Dana Point Lantern District. Photo: Andrea Swayne
Dana Point Lantern District. Photo: Andrea Swayne

By Andrea Swayne

(updated May 6)

Dana Point’s portfolio of shared parking spaces in the Lantern District has grown to 73, with more soon to be announced, city officials said. City Council approved the addition of 14 parking spaces at an April 19 meeting, and 12 more on May 3. With the addition of 30 new on-street spot realized as a result of Del Prado/Pacific Coast Highway street improvements, the total spots added to the district since infrastructure construction was completed, now stands at 103.

In July 2015, the city entered into its first lease agreement with Huff Meridian LLC for the public use of 47 parking spaces in the Meridian building’s parking garage. The April 19 addition came from a lease with Taco Bell commercial center owner H & K Takenaga Enterprises at a rate of $30 per space, per month. Hours for public use will be 5 p.m. to midnight. The May 3 addition happened via a lease with the United States Postal Service for public use of parking spots in the Post Office lot at a rate of $33.33 per space, per month. Public parking will be available until midnight, seven days a week, limited to three-hour stays.

Property owners have been asking for one-year initial terms to assess the impact on their tenants, according to Cindy Nelson, the city’s interim economic development manager, but all have the intention of entering into a five-year renewal period. Parking lots will be maintained by the property owners. Nelson said more agreements are close to being finalized.

Ursula Luna-Reynosa, community development director, said the target number of spaces needed in the Lantern District is two spaces per 1,000 square feet of occupied commercial space at peak hours. Parking studies commissioned by Dana Point and other cities have shown 1.8 spaces occupied at peak hours in successful areas.

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comments (16)

  • I don’t understand why the City is renting private parking lots and making them public. There is no parking shortage. We have never had to look hard to park when we go town center.

    • The bigger question, Shawn, is why are taxpayers footing the bill for parking that should be paid by businesses? Why does the Council think it’s ok, at any cost for us to be paying for the parking that legitimate businesses should be providing for their own customers. It’s insane. We already pay for the parking at the post office through our federal taxes. Now we’re paying again so that those who go to restaurants in town center have a place to park . Talk about the tail wagging the dog! This is nuts!

    • Long-Time Resident Reply

      Correct, there is no current parking shortage, because the downtown is filled with empty dirt lots that don’t generate parking demand.

      But if Measure H fails, there might be a shortage in the transition to full build-out. As more mixed-use projects get built and generate more parking demand than what they are required to supply, there will still be a lot of unused private parking tied up in un-renovated parcels. The city is probably trying to line up public parking from those owners who have no intention of converting to mixed-use over the next 6 years. At full build-out, chances are there won’t be a parking shortage either, as all or most of the new developments will provide public parking in order to get the less restrictive parking requirements (see Nelson Nygaard parking study).

      If Measure H passes, the cities efforts will have been mostly a waste of money, as there will be no significant new development over the next few years at least, and therefore not much increase in parking demand. An exception would be the Raintree project that has already started.

  • I think it’s ok to pay for public parking using property and sales tax revenue generated in a district, and the town center plan calls for there being public parking. My question is why are we spending taxpayer money fixing a problem that does not yet exist? Seems the city is responding to the politically motivated hysteria that there is a parking problem. That area has never had a parking problem – but it has had a development problem since the first streets were cut back in the 1920’s. We should be encouraging development to once and for all rid the area of wee-strewn vacant lots.

  • “A problem that does not yet exist?” You obviously don’t live in the Lantern District. What happens when all those Raintree apartments are rented and some of the one bedroom units are inevitably occupied by couples who have two cars — more the norm than the exception in CA? Did you notice the public parking spaces you just rented are only available until midnight? Please publish your address so those spouses can park in front of your house. Have you tried to park near the Craft House on a Wednesday night? We did, and had to circle around till we found a spot in the residential area. Won’t be going back. Was noisy as heck anyways.

    It’s bad enough that taxpayers have to rent public parking spots to help private businesses make it, but why did the City drop in lieu fees from $40,000 per spot (actual cost to build a structure, per unit) to $15,000? Do you really think the City will be billing the businesses that benefit for the eventual parking structure that any idiot can see will be necessary? Nope. Taxpayer costs for the Lantern District will keep mounting, and the rest of the city will continue to be underserved. So glad Council is taking care of their Chamber and favored developer buddies. The rest of us just get to foot the bill.

