LETTER TO THE EDITOR
LETTER TO THE EDITOR

By Betty Hill, Capistrano Beach

Parking will be critical to the success of Town Center to attract the desired shops and restaurants and for the convenience of customers, residents and visitors. Dana Point residents and taxpayers should be aware that the Community Development Department’s recommended changes to the Town Center Plan’s parking requirements will reduce the amount of parking provided by developers and property owners and increase the burden on Dana Point taxpayers to pay for additional parking.

The city’s proposed reduction in required parking spaces for residential units, while at the same time proposing to allow an extra floor for development in the majority of a project, will make projects more profitable for developers but reduce the number of parking spaces that they might otherwise be asking the city to provide at $40,000 per space. The proposed reduction in the retail and restaurant parking requirement and giving away street parking to help meet the requirement means fewer parking spaces will be provided by property owners and retail developers.

The city’s parking plan doesn’t provide new parking spaces in Town Center because the city says existing ones are currently underutilized; but the plan still proposes to lease spaces at taxpayer expense.  Rather than prematurely spending taxpayer money, the city should coordinate parking needs as development occurs and when development fees could be applied.  Any anticipated expenditure could escalate and become a constant drain on city finances. To make matters worse, the short term nature of the leases means that the city can only hope that spaces will be available in convenient locations when development does occur or when business activity increases.

Wouldn’t it have been prudent to have reserved some of the $20 million of taxpayer money being spent on Town Center palm trees and narrow sidewalks to deal with the parking situation so important to residents and critical to Town Center success?  Nelson Nygaard has given the same parking report many times and it is hard to justify continuing to pay them, which will amount to $107,000. The Town Center entry feature being constructed is costing $590,000. Please urge our city leaders to stop the mindless spending at taxpayer expense.  You can find more details on the city’s parking plan and proposed zoning changes at www.savedanapoint.com.

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comments (16)

  • See the book by UCLA “the high cost of free parking”. There is no such thing as free, especially in parking, the asphalt, real estate and pollution is caused by the person arriving by car, not the pedestrian, hence the cost should also be borne by the person who wants to park “right up front”.
    I don’t want to pay for your free parking while I walk and bike, there is plenty of parking few blocks away anyway, let’s not mandate bad car centric design and instead let’s allow a vibrant walkable downtown, not another boring parking lot.

  • Oh Danapointer! You’re still drinking the koolaid! One would think you own a property in the area and had a vested interest in that $20 million investment in concrete. Sorry, for the rest of us, a “boring parking lot” would be a nice addition if Town Center ever DOES become a real town center, with actual restaurants and retail shops and not just high density condos.

    And a “vibrant, walkable downtown” is what the plan called for — except that’s not what we got! Instead we have narrow ugly sidewalks interrupted by huge brown palm tree trunks that any pedestrians would be forced to dodge around while they try to remember in which little borrowed parking area they left their car! I don’t see anything vibrant or walkable. Please enlighten us. And while you’re at it, can you list the new retailers and restaurants that are rushing to this mecca of concrete and palms? Where are they? By your hopeful reckoning, they should all have permits by now.

    This whole project was incredibly poorly planned and a waste of more than half of the hard earned financial reserves of Dana Point taxpayers. And now we’re throwing good money after bad by erecting a $600K “Lantern District” sign? Most cities would be embarrassed to have a “lantern district”. At least we’re no longer pretending it’s actually a Town Center. Any offers on that property of yours yet?

  • Hi Dana Pointer,

    It sounds like you can walk or bike to Town Center. Unfortunately, most Dana Point residents and visitors won’t be able to do that. Wasn’t Town Center intended to benefit the entire Dana Point community? Taxpayers have already paid $20 million to promote the Town Center Plan for a vibrant business district to enjoy.

    I agree that parking is never “free”. That is why it is so important that developers provide adequate parking for their projects. Retail establishments should be responsible to provide suitable parking for their customers. All the parking concessions and zoning changes being proposed just change who will be paying.

    Thank you for your interest in this subject. I hope our new Planning Commissioners and City Councilmen take the parking issue as seriously as it deserves.

  • DanaPointer- How are people going to get to a Town Center promenade if they can’t park?

