CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 2/11/2022
George Weiss: George Weiss: My thanks to all those who were appointed, re-appointed or volunteered to serve on City Committees. Service on a committee is truly a labor of love that improves the quality of life for all residents.
The Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative (BI) is coming up for review by City Council this Tuesday, February 15th. The Council will decide whether to approve the Ballot Initiative and if approved, it's provisions are written into law. The Council can also decide to allow the Ballot Initiative to be voted on either in November, 2022 or at a special election held sometime prior to the fall election. Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Dana Point passed similar measures.
See link to this meeting so you can watch and participate:
Read the Staff Report:
The goal of the Ballot Initiative is to allow residents to vote on major development and other projects that would affect the quality of life in our town. Rather than tear down buildings to build something bigger, let's recycle and reuse them. The devil is always in the details and while the Ballot Initiative covers a lot of ground it also allows for flexibility in application of the provisions so there is room for City officials to create exceptions when the project is deemed to be beneficial to the town.
There has been considerable uninformed criticism of the Ballot Initiative with people saying it will stop all change, development and investment in our town.
That is not true.
Here's an example of a project that one Planning Commissioner likened to stuffing 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5 pound sack. Let's look at this project as an example:
Laundromat Adjacent To
Laguna Coffee Company
The planning commission recently heard a proposal for a development project. This proposal is for the former laundromat (now closed) adjacent to Laguna Coffee on Coast Hwy. The developer wants to add a 2nd story of 5 apts to the building, envisioning a small grocery store as the ground floor tenant. Address is 1040 S Coast Hwy.
The biggest issue is parking. Even with the developer pulling out every obscure magic trick they still come up 2 spaces short. (He's proposing to convert the existing 6 spaces into 10 tandem spaces). Will that really work for apartment renters? It means two cars share the same longer parking space. The LRF BI mandates 4 per 1000 sq ft for retail (such as the proposed grocery store) and 1.5 spaces per studio/1 bedroom apt and 2 spaces for each 2 bedroom apt. According to this math, this project would require at least 20.5 spaces (assuming 3 1-bedroom apts. and 2 2-bedroom apartments).
LRF sees this project tripping a trigger for parking (as well it should). The developer states they have additional parking spaces within 600' from the location, but the BI requires the spots to be within 250' (600' is unreasonably far for any apartment dweller and certainly for a grocery store customer to park). If nearer by spots cannot be identified, then the project would likely look for new credits or exemptions to be granted, as the BI allows under "L10 Credits".
Assuming that it can be shown that there is no impact to parking or noise in adjoining neighborhoods, the PC could choose to grant new exemptions or credits to the project, potentially allowing it to avoid bringing it to a vote. Failing that, this project would indeed require removal from the BI's "Beautiful Laguna Beach Overlay Zone" via a vote in order to move forward.
George: My take is that developers must mitigate the impacts their projects create on our neighborhoods and our town. While I support the project in concept. I would ask that it be scaled back so that adequate parking is provided for the apartment residents and those patronizing the food store. The neighborhood should not be providing the parking. Also residents behind will have view impacts which may need to be addressed.
Full disclosure: I was a co-founder of Laguna Residents First and worked on this Ballot Initiative until I resigned my office prior to running for election in 2020. I fully support this Ballot Initiative.
Correction For Previous
City Council Recap
George: I made a mistake in the rental numbers below. These are meant to be for purchase value of the site rather that rental cost. Sorry about that. See correct numbers in RED.
Corrected Amendment Approved For Coastal Commission:
Revisions To Downtown Specific Plan Passes 3-2
George Weiss: The California Coastal Commission approved Laguna’s revised Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) which incorporated the Commission’s 22 recommended modifications. The City Council adopted the modifications and voted to approve the revised DSP. It now goes back to Coastal for final approval.
I voted against the revised DSP for two main reasons. First, it provides a financial incentive to convert retail stores (which SELL on average for $236 or more per square foot) into restaurants and bars (which SELL on average for $729 per square foot). Rent for restaurants is 2-3 times that of a retail store. If you were a landlord, wouldn’t you want to get more rental income for your property? Plan on many more bars, restaurants, and DUIs – and far fewer resident-serving businesses. Incidentally, a majority of the Downtown buildings are owned by out-of-town landlords.
While any retail-to-bar/restaurant conversion still needs to go through the Planning Commission’s version of the Design Review Board process for commercial buildings, no additional parking is required above retail’s existing three spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space. Bars and restaurants typically require far more parking spaces than simple retail stores, so you can plan on an ever-greater scarcity of parking.
The DSP also raises allowable building heights, so second and third stories can be built in certain areas of Downtown. While I support encouraging the construction of new housing units for local workers, seniors and lower income residents, the revised Downtown Specific Plan does extraordinarily little to promote the building of two- and three-story units that would qualify as affordable – especially at today’s construction costs. Again, if you are a landlord, wouldn’t you build housing units that grossed maximum dollars in rent? The changes to the DSP won’t result in any affordable housing, just high-priced apartments.
We also lose $400,000 per year in parking meter revenue. With an added 26 spaces being used for outdoor dining, we have lost 72 parking spaces. Even though IBI says we have enough parking, Marc Weiner, Director of Community Development, has said that the City must replace the promenade parking to secure permanent approval by the Coastal Commission.
See the Staff Report at: