Michael Frost, Dana Point

I did not attend the Oct. 1 Dana Point City Council meeting, although I did read in last week’s paper that Michael Fox (Chamber of Commerce President) is proposing first floor, ceiling-height changes to the Lantern District Zoning (a reduction in ceiling-height requirements). To paraphrase, Mr. Fox believes it is in the best interest of the local business community. I believe his comments are incomplete; I wish he would also have included that these types of changes are also in the best interest of residents.

If you are like our family, you often discuss the district changes with neighbors and friends. Whether at the Redo Market on Del Prado, or running down to surf, or walking the harbor, each discussion includes: 1. “I like what they are doing to bring more walking and activity to the area,” and 2. “But I dislike the size of the buildings.”  Think about it, has anyone ever had a conversation that doesn’t include those two concepts?

The original Town Center Plan (and what is used today) contained a narrative which described a small-town feel, but the detailed requirements behind the scenes never really matched up. This isn’t a criticism of the original subcommittee, but my guess is they never envisioned a consolidation of small lots in order to meet these detailed requirements. Two years ago, the Measure H initiative was good in reducing the ability for the city council to approve a large project requesting variances. Although, on the flip side, it removed any possible incentives for smaller developments to work. And at this point, most, if not all, of the projects being brought forth will be a consolidated set of small lots.

Only one project has been approved within the last two years: The Greer project. If someone took both the elevation drawings of this project and the in-process Raintree project, removed the names and addresses, 95% of the community would not be able to determine which project was approved with variances. Both developments are a consolidation of small lots, with rectangular structures consisting of very straight lines.

Moving forward, my intent is not to complain about how we arrived at this point without providing suggestions. Mr. Fox has started the effort, but I would hope we can expand upon his initial concept.  We need to make it just as attractive to develop a small lot as it is to consolidate five lots and build one structure. Combining incentives for smaller developments, with the corresponding scaled additional requirements for the larger development,s could help drive future development toward a “small town feel.” Significant economies of scale exist in construction and development—and I believe the larger projects can certainly handle increased requirements.

Prior to the 2020 city election, let’s put all appropriate criteria on the table for discussion, and work with the business community, residents, and small-lot owners to make the changes needed to encourage smaller scale development.

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