With this year’s theme for the annual State of the City centered on “Planning for Prosperity,” Mayor Mike Frost on Wednesday evening, April 26, touted the California Coastal Commission’s recent approval of Dana Point’s Doheny Village Plan as a major achievement in the past year.
“We’re really excited to see the neighborhood get elevated,” Frost said of the plan that had been in the works for roughly five years. “We’ve got future infrastructure improvements, capital improvement projects. We’re excited about the future of the Doheny Village.”
The approved Doheny Village Plan intends to “preserve and enhance the eclectic combination of commercial light industrial and residential mixed uses in the Doheny Village area” by updating the zoning code to create new development standards while recognizing existing development patterns, the city has previously explained.
Delivering the annual address to a packed room of city officials, dignitaries and local business owners at the Ocean Institute, Frost highlighted the city’s strategic goals: foster economic health and prosperity and maintain Dana Point’s unique sense of place.
With the latter in mind, Frost cited results from the recent Dana Point Community Survey that found, among other things, 96% of respondents agreed with the statement: “Dana Point is a place I want to share with my friends and family.”
“This is what makes Dana Point truly special. There’s nowhere in the world like Dana Point and we’re very lucky to be living here,” he said.
According to the same survey, Frost noted, 94% of participants agreed that they were “proud to live in Dana Point.”
Frost opened the address to talk about his support for the town’s small business community and its importance to the city and residents.
“When I think about small business and development in general, I think of an entire ecosystem, one that we have large developers, we have small business interacting in a positive way with our city staff and residents,” he said. “It’s an ecosystem and it’s very important to me. And this night’s about you. Again, it’s critical that small business does well here.”
During the hour-long program, the city presented a roughly 10½-minute video that featured interviews with many business owners and managers, developers, nonprofit heads and other councilmembers to speak about projects and initiatives happening around Dana Point.
One project touched on in the video was the mixed-used development planned at Del Prado Avenue and Old Golden Lantern that’s soon to get underway.
“The Del Prado project is a for-sale project consisting of 18 units with 5,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor facing Del Prado,” Jerzy “JP” Secousse, president of C3 Development, said in the video. “We take time with each project, and we collaborate with local teams when we can … we’re excited and invested in Dana Point because of the direction the city is headed in.”
Councilmember Matthew Pagano touched on the business community’s investment in Dana Point, namely the Lantern District.
“The truth is investment and development is already happening all over Dana Point. And I don’t just mean the resort community. I mean the Lantern District for example, a lot of great small businesses are coming in, having fun, enjoying the environment and adding to the already stellar and vibrant community of Dana Point,” Pagano said in the video.
Echoing Frost’s sentiments on the Doheny Village Plan, the city in its video recognized Doheny Village as the next up-and-coming neighborhood in Dana Point.
“Doheny Village is already home to a thriving and well-connected business community. With the connectivity and beautification investments the city is making, and the recent plan approval from Coastal Commission, the Village is poised to build on its eclectic charm,” said Councilmember Michael Villar.
Furthermore, the city emphasized its multi-million-dollar investment in the ongoing Doheny Village Connectivity Project, which looks to promote pedestrian and bicyclist safety while also giving residents, visitors and businesses easier access to Doheny State Beach.
During the latter half of the evening’s program, Jenna Kohnke-Gaffney, vice president of Business Performance and chief of staff for Relative Space, as well as a member of the Ocean Institute’s Board of Directors, led a panel discussion.
The panel comprised Kelly Steward, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel; Allen Chuang, vice president of Development and director of Retail for Raintree Partners; and Secousse.
One of the questions that Kohnke-Gaffney asked was how the recent economic circumstances, such as high inflation and shaky real estate market, had impacted their decision-making in the short- and long-term.
With Raintree being a long-term developer that works with capital partners who want to invest in real estate for the long hold, Chuang said the key lately has been patience.
“We haven’t really had to change much as far as how we look at opportunities,” he said. “I think the one thing we are changing is we are being a bit more patient, but we still try to identify opportunities, making sure the fundamentals are aligned with our thesis. And you know, we’re still very active, but the key right now is we’re just being patient.”
Touching on inflation’s impact to the tourism and hospitality industry, Steward said it’s important for hotels to understand that they can’t just keep raising prices without considering added value.
“We have to have value-add, we can’t just continue to raise prices, raise prices in the industry, it absolutely has to be value added,” she said, adding, “It doesn’t have to always be paying for an experience, we have to give some niceties as well along the way for our guests.
As part of his address, Frost on Wednesday evening also took time to recognize his fellow councilmembers and emphasized the city staff’s importance to the community.
“We hope you see a well-run City Council, we hope you see a City Council that focuses on city issues,” Frost said. “We do that primarily to make sure our city staff is efficient, saving you taxpayers money and allowing our staff to interact with businesses on tough issues.”