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By Jay Van Velzy, Dana Point

In a response to a recent letter to the editor (November 6-12, 2015, “Town Center Initiative Succeeds”), Betty Hill from Capo Beach thanks “thousands” of residents of Dana Point for qualifying the 2015 Town Center Initiative for a special election. Mrs. Hill suggests that the “initiative” contains the entire “Town Center Plan” which was approved by the city of Dana Point and the California Coastal Commission.  Furthermore she suggests that her “initiative” supports the same goal, “to create a business district in a village atmosphere with shops, offices, restaurants and parking needs for its success.”

This week I was able to drive up Pacific Coast Highway and then down Del Prado and, thanks to the recently improved elements of the Town Center Plan, I was able to drive up Del Prado and down Pacific Coast Highway, through the area that has been labeled “Town Center” and now the “Lantern District.” In driving this so called “Town Center” I noticed: 13 vacant lots, 17 empty buildings, seven massage parlors, and four drug and alcohol treatment centers. Looking for the area envisioned by the 2008 project, I noticed very few pedestrians walking the area—except for the many drug treatment patients who were walking up and down the area with their counselors.  So far the village atmosphere envisioned by the Town Center Plan is far from materializing.

In 2008 after a substantial amount of community involvement and public discourse the city of Dana Point and the Coastal Commission adopted the “Town Center Plan.”

Betty Hill, I don’t understand what you’re trying to save.
You state that your goals are the same as the Town Center Plan. You also state that the Initiative will close developer loopholes and strengthen protections for Dana Point Residents

Thus far, no developer has been successful in undoing these “loopholes” to create new projects in the area, as no new developments have moved in. We do not understand what “loopholes” you are referring to; please be more specific?

It appears there is a plan in place, which was put in motion many years ago.  The city has spent taxpayer revenue in hope in seeing a return on investment in new residential and commercial enterprises. Where are those enterprises taking advantage of all those loopholes? Now that the infrastructure is in place, why now does your “initiative” question the plan that was put in to motion in 2008, after years of public discourse and evolution? And please explain how your “initiative” is going to now protect the residents of Dana Point.

Betty Hill, please answer: How is your plan different from the current “plan?” What “loopholes” are you attempting to close? Why are you wasting taxpayer dollars for a special election for a plan that has already been publicly approved and vested by the Coastal Commission?

Seems like a NIMBY argument for someone who hasn’t truly gown up in this town and isn’t truly invested in this community.

Please respond to us, CAVLEBLTR, or Citizens Against Vacant Lots, Empty Buildings and Lost Tax Revenue.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The DPRRD, or Dana Point Residents for Responsible Development, Town Center Initiative can be read online at

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comments (13)

  • Well said.

  • Development and change are often unwelcome facts of life. I have not followed the planning as closely as I should. However, I recall original renderings with perpendicular (and seemingly more-abundant) parking than the reality of our nicely-improved PCH & Del Prado. I am totally opposed to allowing developers to buy away required parking spaces. How did that come about? “Vacant properties”… Why would retailers lease during construction or where there is limited parking? I am also very disappointed in and opposed to the proposed earth tone, stucco architectural styles seen in Ladera Ranch and Aliso Viejo. I fear the loss of Dana Point’s seaside ambiance.

  • I would take any answer you get with a large grain of salt.

    “Dana Point Residents for Responsible Development” says they are concerned with the city having to pay for added parking supply at some future date. But they completely ignore the added revenue the city would get from development fees, increased sales taxes from new businesses, and extra property tax revenue from new construction as well as existing property due to increased valuation. There is currently an abundance of parking, there is a shortage of businesses, as the vacant lots you mention demonstrate.

    They also want to prevent certain types of variances from being granted, such as the four story variance that the Majestic development received. There is no consideration on their part of whether such restrictions would make development uneconomic.

    If it passes, it would slow down but not stop new construction, as several projects are already in the pipeline, and some would still get built. It would probably also slow down the goals of the “Capo Cares” initiative, as it would reduce income to the city that could be used to fund that project.

  • I googled CAVELBLTER and discovered your organization is endorsed by both Mickey Mouse and … Donald Trump. That would explain your confused and sarcastic comments about the Initiative and Betty’s letter.

    The initiative vote will cost taxpayers about 0.5% of the $21 million Dana Point spent on PCH and Del Prado in the last 24 months. And yes as you noted the same lots and stores are still vacant and there is no sign of commercial development. Why don’t you ask the Mayor and Assemblyman Brough why they voted to commit so many taxpayer dollars to this debacle without gaining guarantees of private development commensurate to their public expenditure?

    You fail to mention and possibly don’t even know about the Majestic project that the Initiative is a response to. Majestic is massive and blows up the height, residential density, parking regulations and commercial development restrictions of the Town Center plan. It was entitled by variances granted by the Mayor and Assemblyman Brough sitting as council members in 2014. The Planning commission turned this project down 5-0 because it was so egregious. Your letter completely ignores that reality, as if the Initiative came out of no where.

