Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the title of the event, Taste of the Lantern Village.
Residents gathered in the Lantern Village Community Park to taste a wide variety of local restaurant offerings and hear an update from city officials on Wednesday, Sept. 20.
The Lantern Village Society, formerly Lantern Village Association, hosted the event, featuring bites from participating restaurants and beverages from Station Craft and Coffee Importers.
Before city officials addressed attendees with updates on events, development and police services, Lantern Village Society President Robbie Robinson announced the organization’s name change.
The Lantern Village Society is a civic association working to preserve the area’s history, build neighborly relationships and promote the local economy, Robinson explained. The nonprofit is still named Lantern Village Association but will operate under the name Lantern Village Society after filing a DBA (does business as).
The Taste of the Lantern Village attracted more than 200 attendees, Robinson noted. While past years have featured only one restaurant, Robinson said the nonprofit saw a lot more buzz with the event since it featured a variety of local restaurants.
aPizza Doho, Brio Tuscany Grille, Coastal Kitchen, Coffee Importers, Gemmell’s, Hennessy’s Tavern, Jack’s Restaurant, Luciana’s, Luxe, Shwack, Stillwater Spirits and Sounds, Station Craft Brewery + Kitchen, and the Wind and Sea provided food and beverages for the event.
“It showed the excitement of how people in the Lantern Village area were really excited about having something that was really for this area and promoting the restaurants,” Robinson said.
Robinson on Wednesday also announced a new program launching next year for neighborhood homes: the Beautification Award. Robinson noted that the organization is to soon send out an email with more details about the award but the winner would receive a sign for their yard noting that the house is a Beautification Award recipient.
Mayor Mike Frost, who lives in and represents the Lantern Village on City Council, said the organization offers a great way to get to know your neighbors.
City Manager Mike Killebrew said members of the Lantern Village Society are deeply involved in their community.
“I do want to mention a quote that comes to mind. I know it’s attributed at times to Bob Dylan but, ‘some people dance in the rain, others just get wet,’ ” Killebrew said. “I love the Lantern Village Association group because you all get involved in your community, you all care about it and it makes it really easy when we’re trying to address issues when we’ve got people that want to participate and actually help fix things.”
Offering an update on city issues highlighted in the biannual community survey, Killbrew noted that the city has worked to decrease the number of unhoused individuals in town over the years.
“It was obvious we did have a major homeless issue in town,” Killebrew said. “We put together a great approach, City Council funded it and we work it daily.”
“We had a couple new visitors show up overnight, I believe five, and our team was out there, our social worker and our other staff that support her,” Killebrew continued. “I know that three of them, we helped them get to their destinations and I’m not being flippant about it. We really did help them get to where they were looking to go.”
Homelessness as a top community concern dropped from close to 50% to under 20%, according to Killebrew.
“We know it’s still an issue,” Killebrew said. “We’re going to continue to work it, the council continues to fund it and support our great team.”
Killebrew said the survey also shows a positive trend of Dana Point residents stating that they are proud of the city and love their community.
Assistant City Manager Kelly Reenders highlighted upcoming community events like the REDO Vintage & Maker’s Market, a Halloween pop-up market and pumpkin patch in October, the city’s Halloween spooktacular and more.
Director of Community Development Brenda Wisneski offered development updates on projects including the new mixed-use development to open soon on Pacific Coast Highway and Golden Lantern; one on the corner of Old Golden Lantern and Del Prado Avenue expected to break ground soon across from Stillwater; and the proposed Victoria Boulevard Apartments.
“Some of you might be aware that we have an application in-house to develop the old bus yard,” Wisneski said. “The Planning Commission is going to be reviewing that project on Monday. There have been some changes to it and that’s what we’re focusing on right now.”
The project will “most likely before the end of the year” go before the City Council for approval, Wisneski said.
The city has also seen an abundance of new businesses opening, with 20 permits submitted for new businesses in the past year.
Wisneski also explained that the city has moved into Phase 2 of its process to update the General Plan. In Phase 2, the city will move from the visioning portion of the plan update and focus on specifics like land use policy, traffic, roadways and circulation and other ways to guide the development of the city.
Dana Point Police Services Chief Capt. Todd Hylton gave an update on e-bike enforcement and OCSD’s new e-bikes for police services.
“The main approach that we have has been education,” Hylton said. “We really want to educate the parents, the schools and the students and children that are on them.”
“Dana Point is a great place for e-bikes,” Hylton added. “Kids can take them down to the beach; we understand that desire and that need, but really working with parents and educators to really address the concerns of the community and the concerns of law enforcement.”
Hylton also highlighted some of the services OCSD offers such as vacation home checks, business security assessments, and more.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for police services and the local community to kind of integrate and find ways to work together and that’s really what we’re focusing on,” Hylton said.
Director of Public Works Matt Sinacori reminded attendees that the Dana Point trolley is running on weekends through the end of September. Sinacori added that the city has an app where residents can report issues.
“City Hall is there for you, we want to hear from you,” Sinacori said.