Mayor Carlos Olvera surveys the view of Dana Point from Louise Leyden Park in Capistrano Beach. Photo: Andrea Swayne
Mayor Carlos Olvera surveys the view of Dana Point from Louise Leyden Park in Capistrano Beach. Photo: Andrea Swayne

By Andrea Swayne

If the first 24 years of cityhood were spent in training and warming up, then 2014 was the year Dana Point crossed the starting line. Years of groundwork, planning, re-planning and taking the first few steps forward, made for a pivotal year—one that brought beginnings to long-term plans and projects city-wide.

Dana Point’s elected leadership also saw a big change in players, adding a trifecta of new members to the City Council.

We caught up with Mayor Carlos Olvera to learn about some of his goals, hopes and expectations for 2015. Here are his thoughts on a few of the upcoming changes expected.

TOWN CENTER LANTERN DISTRICT

With completion of infrastructure improvements along Pacific Coast Highway by the city and the South Coast Water district complete, phase two work along Del Prado Avenue is well underway, with completion expected by mid-2015.

“Starting on the final phase of Del Prado streetscape improvements on Jan. 6 puts us about a month ahead of schedule,” Olvera said. “We expect to continue seeing applications for new development by property owners in the Lantern District throughout the New Year, adding to other projects in the pipeline we should begin to see early on.”

The first large development plan approved in 2014 was Majestic Housing and Development’s mixed-use project, slated to bring 109 residential units and 32,500 square feet of retail space to be built in three phases on seven non-contiguous lots. Majestic could conceivably begin construction in 2015, Olvera said, however as of now, a groundbreaking date has not been set.

The Planning Commission and city staff have also seen applications for other mixed-use projects, including proposals at PCH and Ruby Lantern at the former site of the Dana Marina Motel and another at PCH and Golden Lantern.

The bottom line, Olvera said, is that in the next year the Lantern District will see a lot of changes that have been a long time coming.

“Dana Point, as a city, started with the Lantern District about 20 years ago and the original concept of a business district was created by the county, way back in 1969,” he said. “The results of this year’s election have shown overwhelming support for completion of the Lantern District—and Doheny Village for that matter.”

Olvera noted the three candidates who won three open seats on the council all expressed an opinion of moving the Lantern District forward, while those in favor of slowing it down, came in fourth through ninth place among voters.

One of the aspects expected to be most beneficial to residents, he said, will be the resulting improvement of the city’s tax base as a destination resort city.

“Whenever there is a problem of any kind in Dana Point, the comment I most frequently get from residents is that they are worried it will lower their property values,” Olvera said. “So the result of all this change is the expected rise in property values. And the win-win is taxes being covered by this influx of business.”

When asked for his response to those who are skeptical that Lantern District revitalization will bring new business, Olvera said the interest by perspective developers so far provides an optimistic outlook for the district.

“About nine months ago there were comments being made to the effect that Dana Point is ‘rolling the dice’ on whether new business will come to the Lantern District, but we now have several applicants to develop some of the area’s vacant land and rebuild on other lots,” he said. “With that, the City Council approved a development impact fee, specifically designed for the district, to recoup some of the costs spent in upgrading the infrastructure—PCH and Del Prado streetscape improvements.”

DOHENY VILLAGE

Among the first orders of business for the city in 2015, Olvera said, will be developing the Doheny Village Specific Plan—a document that is now roughly two-thirds complete and in need of further public input.

“The work load needed to accomplish this will rely heavily on the Planning Department’s handling of applicants for the Lantern District,” he said. “We will be using Roma Design Group, the same consultant used during conceptual design, and I think we can turn that around at least within the next 12 months.”

When asked for his response to the naysayers who believe Doheny Village will not get off the ground, Olvera pointed out current movement in the right direction as helping to keep some momentum on the project.

“I personally have been involved in the Chamber of Commerce meetings in Doheny Village about great ideas for improvements that can be made before the specific plan is designed,” he said. “One specific example is the conversion of the vacant dirt lot at Doheny Park Road and Domingo Avenue (next to El Patio Cafe) being converted into a free, landscaped, public parking lot. It has the approval of City Council and will happen soon. The Wednesday Capo Beach Farmers Market will then move up to that corner, to have better visibility.”

The city is leasing the space from Capo Beach Church. The church will install a sign advertising their location and the city will be paving it and utilizing it as city parking.

GATEWAY PROJECTS

The mixed-use development approved for PCH and Dana Point Harbor Drive/Del Obispo Avenue, on the former site of a mobile home park on the Denny’s restaurant/Del Obispo side of PCH, is underway with machinery clearing and grading to prepare for construction.

“More has to be done at that intersection,” Olvera said. “It is a gateway to the city and we now have only a vacant lot, two abandoned buildings and a gas station. I am very hopeful we can adopt some specific uses for development at that intersection in 2015.”

The Doheny Hotel project application, proposed for the southwest corner of the intersection, was withdrawn by the developer in October after being rejected by the Planning Commission—for issues related to its size and variance requests—and before City Council had a chance to vote on their appeal. The withdrawal came with a promise to resubmit with a new plan at a later date.

