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Discussions over a proposal to add 111 residences, 28,000 square feet of retail and two-levels of underground parking will continue at the Planning Commission’s meeting on Aug. 11

Cranes with bright flags draped between them display the height of a proposed project in Dana Point’s Lantern District. The development would utilize seven plots and house 28,000 square feet of retail, 111 residences and two levels of subterranean parking. Photo: Andrea Papagianis
Cranes with bright flags draped between them display the height of a proposed project in Dana Point’s Lantern District. The development would utilize seven plots and house 28,000 square feet of retail, 111 residences and two levels of subterranean parking. Photo: Andrea Papagianis

By Jim Shilander

After more than four hours of debate, the Planning Commission continued a discussion Monday night regarding a three-phase, four-story project in downtown Dana Point.

Residents got a glimpse of the proposal over a course of three days as cranes moved between the project’s three phases to display projected building heights. The project would build up seven non-contiguous plots on either side of Amber Lantern between Del Prado Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. Two levels of subterranean parking would be accompanied by 111 residential units and 28,000 square feet of retail.

The developer, Majestic Housing & Development LLC, has asked for a variance to city regulations to allow mechanical equipment measuring 42 inches above the height limit. Additionally, the developer has requested a permit allowing roof decks with railings extending above the height limit; a variance allowing four-story structures and a parking variance for 56 parking spaces.

Indicating a strong reluctance to provide the developer exceptions to the Town Center/Lantern District development plan at its first go-round would make an “irrevocable” shift in the implementation of the project, said Commissioner Gary Newkirk.

Talks about revamping Dana Point’s downtown started not long after the city incorporated in 1989. And plans to create a pedestrian and business-friendly atmosphere, in order to promote new development, have been in motion for nearly a decade. The city hired a San Francisco-based firm, ROMA Design Group, in 2004 to create a plan for Town Center and a community advisory committee was formed the following year.

In 2006, the City Council approved plans for the estimated $19 million revitalization project. The California Coastal Commission followed suit two years later, granting approval to the city’s regulations regarding land use, building height and more. The project stalled in 2008 but efforts were reignited last year by a citizen coalition, the South Coast Water District, city staff and members of the City Council.

The focus that had long been on the city and water district’s infrastructure project, reconfiguring city streets, adding medians and replacing sewer and water systems has now shifted to one centered on what development in this area could soon look like.

“This is the test project,” Newkirk said. “It opens up huge problems for the build out of Town Center.”

Newkirk and commissioners Susan Whittaker and Norman Denton each indicated they could not support the proposal in its current form, while Commissioner April O’Connor urged that the project be continued, to allow the developer to address resident and commission concerns.

“I would hate to see a good project be voted down and just be on a desk somewhere,” she said.

Commissioner Liz Claus recused herself from the discussion because she lives within 500 feet of the project.

The more than 30 Dana Point residents who spoke were divided on the proposal, with a majority speaking in opposition.

Resident James Raub said the number of in-lieu parking fees needed for the project, and the $975,000 fee the developer would provide the city to offset it, amounted to a bribe.

The discussion will be continued to the commission’s Aug. 11 meeting.

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comments (5)

  • Another key issue that the commission and city need to discuss is the lack of environmental review. The city has applied a Class 32 exemption under CEQA allowing them to move this project through the approval process without evaluating the impact of the development on the neighborhood. This means that no parking, traffic, noise, air quality studies will be required?

    Hard to believe that a project that requires variances to the very code approved to protect us from impacts is able go through a process with no absolutely no review?

    As a supporter of development, I don’t support blind approvals that include variances and lieu fees without any review of the impacts of such a large project. 111 Units and 28,000 feet of commercial space will absolutely impact the neighborhood and this should be addressed. The fact that they have to buy their way out of a parking shortage should be enough to stop the commission in their tracks, sending this project back to planning for additional, proper, CEQA review.

    Eric

  • This project along with a couple others, the first to test the rezoning of Dana Point, shows us that City Council are paid (bribed) by Real Estate Developers, they will take small payoff by comparison, for the handling and delivery, the in-progress huge ugly impacts placed upon the neighborhoods. When the new 5 story Holiday Inn was built (2002?), it represented a style of impact that could be a cookie-cutter like style of architecture that would be repeated throughout Town Center area. The example is not difficult to imagine, five story towers, floor 4 and 5 are residential, floor 3 is office, and floors 1 and 2 are retail / commercial use. The proposal to have two sub levels of parking is not surprising, but it must be a standard prior to submitting documents to the city. (Otherwise, we need to Recall City Officials now! Got $8,000?) The message to all Land Barons should be, “Don’t bother submitting plans unless you have 1.5 times increase / above stands, leaving 1/3 open parking. WHY? Well because this whole mess started with Ms. Harkey and illegal back door dealing, the erasure of the Seniors Affordable Living behind Denny’s, and many other illegal practices; yet typical to the Harkey criminal family fingerprints. In my opinion, we must turn back the clock 12 years, start over. We could have a beautiful Downtown, but then, Walt Disney Development (past partner) has no dog in this race. My message is to true-family of DP, to long term investors, like hotels, like harbor users, SJC, SC, LB, LN, other cities. This DP Planning Commission is like a vulture perched over prime meat / a fox prone to pounce on the hen and eggs / Real Estate investor Land Barons who would tear up Yellowstone Park to have their income property increase in value. ( Are you paying attention?)

