Project Social may soon have live music on its outdoor patio after the Dana Point Planning Commission voted unanimously, with Commissioner Ashok Dhingra absent, to approve a temporary event permit on Monday, Sept. 25.
The event permit conditionally allows the restaurant to host up to 12 non-consecutive events, with no more than two per month. The restaurant, however, could come back at the end of the permit period to add an additional 12 performances.
The Planning Commission originally considered a permit that would allow Project Social to host up to 24 special events through 2024. The permit would have also allowed up to two non-consecutive live entertainment events per month.
However, after receiving public comments from residents who raised concerns of noise nuisances, Commissioner Eric Nelson proposed a reduction in the number of events and length of the permit to “give them enough rope to see if they can make it work or not.”
“I recognize that the neighbors have concerns, and there’s legitimate concerns that should be addressed,” Nelson said. “I think they’ll know then whether they’ve done a good job, and that’ll be a noticed meeting so the community would be engaged in that and be able to come back and give us feedback.”
Nelson noted that Project Social, which is located at 24040 Camino Del Avion Suite J, should bring in an acoustic engineer, licensed in the state of California, to provide clear noise mitigation and sound attenuation.
When Project Social opened, live entertainment was offered on a permit-by-permit basis, Community Development Director Brenda Wisneski said. Rather than continue to review events on a case-by-case basis, Project Social requested the Master Site Development permit, which would allow a regulated number of performances throughout the year.
“We have received some letters of concern related to the live entertainment, but based upon the records the city has, since the restaurant has opened in 2019, we have record of four code violations being issued, two of them being noise-related,” Wisneski said.
One noise violation was related to a delivery that occurred during off hours and another related to a DJ performing for a wedding event held at Project Social.
During public comments, Dana Point resident Donna Molina played an audio clip of what she can hear from her backyard that she had recorded during a previous Project Social event.
“They are not good neighbors when you live 20 yards away from live music,” Molina said. “The way the building is constructed, it’s basically the Hollywood Bowl at my house. The noise echoes off of the building and comes up into our homes.”
Project Social General Manager Kortney Jones shared that the restaurant has received many requests for live music and performances.
“The reason that we have put this request in place is obviously because we want to give back to our community, and this is a consistent request,” Jones said. “It’s brought up daily.”
“We get nothing but amazing feedback from the community and our neighbors,” Jones continued. “When we do have complaints, we address them head-on. We really don’t sit back and wait to handle things.”
Jones added that the event permit has been in the works for a while, as they wanted to go about putting on live music shows in a neighborly way.
“The 24 number is based on, if we see fit, having two live music events a month, but that’s not going to be set in stone or in place,” Jones said.
Project Social’s goal here, Jones said, is easy listening.
“It’s nothing aggressive or out of the norm of what easy listening would be acquainted to,” Jones said.
Performances would be held toward the back of the restaurant’s outdoor patio. The permit is conditional on Project Social conforming with a sound abatement plan.
The sound abatement plan restricts the restaurant from using more than one amp for microphones and guitars, sound check before a concert must be kept as short as possible, bands will not be allowed to rehearse on site, and all live music and amplified sound will end by 8 p.m., and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Events would only be held on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays.
Additionally, Project Social will be required to install a sound deadening product to help dampen sound from reaching neighboring properties.
Code enforcement will be taking noise reads at the first few events and then randomly selected events during the term of the permit, Wisneski said. Exterior noise levels cannot exceed 55 decibels.
Project Social will be required to give one-month minimum notice ahead of each event, and no more than two non-consecutive events can be held per month.
If conditions of the permit are violated, then Project Social will not be able to hold more events until violations are mitigated.
Project Social will have to return to the Planning Commission to renew the permit at the end of the term if it would like to continue hosting events.
Commissioner Luke Boughen noted that live music is a part of Dana Point and will be a big part of the town over the coming weekend with the Ohana Festival.
“Live music as a general concept is, I think, a good thing,” Boughen said. “I’m sorry to hear that the music—it sounds like from some of the correspondence that the wedding was not very good or some of the bands were not very well-received by the neighbors.”
“The fact that this is limited to not involve drums, not involve more than one amp, those are all, I think, positive things for the community, for the residential neighbors along, with the fact that it’s 12-8 p.m.,” Boughen continued.