“The Doheny Hotel started out with a four-star hotel project. Unfortunately they were only able to acquire a three-star hotel lot,” Olvera said. “I hope that we can come up with some development design standards specifically for that location and acceptable to the residents, in order to make it easier for the developer to know what to build to.”

HARBOR REVITALIZATION

“Pending a California Coastal Commission hearing, scheduled for Jan. 8 to determine whether an appeal of the project merits its delay, we could expect construction of landside improvements at the Harbor to begin sometime in the summer—perhaps August,” Olvera said. “It is planned to be a five-year project in which, generally, construction will start at PCH and Dana Point Harbor Drive and move west across the Harbor, according to the county plan.”

If all goes according to plan, construction will start with the streets, then parking and the parking structure, followed by construction in the wharf area and Mariners Village, he said.

HENS IN RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS

“I am a firm believer in getting public input to our code, rules and regulations, including the issue that came up in Capo Beach on whether to allow keeping chickens,” Olvera said. “Our code was adopted from the county; however we have learned that several surrounding cities allow a limited number of chickens as a hobby in residential neighborhoods. I am supportive of people bringing ideas such as this to the table, so we can discuss them in an open forum, learn the pros and cons, and see if we can find a compromise.”

RECOVERY HOMES

“Although we are mandated by state law to allow group homes with restrictions, it is our job to enforce all other ordinances that ensure the best quality of life for our residents,” Olvera said. “So far we’ve created a neighborhood watch group to try and identify areas that the city can focus on. A committee of residents is being formed in order to identify nuisances, loitering in public areas and other areas for the city to respond to. I really feel the city will be responsive to this issue in 2015.”

FINAL WORDS

The November election is a mandate for change—for a new point of view and a period of more rapid improvement in the city, Olvera said.

“There are some lots in our business district that haven’t been touched since they were graded in 1923,” he said. “In 2015 we are set to change that.”

Olvera added that he would also like invite open input—on the public dais—from council members during upcoming appointments of Dana Point representatives to committees, commissions and districts.

“The thing to remember here is that we have three new councilmen who have not previously been actively involved in civic affairs,” Olvera said. “The voters chose them and we should make sure we hear from them rather than going with the status quo. I would like appointments to be made more openly and with individuals’ interests and talents in mind, rather than assignments just being dictated. In the past, a list was written by the Mayor and then voted on, with no input. I’d like to break away from that tradition.”

Olvera said it is his hope that such open discussion should result in better and more open choices being made.

“Also, in March we will review both the Planning Commission and Cultural Commission appointments,” he added. “Because we have three new council members, and the fact that all commissioners serve at the pleasure of the City Council, it is especially important for our three new councilmen to review the resumes of those currently holding seats. I would expect that an open call for all of the seats will be made.”

When asked what title he would give to 2014, his response was: The Year of Decision. When the same question was posed regarding 2015, he answered: The Year of Change.

 

 

 

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comments (13)

  • Hopping for a Dana Point with good restaurants,nice shops and a 21st century life style with beautiful and clean streets and avenues without dilapidated buildings that owners don’t want to repair and and city counsel members from 1923. We need new progressive minds at work!

  • Graduations on becoming Mayor of Dana Point! The above report was so informative and it’s really wonderful to have an update on the goings-on of your projects thank you for sharing.

  • Super exciting things ahead! Looking forward to the continued progress!

    • THE OBSERVER
      My hope is that with the new Outlet Mall off Pico and TJ Max, Steinmart and Sports Authority at the old K-Mart site, we have new retail. Also with a strict ABC in Dana Point, that we will be able to attract new cafe’s and great restaurants. I am very leery of the high density planned in every project because that can interfere with the planned restaurants. Very confused by the articles in the newspapers with how the Town Center Plan changed from the original i. e. Phase I to be built then wait fordevelopment and later move on to Phase II on Del Prado. I wish we could have a rebuttal section in the Times to these ongoing statements & interviews in order to really set the record straight. Everything is a matter of Public Record. Regardless Public Works is in process and Palm trees & sidewalks are just that, it was never a Beautification Project, it is full on Development and I truly hope they all come to the Lantern District and stay with the original plan of true mix and not all condo’s and Apartments.

  • It would be nice to see something on Del Prado like the have in San Jose. Santana Row is the perfect combination of shops, restaurants, and condominiums. Everyone that has been there, loves it.

  • Olvera said “the interest by perspective developers so far provides an optimistic outlook for the district”. Developers will build anything but, in the long run the citizens and merchants are the ones holding the bag.
    “The thing to remember here is that we have three new councilmen who have not previously been actively involved in civic affairs,” Olvera said. “The voters chose them and we should make sure we hear from them rather than going with the status quo. Wow, what a bold statement. Guess our opinions don’t count anymore. “And to the Victor, goes the spoils”.