  • I like how all of the Measure H people claim they are for “responsible development”, yet you see stuff like this from them all the time. “Have you tried to park near the Craft House on a Wednesday night? We did, and had to circle around till we found a spot in the residential area. Won’t be going back. Was noisy as heck anyways. ”

    Noisy as heck? The place is awesome, probably already the most vibrant restaurant in Dana Point. I hope there’s 20 more of them coming.

    And this is for a tiny 1 story restaurant, the type of things Measure H “should” be entirely for. Why not just say what you’re really for? You’re anti-development and don’t want more people here.

  • You’re entitled to your opinion Lifelong (come on, fess up – if you give us your real name we’ll see your REAL interest in this subject). I actually talk to my wife so yes, I found it noisy. Measure H loves responsible development like restaurants. We just think private business owners should contribute to their own parking costs. I own an office building and I didn’t ask taxpayers to foot the bill for parking I provide to my tenants. I don’t see how any restaurant, noisy or not, will make it if parking isn’t convenient, and I just think it’s dead wrong of the City to transfer expenses normally borne by investors to public coffers. It’s some kind of reverse socialism. I’m old school enough to think we businesses should pay our own way.

  • Lifelong DP – A restaurant or commercial district with insufficient parking is a burden on nearby neighborhoods. Glad you had enjoyed dining but what about the people who live near there and put up with your parking in front of their house? In your world whether the restaurant provides adequate parking on their own dime is irrelevant. Would you expect us to subsidize their advertising costs, their help or utilities?

    Measure H would require adequate parking to be provided by the developer. The city (taxpayers) has already spent an excessive amount relative to the city’s size and resources to improve the Lantern District. Business interests who think they will now get us to cover their parking costs are mistaken. Note the proportion of Yes on H signs to the opposition signs. Dana Point residents are making it clear how they feel.

  • Mr. Cahill, I agree that parking AT the Craft House is challenging – but there is plenty of parking within the town center – you just need to walk a block – which the town center plan encourages. And I think the Craft House is awesome (but could use some acoustical damping on its interior ceiling). Let’s all work to support the progress and address issues collaboratively and creatively. I think parking at the north end is challenged and that a plan should be devised with (calm?) input from residents and businesses. It would be a shame to throw the baby out with the bath water. Good day sir.

  • I should add to my comments above that I appreciate the vision and commitment that the Crafthouse investors have made. They not only ventured on a restaurant but also gave us a building that is exceptional from a design standpoint. I wish them success. The city should create a self funded downtown parking district that makes it easier for everyone to patronize the businesses we have and also relieve the burden nearby homeowners are dealing with.

  • Thank you for your responses, Shawn and Strands Local. I’m an old guy so I tend to visit restaurants with convenient parking. While lots of folks might not mind walking, we can’t all do that, and it seems to me that common sense would tell businesses that if they don’t have convenient parking, they’re not going to get a lot of customers.

    I support the progress completely (as do all H supporters I’ve spoken to). I think the I’s have been selling a line that H is about empty lots and no progress. That’s hogwash and any thinking person who reads the H literature would know that. We all wish the Lantern District businesses every success. It’s good for the whole city if vacant lots are developed and the City starts to earn back some of the $20 to $30 million investment with sales and property taxes. We just want development that is responsible and reasonable and we object to giving away the store to developers at the expense of homeowners and taxpayers.

    Let’s not make things worse by continuing to throw money at the problem. It’s time for the corporate welfare to stop. Businesses need to buy and develop lots, finance their own individual or a joint parking plan, and make their businesses successful without relying on constantly dipping into the public purse at the encouragement of our Council. Enough already. There are so many other areas of the city that need investment. Let’s not continue to pour everything we have into a few choice blocks.

  • I received my voter pamphlet in the mail. Holy Cow it’s thick. Mr. Cahill, the H section on parking keeps the old parking standards in place without change, the pre-Town Center Plan codes.

    Do you think those old standards helped stifle development in the Town Center for the many decades leading up to this point? Or was it really that Town Center had always been an undesirable investment for some other reason? What do you think has changed to spur development?

