City Council rejects appeal of Commercial Core’s approved permit

City Council rejects appeal of Commercial Core’s approved permit

DANA POINT—Development of a highly-anticipated Commercial Core project for Dana Point Harbor was pushed forward when members of City Council unanimously denied an appeal of the Planning Commission’s approved permit on June 17.

Noting feedback from representatives of the community and boating advocates stationed in the harbor, more than 150 citizens packed into the Dana Point Community Center to express their position on the project’s value.

The appeal, which was submitted by boater’s advocate group Boater’s 4 Dana Point Harbor on May 27, claimed the Planning Commission’s approval of construction failed to focus on ensuring provisions of the Local Coastal Program (LCP) were met by the county’s Coastal Development Permit (CDP) application. The organizations’ president, Bruce Heyman, did not attend the meeting due to a prior business engagement, but a representative delivered a statement on his behalf.

“We’re appealing the CDP application directly to the City Council, even though most interpretations of the Coastal Act would allows us to appeal directly to the California Coastal Commission,” Heyman said in the statement. “We did this because we’ve seen in the past that failure to take care of conditions at the local level can cause significant and unfortunate delays at the state level.”

The Commercial Core phase, which was approved by the Dana Point Planning Commission with a 4-1 vote at May 12 hearing, includes renovations to existing buildings, reconfigurations of streets and other infrastructure improvements.

Segmented demolitions of 13 present buildings, a master sign program, a new parking structure and landscape improvements will also be included in the development, which will add about 35,000 square feet of retail, commercial and office space in the area. Sources have estimated the overall cost of the project between $150 to $180 million.

The Planning Commission’s May ruling also included, in concept, a dry stack boat storage building known as “the boat barn.” The Coastal Commission will vote on the application of the reported $32 million structure at a later date. City officials said that the 65-foot edifice is necessary to preserve the Coastal Commission’s requirement that 493 spaces be available for dry storage boats. Heyman said in June he estimated the loss in spaces to boaters would be roughly 25 percent.

“We again find ourselves in a situation where members of Boaters 4 Dana Point Harbor are asking City Council to correct errors that should have been addressed by the developer before coming to the council,” he said in the statement.

Prior to filling the appeal, Heyman called the barn “an obscenely expensive solution.”

“We reviewed the whole clutter,” said Brad Gross, OC Dana Point harbor director. “There’s nothing new that we’ve heard…We concur with the staff report.”

Boaters, though, still came out in droves to express their disbelief over the loss of facilities once construction is underway. Rosie Garcia, a Laguna Niguel resident who docks in the harbor, said she is concerned with not knowing where her boat will be relocated when the area is reconfigured.

“I’m not going to have a place to put my boat,” Garcia said. “I think they’re going to put me out in the field.”

Proponents of the Commercial Core, though, said the project’s delays have gone on too long. The plan has been in the works for well over a decade.

“I have actively taken part in the revitalization process since the late 90s,” said Jim Miller, a Dana Point resident and business owner. “It’s been a long haul –17 years. As you know, this project has tremendous support from the community. This project has been presented to the public numerous times over the last few years…and we have a good, solid plan.”

James Lenthall, vice president of the Dana Point Boaters Association, said his organization favors harbor revitalization, but doesn’t want boater resources to be lost in the process.

“In the briefest of summaries, we would like to see requirement of a publicly-disclosed finance plan for harbor revitalization, one that demonstrates that boaters will not pay a disproportionate share of a predominately commercial revitalization,” Lenthall said.

He added that other add-ons should be “Refinement of the parking management plan to minimize the loss of boater parking during and after construction, as detailed in our documentation and required by the Coastal Commission, relocation of the guest docks prior to construction, not after, thereby significantly reducing boater parking demands in the area of construction, and further development and refinement of the day use and dry boat storage plan during construction as requested in our documentation and required by the Coastal Commission.”

Lenthall said that even though the council didn’t attach revisions to the permit in its decision, he and his organization will continue to move forward.

“Our association will continue to work closely with OC Dana Point Harbor to preferably resolve our concerns before the appeal is heard by the Coastal Commission,” he said. “If not, we will raise our concerns with the Coastal Commission at the appeal hearing.”

Construction is slated to begin during the first quarter of 2015. A second phase in the revitalization process includes the dry boat storage facility and waterside renovations. Both will have to be approved by the Coastal Commission. The waterside improvements will include replacing the harbor’s 2,500 boat slips. Before any of those being, though, members of both City Council and the public conceded that an appeal is likely.

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