Eyebrows are raised and interest usually stings when the words “parking structure” are mentioned in Laguna Beach.
As Laguna looks for ways to manage the crowds of motorists flooding the city, the city council on Tuesday left open the possibility of one or more parking structures being placed in town to capture cars.
In a unanimous vote, the council ordered the city to further investigate four potential sites and discuss with the California Coastal Commission ways to help residents find parking in neighborhoods where cars frequently line. one or both sides of streets.
One topic could be setting time limits in certain high traffic areas so that residents can find parking closer to their homes or apartments without hampering the public’s ability to access beaches or parks, the latter being the one of the objectives of the commission for the cities of the State.
Some residents arrived at the meeting dismayed that the city is considering such projects.
Do you remember 2013?
In November of that year, the council, at the suggestion of then-Mayor Elizabeth Pearson, thwarted a proposed multi-storey structure on the site of the entrance to the village near the intersection of Forest Avenue and of Broadway Street after a wave of community opposition.
The content of Tuesday’s discussion was not so different from the talks four years ago.
Some residents claimed that a parking structure would invite more visitors to the city.
“When I saw [the staff report] on Sunday, I was absolutely horrified at the idea of building facilities to bring more cars and more people to this town,” said Verna Rollinger, a resident and former Laguna city worker. “It’s contrary to everything the locals feel. The pressure of [millions of visitors] we have is already horrible.
Resident John Thomas said the cost burden should be placed on tourists.
“It doesn’t make sense for residents to buy a visitor parking structure,” Thomas said. “It seems that these spaces are mainly for visitors and businesses. If commercial owners want structure, it looks like they should pay for it.
The city has received inquiries from property owners about public-private partnerships and possible parking options when developing their land, City Manager John Pietig told council.
The city examined eight sites, some of which it owns and some of which are private. The Laguna Hotel expressed interest after the staff report was released, Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis told the council.
These sites were: the Act V lot – for underground or surface parking – at 1900 Laguna Canyon Road; the Glenneyre parking structure at 501 Glenneyre Street; the Laguna Art-A-Fair site at 777 Laguna Canyon Road; the development of Heisler’s Landing at 331 to 397 North Coast Highway; Cleo Street on the Holiday Inn site at 696 S. Coast Hwy.; Las Brisas in the 200 block of the North Coast Highway; Cliff Drive; and the lots at 361–363 Third Street, which include properties owned by the Laguna Presbyterian Church.
City staff recommended four sites for further study based on a few factors, including proximity to downtown, potential parking spaces, cost, and opportunities for joint development.
Information on development projects was not included in the city staff report.
The four locations are: 777 Laguna Canyon Road, which would yield an additional 330 spaces, most of any proposed structure; 361 to 363 Third Street, which would provide 53 spaces; 696 S. Coast Hwy., the Cleo structure, which would provide 161 spaces; and 331 to 397 North Coast Highway, which would provide 95 spaces.
The estimated cost for a structure at 777 Laguna Canyon Road is $20 million to $25 million, and $5 million for the Third Street option, according to the report.
Resident Tom Halliday suggested the city consider part of the pavilion site parking lot in North Laguna as a potential area for a structure.
Councilor Bob Whalen recommended that city staff meet with Coast Commission staff to discuss options with Coast Commission staff.
“The statement, ‘Build it and they will come,’ is an easy statement to get out of the language, but they’re already here and we’re not dealing with them,” Whalen said.
“Go to [commissioners] directly and say: “We want to build parking lots around the city in strategic places” and impose restrictions on neighborhood parking.
“Parking structure or no parking structure, we’re going to be criticized,” Mayor Toni Iseman said, suggesting that development projects in inland towns are attracting more people who want to visit Laguna Beach in turn. “I can understand raising your hand and saying no, but I think we’re doing our residents a disservice if we see these things as necessarily for visitors. I think we have to look at these things as for residents.