become unaccessible to those who don’t have the means to stay at the MB Resort, the Ritz or the Marriott. Based on recent comments made by the Coastal Commission, our city will likely end up in court with them over recent decisions that have been made. Once again creating a situation where our city could leave itself exposed to millions in fines.

      What I find particularly frustrating about the Capo Cares PAC is they don’t want to governed by HOA like regulations, but they are happy telling everyone else in the city how they should live.

  • LTR – I agree with your comment about amortization of the LD being endless. We have made that point repeatedly. Your Capo Cares comment is not accurate. They never endorsed Measure H. If you have evidence to the contrary show it.

    As to “can’t fix stupid” – you must be referring to the 2014 council decision to fund the Lantern District with virtually all the available disposable funds in the city treasury. We are now left potentially insolvent as the annual bill for OC Sheriffs comes due – at $343 per person ($12 million annually) and rising annually at 5%/$600,000 per year. Endless deficits.

    No matter how much you want to demonize Measure H and its backers (59% of the voters) the real blame lies with the financial illiterates on our 2014 city council who spent 2-3 times more than economically justifiable. Your deflection for this mistake to blame Measure H is fooling no one. .

    • Concerned in Dana Point Reply

      Totally absurd to claim Capo Cares was not promoting Measure H. Plenty of examples available of Toni Nelson publicly requesting support. You have to look no farther than on Next-Door for clear examples. There are also examples on the Capo Cares Facebook page celebrating Measure H’s passage and requesting that people get out to vote. Trying to back away from support of it now is ridiculous, they along with Save Dana Point pushed hard for Measure H. It was these two groups that drove the vote.

      Regarding the issues we now face. It would have been impossible for our then council members to predict the passage of Measure H. With level of development that was expected with the implementation of the Town Center Plan, tax revenue should have increased dramatically. No one could have predicted ballot box zoning would have been put in place thereby killing all development.

      • Concerned in Dana Point – I’m concerned too. I’m concerned that you and your friends have been maligning an organization and its founder who has too much class to give you the time of day. And you don’t even have the spine to reveal your names. How about manning up and revealing your identities so everyone can see who’s behind these attacks on Capo Cares and its founder?

        Last I looked it was a free country and Ms. Nelson is free to express her opinions in public and you are free to disagree. In the case of Measure H, which she supported personally but did not formally endorse as Capo Cares (I’m a CC supporter and remember this), 2/3rds of the city agreed with her. Are you going to attack them too? Or are your name calling and lies reserved for women only? Or maybe only smart women with lots of supporters?

        How about getting off your couch and doing something good for your community, as Capo Cares has done, tirelessly, for an area that has been ignored and underserved for decades? I thought Dana Point was better than this. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. Is that why you hide behind fake names?

  • Steve and all-

    Quick point for clarification so I am not thinking incorrectly. The analysis “LTR” came up with is an estimate as to the current value to the City assuming Lantern District is built out. We aren’t amortizing anything- we are simply trying to estimate what (in theory) someone would pay for all those future streams of revenue. I know not practical- but I suppose someone could hand us the money now (for use in Doheny Village improvements, more police, a bridge, etc) and we could then send those streams of revenue back to the investor. I estimated 11 million, with more accurate detail from “LTR” estimated at 19 million. My point (and I believe “LTR” also) is that we have real loss from the lack of development. Perhaps we could have more cops- perhaps Zoning updates for Doheny, perhaps more reserves.

    FYI- Under either estimate the investment in the LD improvements is not profitable. (Although neither are parks, concerts, etc.) So I am not sure that every investment must be looked at from that perspective.

    Another way to look at the issue is- (and considering you are all fiscal conservatives) the cost of the Lantern District project is $25,000,000 to the city without development. The cost to the city with LD built out is $6,000,000 to $14,000,000.

    Are you and Jay purely fiscal conservatives? And simply worried about the budget and city finances? Or are you also anti-development? There is a distinction to me which isn’t clear, and my argument is this-

    1) As a true fiscal conservative its correct to have not wanted the initial investment in the LD.
    2) As a true fiscal conservative, once the investment was made- you should have voted against Measure H.

    One other item and I say it all the time. I live in the Lantern District and am willing to incur more people, tourism, cars etc. in order to take advantage of the infrastructure just put into the town. I would also have no problem taking all that money and pumping it down towards Doheny Village so they can do the same thing.

    Everyone “demonizes” these big bad developers- but you know what? they are the only reason we had all this extra money in the first place!!!!

  • Mike – to answer a few of the many points you raised:
    We are both fiscal conservatives re Dana Point. We have both called attention to the Strands Gate legal debacle, now approaching $2 million in total cost, as well as the Lantern District construction overspending. City councils and city management from 2010 thru 2016 have a horrible indefensible record of fiscal management. .

    I and many others, who are appalled at what happened in City Hall, supported Wyatt and Lewis because we knew they understood where that road was leading. We are also hoping for a new city manager, from outside the present City Hall culture, who understands the necessity of getting our city finances back on a stable and sustainable footing.

    I prefer LD development be within the 3 stories & commercial ground floor model, That prior financial mistakes were made does not mean we should then allow inappropriate development in order to partially mitigate the loss. The Raintree apartment complex may be a net city funds consumer. Residential only will compound the expense side issues we already have and eliminate future commercial tax revenue potential In my view we need to press for desirable commercial uses with a residential component in the LD.
    The lack of development to date is in some respects attributable to parking issues that should have been solved by first funding and building parking resources, as originally recommended in the 2008 Town Center plan. We have no money left to do that now – another bad investment Dont blame Measure H. It came along after the real problems were cemented in place.


