The Race for City Council
Leading up to the Dana Point City Council election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Dana Point Times will be publishing six questions, one each week, answered by the candidates qualified for the ballot. This year, the seats for Districts 4 and 5 are up for election.
Do you think Dana Point is vulnerable to overdevelopment? What is your position on the pace of construction and development of the city thus far, and what measures do you think local government should or should not take moving forward in regulating development?
The Town Center Plan, adopted in 2008, envisioned the transformation of our PCH business corridor, which contained aging buildings and empty lots, into a dynamic, attractive central setting benefiting residents, business and tourists. In 2014, meaningful progress on implementing the plan ground to a halt amid public controversy over traffic, parking, infrastructure, building height and density. Since 2016, these concerns still exist, and the Council has done little to implement improved development standards.
Moving forward, I believe we can still produce a modern, inviting coastal village that reflects our heritage and benefits everyone. I believe it is time to work together to address these concerns.
It should not be that difficult. In far less time, other California coastal communities have created central village gathering places that benefit residents and attract visitors. We can start by reevaluating the plan and analyzing the development standards approved with the Plan nearly 15 years ago. I am open to examining and implementing any modifications needed to ensure the Town Center/Lantern District, and any other city zoning regulation, respects our beach town atmosphere, promotes local business, and creates a place for everyone to enjoy.
If we do not begin making progress soon, regulation from the state will create complexity in managing our own destiny. Each year, more and more legislation drafted in Sacramento supersedes local policy, including allowing sober living homes and rezoning of single-family properties into triplex multifamily apartments. We should not put ourselves in a position to allow the state to dictate the size, shape, use, and feel of our coastal village because we were unable to solve issues. By taking on this challenge, we will maintain control.
Let’s remove the personalities, egos and misinformation and finally work together to solve the issues around development of our coastal gem, Dana Point!
Dana Point spent years creating the Town Center Plan, allowing 40’ building heights, 3 stories and parking on-site or through in-lieu fees. It also called for parking lots to be constructed to handle all parking needs for a completed Town Center. The Plan established the framework for vibrant and sustainable development. Unfortunately, parking needs have not been addressed, and to date things haven’t work out quite as planned.
The first major development proposal sought to exceed the plan’s zoning, seeking variances for height, a fourth story and reduced parking. As Planning Commission Chair, I voted against these variances, rejecting the proposal, only to be overturned by the City Council, which allowed the project to commence. Appropriate development is a necessity. We all benefit when vacant lots and outdated properties are transformed into vibrant businesses, restaurants, offices and residences. We need additional restaurants and stores to serve residents and visitors, and with it the lucrative revenue source that will help offset the city’s budget shortfalls while reducing our reliance on hotel transient occupancy tax (currently the city’s largest revenue source).
Parking has always been a key issue in the Town Center and one that has never been resolved. Street parking is limited and insufficient to meet the needs of a built-out Town Center. Without adequate, convenient parking, businesses will struggle, and overflow parking will end up crowding our residential streets. This needs to be addressed with input from residents and property owners, resolving this issue before it is too late.
It’s vital the City uphold our zoning codes requiring development that is appropriate and follows the rules. There are many opportunities for exciting new projects that are designed and scaled to preserve our coastal village aesthetic. Let’s all work together to make sure we do it right.
Every jurisdiction is vulnerable to overdevelopment if not properly managed. We must insist on proper city planning and civil engineering, and that developers have more than just their bottom line in mind before approving new projects. We owe it to our children to build cities that meet current societal needs, and have the foresight to provide opportunities for growth and development for generations to come.
I think that the recent upgrades to Dana Point’s Lantern District are a good starting point and we should continue that momentum with renovation and restoration projects around Capistrano Beach. Now would be an excellent time to invest in power and communications grid improvements, infrastructure upgrades, as well as a beach restoration project. I suspect we can find state or federal aid for infrastructure improvement, and I am confident that we can secure competitive bids for any projects we consider given the current economic climate. We would keep Southern Californians working, driving our economy today, and laying the framework for the high-tech industries of the future.
While I understand the concerns around increased population density, I am confident that together we can work towards creative solutions to meet the increased need for affordable housing while maintaining our tight-knit community. Furthermore, the more opportunities there are for people to live and work in our community, the healthier our local economy will be. I will work to create commercial and residential spaces providing opportunities to the families who need them. I feel very fortunate to live and work in such a wonderful neighborhood and will do my best to protect our city while making the needed improvements for it to continue thriving for years to come.
Orange County Professional Firefighters Association Local 3631 endorses Benjamin Bebee for Dana Point City Council.
I believe the key to development in our city is to strike the right balance between residential communities and commercial uses that serve both residents and tourists. In the next few years, we can look forward to a full buildout in Town Center, a complete renovation of the Harbor, and a revitalization of Doheny Village and the PCH corridor in Capistrano Beach.
The Doheny Village Working Group has been working hard with City staff to devise a plan to revitalize the village while preserving the elements that make this area eclectic and unique. We must work with residents, businesses and the developer of the proposed Victoria Apartments to ensure the project not only brings new residents to the village and funding to CUSD to help renovate our local schools, but most importantly, fits the community’s vision for this important and historic area.
As we welcome new development, it is important that we preserve the unique charm that makes Dana Point not only a great tourist destination, but a great place to live. We must continue to keep our local flavor and encourage small businesses and restaurants, along with responsible chains, to thrive. We must also ensure residential and mixed-use areas remain safe and attractive for our neighbors.
Expansion and development for our city is a good thing if it stays true to our identity while encouraging economic development and preserving residential neighborhoods. Residents’ voices need to be heard before major developments are approved. We have a very active and vocal populace who, like me, love this place we call home. As your representative on Council, I will work hard to ensure that we listen to your voices and work with responsible developers to ensure they understand the unique balance that makes our city so special.
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