    Betty Hill is supporting our community’s vision with the Initiative and her presence at council meetings, making sure that Dana Point Resident’s interests are represented. The real locals are doing what they can to keep Dana Point the same place at least 4,000 petition signers have indicated they want it to be.

  • Dear Mr. Van Velzy,

    Thank you for your interest in the Town Center Initiative. I agree with you, the city should follow the plan that was put in place after years of community input and public discourse. The Initiative wants the city to follow the intent and requirements of the plan.

    In October, 2014, a huge project was approved by the city council over the objections of the planning commission and hundreds of Dana Point residents. Issues were raised where the developer used unintended interpretations “loopholes” of the Town Center Plan. That project has three large buildings with 109 condos, elevator towers 19 feet over the 40 foot height limit and several million dollars of parking concessions. (There are also two restaurants under construction in Town Center and a Bevmo has been approved.)

    So, the past city council approved that controversial project and the current council has approved a huge reduction in the parking requirements of the Town Center Plan that require Coastal Commission approval. I believe you actually support the Initiative’s purpose and your arguments are well taken with regard to the city’s actions.

    In answer to another question you raised: The Initiative offers residents protection in several ways. The Initiative would provide a consistent basis for new development based on the Town Center Plan requirements that residents could rely on; it provides for more timely and accessible information about projects seeking approval; it restores the story pole requirement that the city ignored and it eliminated several extraordinary parking concessions that would have severely impacted public parking.

    I hope I have responded to most of your concerns. Many in Dana Point want to save all that we enjoy about the city. Development is inevitable but hopefully it won’t bring the traffic congestion and parking nightmares of other coastal towns.

    Thank you again for your questions,

    Betty Hill

  • The restrictive changes crafted into “Betty’s” Initiative will result in the building of for rent apartments as opposed to the current plan that will result in owner occupied condos. I’m sure if Betty or her puppeteer Scott had any development experience, they would understand the economic reality of their Initiative. But they have no such experience. BTW – having apartments will result in a real parking problem – and over-crowded apartments.

    The Town Center Plan calls for a greater mix of uses in the Town Center. Adding residential uses and increasing pedestrian-oriented retail and commercial offices will help to create a more dynamic, interesting and attractive place for both residents and visitors.”

    • It is fair argue about the impact of the Initiative on developer choices and profitability but really petty and kind of sexist to paint Betty as a puppet of anybody.

      It would be unethical for a council person to start or push this Initiative. You are wrong to suggest Scott was involved. For the record councilman Schoeffel’s law practice has been extensively involved in real estate development. He probably knows more about it then you.

  • Betty and Buck Hill should be applauded, not vilified. Not only did they tirelessly work to bring us the quiet zone (no more train horns waking us up in the middle of the night), but they care so much about this City that they contributed their own time and money to bring us the Town Center Initiative — basically forcing Council to adhere to the principles in their own plan and preserving parking and reasonable building heights in Dana Point. What possible motive could they have other than pure public interests? They own no property in Town Center, hold nor aspire to public office and have nothing to gain from their crusade. The real power in any democracy lies with the citizens, and when elected officials lose their way, overspending taxpayer dollars and pandering to developers, brave residents sometimes rise up and a grass roots effort is born. Buck and Betty Hill for citizens of the year!

    • There’s an “L. Hill” who owns a property on Santa Clara Ave in Dana Point. One of the public records sites’ says this person is related to Betty Hill. So Mr and Mrs Hill may have an other than public interest in the project. (I left out L. Hill’s first name and address, but it’s easy enough to find if you’re motivated.)

  • Betty keep up the good work.
    Mr. Van Velzy (if that is his real name) is most likely a a developer dispatching his own propaganda. Our city council is drunk with power (or maybe just drunk) and in bed with developers. I have lived hear for almost 50 years. I understand change is inevitable; but most of us love our sleepy little beach town. I do not want to live in Huntington beach or Laguna. Change would happen naturally. Laguna did not create traffic to attract business. People opening good businesses created traffic.
    We the people have elected a bad city council, several of them have not even been here 5 years. They come from some where else and instantly want to change it. The spending of $21 million in BS infrastructure upgrades is criminal. Most of these candidates promised fiscal responsibility . They have exhibited anything but.
    The city council wants to line the pockets of developers by giving variances for parking and height restrictions. I say if we are going to have a special election , lets recall every one of these councilman . They vote 5-0 on every issue. We the voters have failed our city by allowing these awful people in charge of our city. They make me sick.
    Talk about wasting tax pay dollars, how about fighting the Coastal Commission to restrict the beach access of our own citizens . Tell me how that makes any sense ?!!
    This city council should never be allowed to do business in private. They are not to be trusted.

  • Betty and Jay – would you please reach to me….hosting a townhall and want to hear from you guys::)!!

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