Updated January 2023,

The City of Dana Point is seeking input on a proposal to construct a 349-unit apartment complex at the site of the Capistrano Unified School District’s bus yard, as an environmental impact report (EIR) for the project was published on Jan. 20.

The 45-day public-review period began on Jan. 20 and will end on March. 6. Those interested in submitting comment letters should email Principal Planner Belinda Deines at bdeines@danapoint.org or via mail at City of Dana Point Planning Division, 33282 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, CA, 92629.

A representative of the Toll Brothers will also be the featured speaker at the next Dana Point Civic Association Coffee Chat on Feb. 10 at 8:30 a.m., where the representative will discuss the Victoria Apartments project.

The Planning Commission will host a Community Workshop on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Dana Point Community Center gym to discuss the proposed project.

The publication of the EIR, which assesses the project’s impact on traffic, noise and air quality, among other things, commences the 45-day, public-comment period.

The EIR’s examination of environmental factors is broken down into 13 categories: land use and relevant planning; aesthetics, light and glare; tribal and cultural resources; geology and soils; hydrology and water quality; hazards and hazardous materials; transportation; air quality; greenhouse gas emissions; energy; noise; population and housing; and public services, recreation and utilities.

The apartment complex plans, presented during a public workshop on Nov. 23, propose 349 units—36 studios, 181 one-bedroom apartments, 115 two-bedroom units, and 17 three-bedroom spaces. Monthly rent is anticipated to start at $3,315 for studios and go up to $5,377 for three-bedroom apartments.

Of the 349 units, 15%, or 53 units, would be identified as affordable housing. Five percent of the total units would be set aside for very-low-income earners, 5% for low-income earners, and 5% for moderate-income earners.

The maximum height of the apartment complex would be five stories, with some portions of the building featuring three-, four- and five-story stacks.

The proposed architectural style is “coastal contemporary” with “clean lines, natural materials, contrasting accents and uncluttered massing,” according to the environmental impact report. The color palette would use natural colors that “complement the sea, sky and earth forms that are prevalent on the California Coast.”

The complex, the EIR states, would also use “natural materials such as wood, woven fiber and stone” to highlight key walkways and entrances.

The complex would have a maximum building height of 50 feet along Victoria Boulevard and 65 feet along Sepulveda Avenue, though rooftop projections can extend an additional 10 feet.

The EIR concluded that the proposed project posed less than significant impacts on aesthetics, light and glare, air and water quality and drainage pattern, pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities, greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, noise, recreation and population and housing.

According to the EIR, the project poses no impact to historical resources, as the site is not eligible under the National Register of Historic Places or California Historical Landmarks List criteria.

From its development in 1929 to the mid-1960s, the project site, 26126 Victoria Boulevard, was the site of the Serra Elementary School. From the mid-1960s to 1971, CUSD administration used the land as its headquarters. By 1976, the Serra School playground was removed and paved, and the site was used as the school district’s bus yard.

Over the past few decades, the site was used for vehicle storage, refueling and maintenance. CUSD later identified the bus yard as a surplus site and requested proposals to initiate a ground lease.

By January 2019, CUSD and Toll Brothers entered an agreement, allowing the housing developer to begin an entitlements process for its proposed Victoria Boulevard Apartments.

Toll Brothers, a housing construction company, has the green light to study the environmental impacts of a proposed apartment complex on Victoria Boulevard in Capistrano Beach, at its own expense. But city officials are emphasizing there is still a long road ahead for the development.

Toll Brothers Apartment Living will be hosting a public workshop to discuss the proposed Victoria Boulevard Apartments project on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 @ 6 PM Dana Hills High School – Porthole Theater, 33333 Golden Lantern, Dana Point

Toll Brothers will provide a presentation to showcase the new apartment community proposed at the Capistrano Unified School District Bus Yard, 26126 Victoria Boulevard, in Doheny Village. This workshop is an opportunity for the public to learn about the project, share opinions, and discuss next steps.

Toll Brothers applied for Dana Point City Council approval to pursue an environmental impact report (EIR) in July, but the request was voted down. At the time, councilmembers expressed concern with the need for public outreach and inconsistencies with the city’s General Plan. While the same issues resurfaced at the Tuesday, Feb. 2 council meeting, the action items narrowly passed.

“It’s important to note that the approval of this initiation request does not predispose the city council to favor the proposed amendments,” said Belinda Deines, a city senior planner. “The initiation allows for further analysis of the proposed amendment to be conducted. The planning commission and the city council will have full discretion to review and vote on the proposed project at noticed public hearings.”