    Mr Newkirk: To heck with anyone else who will stand blocks away, helpless to let the two N.Y. towers fall; for there is profit to the jackels who first tread upon the fallen. To heck with the side effects, the standard of living we now enjoy, “We blew up the country, destroyed structures, killed hundreds of thousands in the process … but business is good!” Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney. He attended the University of Wyoming, where he earned a BA and an MA in Political Science, and began his political career as an intern for Congressman William A. Steiger, eventually working his way into the White House during the Nixon and Ford administrations. During his time in the Department of Defense, Cheney oversaw the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, among other actions. Out of office during the Clinton administration, Cheney was the Chairman and CEO of Halliburton Company from 1995 to 2000.
    Our DP Commissioners, are like the Cheney / Nixon / Bush – wastemorelands … in place to start the general destruction of neighborhoods and also participate at the end, pretending they are upset to see the destruction, yet to take profit in it, a 6% RE commission would be just fine. Thank you.
    DaveBartholomew@cox.net is an DP / international stained glass artist, the Disney Wedding Pavilion, the Grand Floridian, LV MGM. Respect for this last Cheney paragraph came from my mother. (2001). I didn’t think at 71 that she was paying attention.

  • Why is it that each developer looks at Dana Point as an opportunity to go to the maximum of the allowable footprint and then request variances? 4 story buildings may increase retail and residential space but at what cost? Has anyone thought to survey tourists and locals for their opinions of what makes Dana Point desirable? I doubt any large number of them would say that tall buildings, increased retail and parking garages motivate them to come nor stay here. Are we only focused on “bigger” and “more” as the direction for the irrevocable development of our city?

  • Kind Folks, I’ve lived in DP for nearly 15 years and love its laid-back nature as much as anyone. Even so, it lacks certain sense of ‘place’ that comes from a having definable center, I.e. development. Forgive me for using the “d-word” as many find this term offensive.
    Forget about drawing in outsiders or tourists.
    What is there in the center of DP that would make us residents want to stroll, linger and spend our entertainment time and money in this community? God bless the intrepid entrepreneurs who are trying to establish their restaurants and shops in the ‘outposts’ around Town Center. I admire the optimism that some day there will be the connected-ness that generates foot traffic past their windows and through their doors. Let’s not abandon them.
    I’m not endorsing development at any cost. But let’s stop driving away any and all developers as carpetbaggers. It just seems like any developer who comes in with a plan even suggests some variation of aesthetic code brings out the tar-and-feather crowd.
    No doubt, I agree we have to maintain standards and vision that retains and enhances the character of our city. But let’s put away the hostility that drives away the truly well-intentioned developers that want to invest in creating a more vital Dana Point

  • Here we go again. Developers get all the attention, while the people of Dana Point get…. Nothing. Ever notice neighboring cites have special golf programs, or golf courses, for the people who live there? And of course, skate parks? Swimming pools? We in Dana Point have none of those, yet we’re spending millions for aiding developers. The six million dollar bridge to nowhere? Built for one purpose, to provide traffic to the 20,000 square feet of shops to be built where folks were thrown out of their homes. A golf course that caters to the richest, others don’t apply. I’ve heard something about a ‘bocce court’, excellent for retiring politicians as they’re put out to pasture by their developer friends, but no skate park, no swimming pool. A new hotel will be built at Dana Harbor Drive and PCH, simply because it will be a source of shopping tourists who will use the Bridge to Nowhere to access the 20,000 square feet of shops graciously allowed. Those who take great profits from Dana Point don’t care about Dana Point residents, only how to drain assets from the city for their own purposes. I know from long personal experience how difficult it is to track who is funding election campaigns for political office in Dana Point. Here’s a suggestion, maybe a candidate will come up with a long list of benefits to those who live here that that candidate will work for when elected, let’s put that person, and others like him/her into office. Demand to know who is buying candidates for office in Dana Point, it’s a very big question why that is not general knowledge.

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