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Dana Point resort approved as model of sustainability for future development

More than a year after getting sent back to the drawing board, a plan to replace the oceanview Cannons restaurant in Dana Point with a resort four times bigger has reemerged as a model for future coastal lodgings.

From a block of affordable rooms to reimbursements for workers using mass transit, from landscaping with native plants to microfiber filters on washing machines, the proposal unanimously approved by the state Coastal Commission on Wednesday, Feb. 10, extensively addresses issues of sustainability, public access, waste management and environmental justice.

“Is this the utopia we all want?” Commissioner Mike Wilson asked rhetorically. “Not quite, but it’s moving in that direction.”

The Coastal Commission’s biggest concern after the city approved the original proposal in 2018 was an absence of “low cost” rooms, a growing concern of the state agency as people with modest incomes have been getting priced out of coastal rentals.

A 2016 study found that the coast had lost 24,720 so-called “economy” hotel and motel rooms since 1989, more than twice the number of rooms lost in all higher cost categories.

After the commission put the brakes on the city-approved plan for Cannons in September 2019, the owners revamped their proposal and returned this year with a plan that would designate 25 of the 100 planned rooms as “low cost.” The price was set at $130 a night in today’s dollars and will be monitored to ensure that the rate doesn’t increase faster than inflation.

Developers also agreed to a host of sustainability measures as they prepare to tear down the nearly 50-year-old Cannons, which is perched at 34344 Street of the Green Lantern and overlooks Dana Point Harbor.

“It’s basically worn out as a restaurant,” Sherman Stacey, a representative for the owner, told the commission. The landmark eatery closed in November 2019.

Spreading out over both the current restaurant site and its parking lot, the resort will include a hotel, restaurant, case, spa and subterranean parking.

In endorsing a host of sustainability and public access issues, the commission and landowner agreed not only with recommendations from commission staff but also several from the Surfrider Foundation and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.

To serve the general public not staying at the resort, the project includes an oceanview trail intended to help eventually link the Dana Point Headlands to Doheny State Beach, as well as a public viewing area with tables and chairs, and six public spaces in the parking structure. Additionally, a third story of rooms was relocated to avoid blocking ocean views from the street.

For employees, there will be carpool incentives, emergency transportation for those who don’t bring their own cars, and full reimbursement for those who take public transit to work.

Water conservation measures include storm capture and drought-resistant plants, including native plants on the ocean side of the complex.

In terms of clean energy, there will be hookups for solar panels — although no requirement for panels themselves — and eight electric vehicle charging stations with wiring for more as demand rises.

And the requirement for microfiber filters for any on-site washing of linens leapfrogs similar efforts in Sacramento, so far unsuccessful, to introduce a pilot microfiber filter program for state-run facilities.

“It looks like we can go beyond what the Legislature does,” said Commissioner Linda Escalante, adding that the Cannons owners were helping to “lead us into the future in a sustainable way.”

Source: Orange County Register

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