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By Lillian Boyd
After years of collaboration among city staff and stakeholders within the Doheny Village neighborhood of Dana Point, a drafted plan for an update is now available for community input.
The City of Dana Point has kicked off a community outreach program to engage residents, businesses and other stakeholders in review and approval of its draft plan and environmental report—which are now available online for public review and comment through June 10.
“The Doheny Village Plan is a new and improved plan for zoning and public spaces with two main components: zoning code update and capital improvement plan,” said Belinda Deines, Principal Planner, City of Dana Point.
Beginning in October 2017 with the Doheny Village Merchants Association, Village stakeholders and city staff collaborated to inform, consult and involve community members at the visioning and land use process, Deines said.
Efforts to create an updated plan for the Capistrano Beach neighborhood were initiated in the late 1980s. But the Doheny Village Merchants’ Association (DVMA) was not formed until 2016, arising out of concerns for a proposal on parking, zoning and development standards in the Village set forth by ROMA Design Group.
In October 2017, city staff re-initiated a public engagement process to involve DVMA before council directed staff to continue meeting with the association as a working group the following year.
Beginning in July 2018, city staff hosted regular monthly meetings with the Doheny Village Working Group (“Working Group”), comprised of select community representatives that have been actively involved in the draft Zoning Code Update process, according to city officials.
Guiding principles for the Working Group, which were set in March 2018, included community-driven decision-making, adopting zones that align with existing uses, keeping jobs in the community, beautification, improving connectivity to the beach, landscape enhancements, identifying on-site parking and preserving neighborhood character.
“I’d like to start off by recognizing a significant amount of community input went into the development of these documents and the drafts they are today,” Deines said. “Stakeholders reviewed the city’s General Plan for goals and policies specific to the development of Doheny Village with the intent of creating a plan that was in keeping of these very policies developed back in 1993.”
“The goal of this planning process has been to prepare land use designations and development standards that create more appropriate framework for the Village,” Deines added.
The group was tasked with developing the zoning code and “Community Improvement Plan” (CIP) in a series of regular monthly meetings that were open to the public. During these meetings, stakeholders brought forth their analyses on site conditions, and they provided recommendations of revision to the city’s existing zoning code—and even in 2020, the group transitioned to virtual meetings for project updates and proposed changes to the plan.
“It is important to the city to preserve the character of this neighborhood while working to enhance and beautify Doheny Village for the benefit of all,” said Deines. “I’m really proud of this work and our collaboration with the Doheny Village Merchants’ Association for what it means to our city’s future. Now, we look forward to receiving all comments so that we can put the final plan into action.”
As part of this outreach effort, the city will also pursue a number of beautification projects throughout Doheny Village.
The latest Doheny Village Plan is designed to preserve and enhance the eclectic combination of commercial, light industrial, and residential mixed uses in the area. These districts are designed to achieve an integrated neighborhood-serving business and residential environment, Deines said.
Residential units in Doheny Village provide housing near sources of employment, commercial and professional services; and could potentially add to the city’s supply of affordable housing, reduce commutes between home and work, and promote a strong, stable, and desirable pedestrian-oriented business environment.
“The Village is a unique opportunity within City of Dana Point to create an environment where someone can live, walk to work, work with their hands and create something, stop for dinner and go back to their house without ever having to get in their car or get on the freeway and still have that high quality of life,” said John Gabbard, the newest addition to the Dana Point Planning Commission.
Jim Surber, owner of Doheny Village Car Wash and member of the Merchants’ Association, attended nearly every meeting for the Doheny Village Plan.
“It was good to see development projects under construction in other parts of the city, because we were able to learn from those projects and create a new set of rules that made sense for the Village,” Surber said.
Deines provided an update on the Doheny Village Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which identifies recommendations for priority projects toward improving connectivity, beautification, traffic calming and public parking in the village.
“Rather than develop a formal beautification plan with prescribed design treatments and extensive construction at this time, the group sought to enhance aesthetics by proposing public art, lighting and landscape programs to be implemented right away,” Deines said.
The Working Group formed the Village Beautification Committee to work on short-term projects. Community members presented concepts for potential public spaces and industrial-inspired sculptural art. Construction and manufacturing businesses and building suppliers are volunteering together and pulling resources for these public art projects.
“They identified public potential locations for mural art and color to bring interest and dimension to the area,” Deines said. “Members also provided conceptual renderings to highlight neighborhood identity through use of signage and wall art.”
City council has also directed the city’s Arts and Culture Commission to lead the charge for the Doheny Village public art program, which will be launched with a call for artists by summer of this year.
“Change is already happening, and we want to make sure that the city’s codes allow existing businesses to improve, and that new development fits in with the history and culture down here,” Surber added.
The city has made a number of resources available to the community to learn more about the Doheny Village Plan and to provide comment, including virtual office hours, YouTube presentations, and Planning Commission workshops. As of now, a community workshop is scheduled for May 10. All comments on the environmental impact report (EIR) must be received by end of the business day on June 9.
There are one-hour virtual office hours with city staff and online sessions on Zoom that are available to the public scheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 6, and Wednesday, May 12.
“It will be an open forum for people to ask questions and provide feedback on the plan,” Deines said. “Playlists of previous presentations and video clips on the Doheny Village Plan are also available on the city’s YouTube.”
All information can be found online at danapoint.org/businesses/doheny-village.