On June 7, voters in the communities of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and coastal Laguna Niguel will have the chance to band together into one beachside municipality and become Orange County's 28th city.
An incorporation proposal, known as Measure B, calls for combining the three communities into one 6-square-mile coastal city of about 25,000 residents. If it passes, the city of Dana Point will be born, following the lead of neighboring Mission Viejo, which became a city March 31.
The cityhood measure has attracted 23 residents from all three communities to run for a new City Council. If voters approve incorporation, the top five vote-getters would become the first City Council and take office when Dana Point officially becomes a city Jan. 1, 1989.
The issue of cityhood, which has stirred controversy for more than two years, has sprouted two citizens' organizations, one on each side of the issue: Unpaid (United People Against Incorporating Dana Point) and the Dana Point Citizens for Incorporation.
Fred Jenner, spokesman for the pro-cityhood group, said the question voters ask most is: Will each of the three communities retain its identity?
Jenner's answer: "Yes. Officially, all the city letterheads will say Dana Point, but the ZIP codes and names of the areas will all remain the same," he said, explaining that they will always retain their neighborhood identities.
But the anti-cityhood group disagrees.
"It has been put together in a shotgun wedding by LAFCO. They are politicians who live 25 or 30 miles away. . . . This (proposed city) is just stuck together with a paste pot," said Jim Davy of Unpaid.
Originally, Dana Point and Capistrano Beach residents approached the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission with separate cityhood proposals in late 1986.
However, by April, 1987, the commission determined that Capistrano Beach was not financially viable on its own and added it to the Dana Point proposal.
Then in May, 1987, when the cityhood proponents thought they were going to get the nod from the commission for an April, 1988, incorporation election, some residents in the coastal area of Laguna Niguel proclaimed that they did not want to be a part of a Laguna Niguel cityhood proposal that also was before LAFCO.
The commission called for an advisory election so the 3,444 registered voters within the 1.5-mile coastal strip could decide whether to incorporate with Dana Point or Laguna Niguel. In the Nov. 3 election, 61% of the voters wanted to be included in Dana Point's incorporation proposal.
After the election, there were several heated commission meetings, at which hundreds of inland Laguna Niguel residents protested the panel's decision to apply the advisory election results and give to Dana Point the coastal strip, which includes the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and represents about $2.5 million in annual revenue to the city.
The inland Laguna Niguel residents kept saying that developers have long promoted Laguna Niguel as "Sea Country," referring to the community stretching from the San Diego Freeway to the coast, between Laguna Beach and Dana Point.
The Laguna Niguel Incorporation Task Force filed a lawsuit against LAFCO, charging it with violating the California Government Code, which requires the commission to consider how an incorporation will affect the areas adjacent to the proposed city.
The task force also filed a lawsuit asking the courts to declare the results of the June 7 election illegal, should voters approve cityhood for Dana Point.
The proposed city's boundaries would stretch from the Pacific Ocean east to the border of San Juan Capistrano and Camino del Avion in Laguna Niguel, north to Laguna Beach and south to San Clemente.
The new City Council would have until July 1, 1989, to organize the city--choosing a city manager and other city personnel.
For those six months of transition, the county still would provide municipal services to the area, including police and fire protection, traffic and animal control, planning and land-use regulation, and street maintenance.
Dana Point intends to be a contract city, meaning it will contract with other agencies for most municipal services. The city would have a projected surplus of $3 million, based on financial feasibility studies.
Cityhood proponents contend that Measure B is the voters' last chance to form a small city because local agency formation commissioners recently discussed the idea of making larger cities out of the vast unincorporated land remaining in the south county.
Tom Crump, of the pro-city group, said that if Dana Point doesn't incorporate, the three communities risk being annexed by the surrounding cities of San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano or Laguna Beach, or included in a larger city that would include inland Laguna Niguel.
Crump said the neighboring cities have been annexing small sections of Capistrano Beach over the past two decades.