The proposed project would be built on the bus yard property owned by Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD). In 2017, the CUSD Board of Trustees moved forward with plans to lease the 5.51 acres of property. Since then, CUSD has worked toward obtaining the required permits needed to remove containerized hazardous material from the bus site and has entered into an agreement with Toll Brothers Apartment Living to develop the site for apartments.

Major differences in the second proposal include fewer units, height reduction, the addition of affordable housing and open space.

Unit count decreased from 401 to 365, with 15% affordable units proposed and with 1.1 acres dedicated to recreation and open space. Based on current zoning rules, there would be a maximum allowance for 224 units, including a percentage of affordable housing.

Building height would be limited to 50 feet along Victoria Boulevard, and 65 feet beyond, along La Playa Avenue, along the off-ramp from Interstate 5. The additional 10 feet for rooftop equipment and 10 feet for recreational amenities drew concerns during public comments. But city officials emphasized that approval of the action items was not an approval of the project.

“We are talking about an EIR … and we get to hire our own consultant,” City Councilmember Michael Villar said. “We’ve got to keep our eyes on the ball that’s in front of us right now. The data that I need to make a decision (on the project) is going to come from the EIR.”

Michael Baker International, the consultant currently finalizing the EIR for the Doheny Village plan, would handle the study. The proposed project lies within District 5 of Dana Point, the portion of the city in which Villar represents.

“We are not approving the project itself. The issue that is in front of us is the EIR, itself … I’m in no way saying I approve the project as written,” Villar said. “My focus is on the EIR to move forward, so I can get the data to make a decision.”

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Muller, however, emphasized how vocal local residents have been as far as development, in explaining his dismay with staff recommendations.

“We need to figure out what our community wants down there, what the right zoning is,” Muller said. “These are conversations that should have happened already with the community … opening up this EIR is letting the horse out of the barn.”

According to Deines’s staff report, the applicant had conducted outreach through the Doheny Village Working Group, as well as in-person and virtual one-on-one and small-group discussions with adjacent neighbors, property owners and interested parties. However, Jim Schad, a Doheny Village resident and member of the Doheny Village Merchants’ Association, challenged that notion during public comments.

“Last Thursday, we heard from the applicant at the tail-end of a Zoom meeting. It lasted about five minutes … no drawings, no discussion of density,” Schad said. “Their main focus was on a stepped back or tiered concept for the design. While I appreciate their thinking of different approaches, I was dismayed when I saw the agenda report.”

Schad stated that in 2018, CUSD pursued high-density residential projects without consulting the city or the Merchants’ Group, which “violates the theme of the Working Group.”

“It doesn’t fit into the Doheny Village zoning update and the public outreach (council) asked for has been minimal at best,” Schad said.

CUSD’s Role in Revitalization

For several years, CUSD has pursued the sale or lease of vacant properties owned by the district in an effort to upgrade and enhance its school facilities. However, city officials have made note of CUSD’s lack of participation with other stakeholders in Doheny Village as efforts are underway to update its plan.

“The Doheny Village rezone effort has taken some time, and it was clearly something the city and residents wanted to ensure they got right,” said Michael McCann, regional director for Toll Brothers Apartment Living. “Perhaps the school district felt that in accelerating the timeline, they could help the rezone, and generate enthusiasm.”

According to the school district, the bus yard lease agreement with Toll Brothers will provide millions of dollars in direct funding for school projects, with the first priority of expenditures going to Dana Point school improvements.

“For example, Dana Hills High School (which is one of the district’s oldest schools) would benefit greatly from such lease proceeds,” said Ryan Burris, CUSD’s chief communications officer, in an email. “It is our expectation that Toll Bros., Inc., like any developer, would work directly with the City to identify development projects that fit within the scope and vision of residents, business owners, and elected leaders. We are grateful for the vote by the City Council that allows Toll Bros., Inc. to move forward with an EIR.”

Council Grants Approval 

In a 3-2 vote, city council approved the recommended action to adopt a resolution to initiate a General Plan Amendment and Specific Plan District for the Victoria Boulevard Apartments and to authorize for the city to execute an agreement on an environmental impact report, costing up to $207,000, which will be billed to Toll Brothers. Councilmembers Villar, Mike Frost and Jamey Federico approved the action, items while Muller and Richard Viczorek voted against it.

If you have any questions regarding the workshop please email victoriablvd@tollbrothers.com.