    Of course there is no free parking. That’s why Town Center land owners, like yourself, and developers should pay for it. Why should the burden be shunted to tax payers for the sole benefit of the land owners/ developers?

    Our city already paid $20 million in reserve funds that took 15 years to save, all for for Town Center improvements. The tax payers have paid enough.

    • Why was the City saving reserve funds with no plans to use them? That’s a waste of taxpayer money.

      What was wrong with the Town Center area to begin with? Development seemed to be thriving before the community got all embroiled in trying to go a new direction by creating the Town Center plan. Junquies opened up, and then with all the improvements, closed their doors. Why isn’t anybody outraged about that? Same with Intimate Obsessions. Come on folks, let’s unite and stop the Town Center Project!

      We should meet in the Day Room and plan how to express our outrage.

      • The waste of money happened when all available City reserve funds were spent all at once, in contravention to the original sensible phasing plan. Had the phasing plan been followed we would still have about $10 million in reserves and Del Prado could now be a two way street with out the massive construction and disruption. If the hoped for commercial development failed to occur we could spend the remaining $10 million to enhance other areas of the city such as Doheny Park and Capistrano Beach.

        As it is the same vacant lots are vacant but we are out $20 million. As you well know, Randle, credit for this debacle goes to the Town Center Committee and to the DP city councilmembers, including our current Mayor Carlos Olvera, who voted to gamble it all.
        Bad bet and we all lost.

        • my comment from 3-28-15 is waiting moderation but subsequent comments went thru. is there a problem with my comment or did it get lost?

      • The waste of money happened when all available City reserve funds were spent all at once, in contravention to the original sensible phasing plan. Had the phasing plan been followed we would still have about $10 million in reserves and Del Prado could now be a two way street with out the massive construction and disruption. If the hoped for commercial development failed to occur we could spend the remaining $10 million to enhance other areas of the city such as Doheny Park and Capistrano Beach.

        As it is, the same vacant lots are vacant but we are out $20 million. As you well know, Randle, credit for this debacle goes to the DP city council members, including our current Mayor Carlos Olvera, who voted to gamble it all.
        Bad bet and we all lost.

  • Hopefully the trolly system will be a success and can help contribute to solving this problem (although I realize this is also subsidized by taxes). It’d be nice to see the current routes be very successful so that future stops could be added to other parts of Dana Point and perhaps even extend to the San Clemente / San Juan Capistrano metrolink stations.

    • Hi Dana Point Dad,

      I can tell by your comments how much you appreciate living in Dana Point. A trolley system would be an asset but we still need the businesses and attractions in Town Center to make people get off a trolley there. Pursuing them should be the City’s main objective.

      There are many aspects dealing with the parking situation in Town Center. But we shouldn’t be reducing the existing parking supply by offering zoning reductions and other concessions that create parking shortages and discourage business activity.

  • Hi Randle,

    Several people tried to point out the problems that exist in Town Center prior to the reserves being spent. Unfortunately, the City pursued the promotion of the Town Center Plan at the insistence of the property owners and businesses located there. I believe Councilmen Olvera and Brough took credit for leading the effort.

    • Thanks Anonymous (Sorry for using the correct spelling, I can’t bring myself to reproduce a misspelled word, or facts). I also apologize for not replying earlier, I have a job that consumes my time. I just went online and saw that the City’s reserves seem very healthy. Town Center is looking a hell of a lot better than it has for the 20 years I’ve lived here. I don’t support or oppose the council members, but I do think that using over-collected tax monies for public IMPROVEMENTS is a good thing. Let’s meet in the Day Room and discuss how best to spend the tax largess.

  • Well Randle, seems like you have taken up residence in the “cuckoo’s nest” after all. Perhaps they don’t teach finance at the Institution, so let me enlighten you with a few facts. At the end of fiscal 2008, Dana Point had close to $45 million in total reserves and that amount has been slowly dwindling, thanks to budget deficits in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and a tiny surplus in 2014 only because the Council sold $3.6 million in Capistrano Beach land in order to divert it to the Town Center project. Then came July 2014, when the capital budget and state budget impacts reserves were wiped to zero, and the City was left solely with emergency and cash flow reserves that are woefully inadequate compared to our sister cities. All other funds have been assigned to one project benefiting one part of town. Is that fair? Is that prudent?

