Dana Point Planning Commission approves permit for commercial core project

Dana Point Planning Commission approves permit for commercial core project

DANA POINT—The Dana Point Planning Commission approved the Coastal Development Permit application for landside improvements to the Dana Point Harbor Revitalization Plan during a lengthy May 12 hearing.

In a 4-1 vote, the accepted measures included, in concept, a dry stack boat storage building known as “the boat barn.” The California Coastal Commission will vote on the application of the boat storage edifice at a later date.

“The harbors getting a little old, a little rusty and a little broken down,” Commissioner Gary Newkirk said. “While the headland stands strong and does its own thing, the beach regenerates with wave action, the harbor needs some help. This is something that has been said repeatedly over many, many years. It’s time to make a move and make this thing work right.”

Amid a jam-packed council chamber overflowing with boaters and residents of varying viewpoints, the commission reviewed and eventually approved the infrastructure improvements and building designs which will encompass the first phase of the revitalization process.

“The harbor and its 1970s style is not only unappealing, but it doesn’t serve our needs right now,” said Vice-Chairwoman April O’ Connor. “Frankly, this is a historic moment for Dana Point right now. I’m honored to be a part of it…this revitalization plan may not have everything that everyone wants, but I think it’s a very good plan and it has most of what people need.”

OC Dana Point Harbor Director Brad Gross gave a detailed presentation outlining the various phases of construction, while addressing concerns over building heights, parking and boat storage.

The inaugural phase of the process includes the renovation of existing buildings, segmented demolitions of 13 present buildings, reconfiguration of streets, a new parking structure and parking management plan, a master sign program and landscape improvements.

The construction, which Gross said is scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2015, will add approximately 35,000 square feet of retail, commercial and office space in the area.

“We’re keeping our restaurants and merchants open throughout construction,” Gross said. “We’re maintaining parking in a close proximity to the services they are providing spaces for. Because of that, what you’re going to see is a series of hop scotching projects throughout the construction.”

The approval allows construction to begin on a plan which has been in place for more than a decade. Sources have quoted the project costing anywhere from $150 to $180 million.

“We’re not fighting the revitalization plan,” said James Lenthall, vice-president of the Dana Point Boaters Association. “We’re not trying to be obstructionists and trying to make it not happen. What we’re trying to do is continue to do our best to protect boater resources, to make boaters’ voices heard, to make sure that we’re not compromising the boaters’ enjoyments and using the harbor in favor of shops and restaurants.”

Lenthall said the association’s primary concern is that the county hasn’t released an official finance plan for how they plan to pay for the entirety of the revitalization process. He said the Harbor Department has somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million in reserve to pay for the revitalization. Lenthall is concerned that the 3,000 recreational boaters in the harbor may have to pay a disproportionate share recovering the expense for what he called “a predominately commercial revitalization.”

“I’ve always said I was for the landside improvements, with a couple of caveats,” said Norman Denton, who was the lone commissioner to reject the plan. “One is that I’m not a fan of the dry boat storage because, as we heard somebody from the boating organizations, it fundamentally changes your relationship to your boat from a trailer to something in the dry boat storage.”
Boaters, business owners and residents were split regarding their stance on building height, boater parking, traffic congestion, and other items during the public hearing process. Jim Miller, owner of Dana Point’s Coffee Importers and a representative of Dana Point Harbor NOW! said he believed the submitted CDP met all the requirements for the revitalization.

“I’ve been to every single meeting ever held in this harbor since 1997, and I estimate that’s over 150 meetings,” Miller said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would take over 16 years to get to this point tonight….it’s time to begin with your yes vote tonight.”

The next phase in the revitalization process includes the dry boat storage facility and waterside renovations, which will go to the California Coastal Commission for approval. Waterside improvements include tearing down the harbor’s 2,500 boat slips and replacing them.

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