  • There are many factors that make a property a good deal for a developer or potential business owner. Things like parking; speed of traffic; ease of access to the business; cost of land; potential markets/customers;access to financing, the nature and demand for the businesses’ goods and services, and many more factors go into a development decision. The assumption that too much parking has stifled development has been faulty from the get go. Look at successful businesses everywhere. If it’s hard to get there and/or hard to park, customers will eventually stop coming. I think a huge mistake was made in not thinking out centralized parking lots from the get go. So much money was spent on palm trees and concrete and developers have been let off the hook in paying for in lieu parking. This plus deep discounts on impact fees leaves the taxpayer holding the bag and people have had enough. Some of those lots are too small for major development and may need to be annexed with adjacent properties to become feasible. The geography of the area is a problem too. It’s a hilly thoroughfare with cars whizzing by. Changing it to two way traffic didn’t really change that. People just whiz by and it’s hard to park. Del Prado has a chance to be a calmer walking area and we all hope that will happen, but with two lanes on PCH, traffic has no need to go to Del Prado. Good businesses will have to attract them there, and customers will want to park nearby. I wouldn’t worry about the area though. God’s not making any more coastal property and eventually every inch will develop. Let’s hope we don’t lose our village atmosphere in the process.

    Many factors go into making a project feasible, including land price (which should adjust to desirability and size of lot), availability of on site or convenient parking, accessibility, attractiveness of area, market demand, demographics of local population, nature of the business and many more. To assume that lowering parking standards to the point where customers have to look for parking in residential areas is necessary to appeal to developers is both simplistic and unwise. Businesses will succeed or fail when all the elements of success are in place. Solutions can be found, but don’t blame parking standards.

    H is a response to a Council that granted variances way beyond what its citizens wanted. In a democracy, the voter has the final say. Let’s see how it plays out. In the end, H and I proponents want the same thing – a successful Town Center — but H proponents are not willing to endanger residential neighborhoods and the very nature of Dana Point to get there. It’s too bad Council vilified any opposing voices and didn’t listen closely and work out a compromise that made sense for Dana Point. Initiatives happen when Councils arrogantly push their will and fail to listen to strong opposition from the people they represent. Recent goings on at Council show they haven’t learned their lesson yet.

  • Robert – You say “Measure H loves responsible development like restaurants.”

    Measure H will effectively kill mixed use development, which in turn will kill all development.

    If there is no residential in downtown (which Measure H will pretty much accomplish), you think we will continue to see new restaurants and retail? Why haven’t we before? The answer is no, because there isn’t anyone downtown! Last Friday evening I was going down PCH and not ONE person was walking around. This kills the vibrancy of the area.

    Jesus even Craft House which has been very successful and had a ton of buzz is slowly starting to fade away with people. Went Friday night and there wasn’t even a wait with a few empty tables. The vibrancy in the area just isn’t there. We can’t continue on that path.

    Strands Local – I live in the Lantern District. Yes I think something will eventually have to be done with the parking (not right now, as there is literally no one downtown so parking is easy). As Shawn said, there is no parking problem currently. There IS however a massive development problem. Personally, I like the idea of parking structures out of the main downtown area. People can walk from there.

    • “Measure H will effectively kill mixed use development, which in turn will kill all development.”
      Your statement is completely unsubstantiated and has no basis in fact. With just as much merit you could say the Measure H will bring witches and extraterrestrials to Del Prado.

      Measure H has not even been approved and you didnt see anyone walking around on Friday night. What does that have to do with anything? Your fears and appraisal about Measure H are not realistic. Measure H just says not over 40 feet, not more than 3 stories, bottom floor commercial uses and parking that doesnt burden the taxpayers with the need to provide it for the developers who want to build here. Sounds fair to me and most of your neighbors judging from the signs around town.

  • Strands Local – What I’m saying is there is currently no vibrancy in the area, and I believe if H passes that will continue. There is no vibrancy because there is no people. I believe there would be many more people walking downtown if there was housing there and I believe Measure I has a better chance of making that happen from a development standpoint. And Measure H isn’t just 40, feet 3 stories, bottom floor commercial. It’s also 1st floor 18 feet floor-to-ceiling on all streets, no rooftop decks, upper levels preferred use is office space along with all of the parking requirements.

    I understand that Measure H feels “fair to you” but this is the real world and developers aren’t just going to come in and build to these guidelines because we want them to if it doesn’t make sense for them.

    Why do you think almost every small business owner downtown supports Measure I? These aren’t greedy big corporate developers. These are the owners of places such as Luxe Restaurant & Coffee Importers. They realize what needs to be done to make this a vibrant pedestrian friendly area.

    Either way, I guess we’ll find out soon enough. It will certainly be an interesting year here in Dana Point.

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