    Unless fiscal 2015 is an unprecedented year in terms of TOT, the annual report for fiscal 2015 is going to show very lean reserves indeed. Would it surprise you to know that San Clemente has Sustainability, Capital Replacement and Infrastructure Reserves of almost $50 million, and Lagunal Niguel keeps a reserve for financial and economic uncertainty equal to 50% of annual general fund operating expenditures and transfers and has total reserves of $75 million? For Dana Point, 50% of last years expenditures would be $30 million. We should be so lucky! We have $9 million in cash flow and emergency reserves. That’s it. Even tiny San Juan Capistrano has unassigned and restricted reserves of $27 million. Dana Point has $3 million in cash flow reserves and emergency reserves of $6 million. Ask yourself: how long would this money last if we had a REAL emergency? You may want the City to spend every penny but it’s neither wise nor prudent. Dana Point has infrastructure to manage, maintain and one day replace totaling $166 million. Emergency and cash flow reserves represent only 5% of that, while other cities like Laguna Niguel have a long term goal of reserving funds equal to 100% of infrastructure investment, recognizing that all those assets have a limited useful life and will one day need to be replaced.

    The truth is, more than half of the City ‘s treasure was used for one project that is not expected to yield tax revenue or any other kind of return on investment for years. Did you think Solyndra was a good investment too? The bottom line is that we may not HAVE any bottom line left once Town Center is finished, and realistically, that $20 million investment isn’t yielding returns any time soon. Face it. Town Center was a reckless and poorly thought out investment of taxpayer dollars. Even at the pitiful half million dollar surplus realized in 2014 (only because of that land sale in Capo Beach and there’s no more land to sell) it would take 40 years to return those funds to the Treasury. Dana Point needs to wise up and start learning from its sister cities, planning and reserving for the future instead of spending half its reserves on one project and leaving the rest of the city bereft. We received a grant for the Doheny Village Plan years ago and still haven’t seen a published plan. How long will it be before we have enough reserves to address that eyesore? Mayor Olvera and his former Council buddies did this City a huge disservice. Their reckless spending has put us years behind and they’re not smart enough to realize what they’ve done. In fact, they’ll pound their chests and congratulate themselves on their “fiscal conservatism”. What universe are they living in? Maybe you need to introduce them to Nurse Ratchett, Randle

    • I am voting for Susan Brown in the 2016 Council election and people like her who think it is the responsibility of Council members to act in the interests of all citizens and not let public resources be diverted to the enrichment of a few. Hopefully Andrea is noticing there is an important controversy brewing in Dana Point and it needs more coverage in this newspaper.

  • Randle McMurphy-

    If we are going to digress to the nit-picky, here Anonomous is used as a pseudonym to distinguish from the other Anonymous. Since it is used as a name rather than a word, you’re actually the one who committed a spelling error.

    Redirecting back to issues: You state, ” the city’s reserves seem very healthy.” How do you define “very healthy” city reserves?

    To me, “healthy” reserves mean we have enough money to sustain us for 6 months in case of an emergency and “very healthy” reserves would sustain us a year. The benefit of reserves is that we can survive an emergency without borrowing money at high interest rates thus forcing a tax increase.

  • Randle- Do improvements look better than no improvements? Sure . . . but, not after you factor in the cost. The tax payers were told that the $20 million would go towards creating a restaurant and shopping district and pedestrian friendly sidewalks. We didn’t get either. There’s not a single new shop or restaurant and the sidewalks were mistakenly poor too narrow for outdoor restaurant dinning.

    Worst of all, had the city counsel simply hired a consultant, they would have known that developers pay for sidewalks and palm trees. So we didn’t get what we were promised and didn’t have to pay for what we got. I call that poor planning and fiscal waste.

    I am happy to meet in person and discuss more responsible ways to spend future tax money. Unfortunately, our city counsel spent so much money that it will take at least 15 years to replenish the reserves and even longer before we can maintain both reserves and disposable savings.

    That’s why it’s so important the developers pay for their parking rather than the city. We’ve spent too much as is.

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