  • Steve,

    Are you saying that the city should have built a garage instead of taking on the infrastructure side of things? Or are you saying they should have been built simultaneously?

    • To Jack’s question – The original plan (2008) for Town Center called for a parking structure as part of the initial investment That was smart because the smaller lots, left over from 1930 subdivision, weren’t suited to modern parking standards. The sheer incompetence of spending $25 million all at once on streetscape and road ways, instead of phasing, starting with essential parking provisions per plan, securing some level of developer building commitments, and most important – scaling investment to potential return, while spending every available dollar in the city’s reserves is astounding.

      To Michael – BevMo is not what people hoped for at the gateway but the architecture is well done and that kind of use and structure would be nice to get for other spots in the LD, We would be better off with a mix of residential and commercial uses. I couldn’t agree more about Circle K.

  • Fed up with Blame Game Reply

    I don’t get this focus on blaming Measure H for the Lantern District fiasco. Have you guys looked at the original Town Center Plan? It called for a structure (or structures) as the first step in supporting the proposed development. Here we are years later with no money left, and two roads all dressed up with no place to go. Whether parking is zoned at Measure H or I standards, can you really see a prospective retailer or restaurant owner building on a small lot where he can’t park employees, let alone customers? We were promised a walkable downtown with amply parking, wide sidewalks, shade trees and patios. We got narrow sidewalks with palm trees stuck in the middle so tourists can’t even hold hands. We got PCH which is a dangerous speedway with no parking, and Del Prado, cut off from traffic flow and no parking. Brilliant.

    To make it worse, Council spent all the money so we can’t buy or borrow to build parking in either LD or Doheny Village. All your fancy math on supposed lost revenue makes no sense. Bottom line, Council spent $25 million in current dollars on the hope of earning $600K per year at full buildout – when’s that? 10 years? It would take 30+ years to pay back that investment, even without inflation factored in. If we had that money today, did you notice the Police contract just went up $600K? If we had the money, it’s already spent, and not on DV.

    • Long-Time Resident Reply

      Fed Up: The city commissioned a parking study by Nelson Nygaard that concluded with high probability we would have enough parking if parking standards were reduced as they were before being repealed by Measure H. It used the concept called “shared parking”. Would his study have been accurate? Beats me, but I would guess yes. Even if there ended up being a parking shortage at or near full build out, he stated that we would have enough $ from sales and property tax increases, and developer fees, to solve any future parking problem. You can see his presentation on the City website.

      In any event, there is so much building going on that I think commercial rents and residential property prices will rise to where development will be economic, even with Measure H. In addition to Raintree, Zephyr, and Strand, there are 2 new hotels being planned in the Headlands area, whose guests will support downtown businesses. And then there are developments outside the city such as Pacifica San Juan, whose residents would no doubt spend $ in the area if there were more businesses.

      So despite calculating a $19 million loss to the City as a result of Measure H if no development occurs, I think the number will be considerably less. I’m optimistic we will see at most a several years delay.

  • Steve-

    Overall I see your viewpoint more clearly. I agree with “Strands Gate”. Not sure how that was ever to benefit the community. I look at the one council member who was on the Planning Commission and then also the Council for all those years and prolonged those costs. Schoffel was ridiculous, and thank goodness that piece of the puzzle is gone. 16 years of familiarity regarding that project and he still sent us down that rabbit hole.

    I don’t agree with your definition of “inappropriate” development. Although that is a subjective aspect to the discussion. I will say this- in about 1 year this discussion will have a tangible element to reference. I live very close and think the Raintree project (you call apartment complex) is going to be a big win for our local Amber Lantern / La Serena / El Encanto area.

    One last question – what was your perspective on BEVMO? Pure commercial, plenty of parking. Nice construction. I sure wish they would have bulldozed circle K and put that building at the end of our street.

  • Steve, Fed Up,

    Would you point to where in the Town Center Plan it states that the parking garage should have been built first? It seems like page 18 addresses parking and I don’t see that called out anywhere.

    A garage may be needed in the future, but there aren’t parking issues today, so I think its hard to justify focus there day 1. Especially if it meant forgoing or phasing the infrastructure work. As a developer, it would be difficult to justify a project like Raintree, Zephyr, etc.. if the infrastructure improvements weren’t already in place. Infrastructure updates can take years, are messy by nature and introduce risk. Finding tenants, selling condos and locking in solid commercial businesses is very difficult during this period. So the carrying cost for the developer becomes much higher. Furthermore, the majority of cost with the infrastructure improvements came because we were making two one-way streets bi-directional. I”m not sure phasing was even an option.

    I”m not suggesting the garages won’t be necessary and think it was a mistake for the City Council to drop in leu costs. I also think proposing Measure I was a huge mistake, that caused confusion and mistrust. Unfortunately Measure H will undoubtably hamper development for a long time to come. Now that the infrastructure is in place, we should be much more attractive to developers, but ballot box zoning acts is a serious deterrent. Especially since the last few elections seem to indicate that much of the city is against development, so getting variances would be tough.

    Personally I think the improvements in the LD have been great. I’ve seen the potential at the art walks and car shows. It could be truly be a gem, better than any of our neighboring cities. I wonder how difficult it would be to put a replacement to Measure H in place that isn’t so restrictive? Maybe this is something that will become reasonable once guys like Muller and Vicorek are out.

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