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By Craig Alexander, Dana Point
I have lived in Dana Point since 1999. One of the first things I realized is property development is a hot button issue. Another thing I noted in 1999, which continues to today, are the numerous empty lots and sometimes rundown buildings in downtown Dana Point. Over the years, there have been several studies and many public meetings about how to create a better downtown Dana Point to attract visitors and make it a nice place for residents to enjoy a wonderful shopping and dining experience.
A few years ago, a prior city council led by now Assemblyman Bill Brough, spearheaded the city finalizing what is now called the Lantern District plans after dozens of public hearings at which all citizens of Dana Point were allowed to participate. The plan passed via city council votes, and the city has already spent over $18 million, plus millions of ratepayer dollars from the South Coast Water District, to implement the Lantern District improvements. Part of the Lantern District plan is to recoup part of those funds via development fees and increased property taxes.
Now, unhappy with a few development decisions by the City Council, some members of our community want to implement a ballot box zoning law called Measure H that would have the effect of halting development in the Lantern District. I call this the “Empty Lots Initiative,” because it would make development there so restrictive that no project could financially work, thus the empty lots would stay empty. An obvious result would be the city not receiving back many of the millions of dollars it spent under the Lantern District Plan from development fees and increased property tax revenue. This ballot box zoning measure is like taking a sledge hammer to a problem that needle nose pliers can fix. You might get the result you want but you will also destroy the object you are trying to fix.
If you do not like the City Council and their property development decisions, change the City Council. That is why we have elections every two years in November and term limits as well.
At the very least, before making such a drastic decision, I encourage my fellow Dana Point residents to go to the city’s website (www.danapoint.org) and click on the link to the Town Center Initiative Impact Report. You will find valuable information in that report, which I recommend you seriously consider prior to casting your vote for or against Measure H.
Some will argue that the Empty Lots Initiative provides for the city to grant variances to the ordinance by having the city attorney certify that the variance complies with Measure H. However a part of this proposed law provides for litigation by those unhappy with the city attorney’s opinion. They can challenge the variances granted and obtain an award of attorney’s fees from the city’s coffers. Since I am a litigation attorney who sometimes sues public entities, maybe I should like Measure H. However, I have enough to do, and as a resident and taxpayer in Dana Point, I do not wish the city to be subject to needless litigation.
I would rather see the Lantern District develop, the city recover some of the funds it has expended under the plan and use those funds for other improvements in other areas of Dana Point.
Please vote No on the Empty Lots Initiative—Measure H.