  • “The November election is a mandate for change—for a new point of view and a period of more rapid improvement in the city”, Olvera said. It would appear that the new mayor has confused the meaning of mandate and majority. While there may be a new majority on the city council, the razor thin margins of victory in the recent election are anything but a mandate. Which traditionally refers to landslide victories giving politicians a mandate to implement their policies.

    One only has to look at the election results from the OC Registrar of Voters to see just how narrow this election was. The spread between the third place winner and fourth place was a scant 61 votes, a third of a percentage point of the total votes cast for council candidates. Between second place and fourth only 168 votes or .94%. It is even more telling when the votes are analyzed by the 30 voting precincts in Dana Point. Top vote getter John Tomlinson was top-three in 19 of 30 precincts or 68% of the precincts. Richard Viczorek was top-three in 13 of 30 or 37%. Joe Muller was top-three in 9 of 30 precincts or 30%. Fourth place finisher Jody Payne was top-three in 17 precincts or 57%. Looking at the results from the bottom, John Tomlinson was 5th or lower in 8 precincts or 27%. Richard Viczorek 5th or lower in 11 precincts or 37%. Joe Muller was 5th or lower in 15 of 30 precincts or 50%. And Jody Payne was 5th or lower in 10 of 30 precincts or 33%.

    When the election is looked at in this light it is clear that there is no mandate to the new council, rather this is a city that is deeply concerned with moving the city forward with thought and care, in concert with the constituents of Dana Point all of whom our council is elected to serve.

    One final question for the Mayor, regarding your definition of politics from your OC Register interview from December 28 where you said, “my definition of politics, when you try to break the word apart: “Poly” means many, “tics” means blood-sucking varmints.” Care to share with your constituents who these blood-sucking varmints are?

  • If Mayor Olvera placed that much importance in mandates from the voters, he would have voted in October to table a decision on the Majestic project until a new council was elected. Instead he voted with two lame duck councilmen to approve Majestic, thus overriding the Planning Commission’s decision to reject the project. Now we have a large, out of scale mostly residential project with numerous variances that will set a precedent for future developers to be exempted from following the zoning ordinances and the specific plan already adopted for the Town Center. It all shows little respect for the planning process and the voters.

  • I’m surprised people won’t put their true name on their responses, and then they add in “Local” assuming it somehow lends more credence to their argument. Differing opinions is nothing to be shy about.

    In my opinion, I agree with Nancy, It is exciting! Great job, and certainly time to usher some improvements (through both public and private investment) into our town. I live in the Lantern District and it is long overdue. Too often our most popular destination in town is the Circle K selling lottery tickets, cigarettes and shots of hard alcohol that are nicely discarded by the transients on the sidewalks. The lack of a Towncenter area has significantly hurt the Lantern District and Dana Point for years.

    To the DP Local- you are correct that the election was close- although, that is really a function of nine people running in a small town off year election. The detailed analysis performed regarding “precincts” seems irrelevant to me and clearly identifies your personal disappointment with the results. You can spend the time grabbing sections and pieces of the overall results to support your perspective- but doesn’t appear to be worthy of the time involved.

    Looking at the results from a big picture perspective- I draw these conclusions-
    • Nine candidates, five with a pro-business tilt, four with a “slow down” perspective.
    • Three Open Positions
    • All three filled with the pro-business perspective (or at least that’s what they campaigned on)
    • Pro-business tilt candidates gravitated to the top with the exception of two outliers. Jody Payne (High) and Harold Kaufman (Low)

    I’m certainly not saying any of the candidates who finished outside the top three wouldn’t be good (even great) as council members. But even DP Local would have to admit these results point toward moving forward with development.

  • Thanks for serving your community. As for Town Center improvements, Get ‘Er Done!

  • Bramdon E. Phillips Reply

    To Mike Frost- I also live in the Lantern Distrect. Negotiating variances and creating more traffic hardly solves the “popular hangout” issue you described. Slowing tourists down to gaze upon a “Irvine by the Sea” sounds like a cheap thrill . Why stop when you have eclectic charm and imagination just a few miles north?

    Since differences in opinions are nothing to be shy about, Dana has an opportunity to build something full of charm. I imagine “Petite Champlain” in Québec or “Champs Elysées ” in Péris. Why do you think the little Gelato place on Laguna is packed with a line put the door every warm Orange County night?

    It would be so nice to walk with my wife and daughter from our house to a Lantern District that had character, imagination and did not mirror the rest of our vast and cookie-cut “OC” lifestyle. Let Aliso and Irvine hold onto this layout.

    Besides this ever disappointing topic…. Where is our darn SKATEPARK?!?! If Dana doesn’t provide a safe place for our children to skate in our city. Then our city becomes the SKATEPARK!! Can’t wait to see the skate spots this “Majestic Project” provides.

    Ciao,

    B.P.

  • Bramdon E. Phillips Reply

    My apologies for all the typos. I am boarding a plane and felt propelled to responde.

    Merci.

  • Ever since Strands was destroyed Dana Point has just been on a downward spiral. More development, traffic and people at the beaches will only leave Dana Point resembling an industrialized Los Angeles beach city. Way to ruin the serene beauty that Dana Point once was.

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