With neighbors still upset about what they see as a restaurant morphing into a nightclub, the City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to test a five-month overnight “quiet zone” in the neighborhood surrounding Mozambique restaurant on Coast Highway at Agate Street.
“It won’t be a quiet zone,” predicted nearby neighbor Barbara Self. “Even with a parking program, I don’t believe a full concert venue should be accommodated. The Mozambique large-scale nighttime entertainment has and will forever change the lives of our quiet residential neighborhood.”
During the trial period from April 1 to Sept. 6, parking will be restricted on streets neighboring the restaurant to residents only from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The restrictions are intended to abate late-night noise from lounge patrons returning to their vehicles parked in residential areas near the restaurant. Two curbside signs per block will post the restrictions. Vehicles parked on nearby portions of Glenneyre, Catalina, Agate, Flora, Pearl and Center streets during those hours must display residents-only shopper parking permits or city-issued hang-tag guest passes.
Each “legal residential unit” will receive two transferable guest passes regardless if they have purchased a city shopper parking permit, according to the staff report. Replacement hang-tags will cost $40 each. Neighborhood residents will also receive 10 one-day visitor passes; additional passes will be available upon request. The trial program will cost the city $16,800 with a subsequent annual price tag of $12,500 if the program is permanently implemented.
The steakhouse featuring signature South African fare provides late-night live music three nights a week, with popular groups drawing capacity weekend crowds. Music patrons who noisily return to their cars after hours have been a constant source of friction and council chambers have been crowded with sleep-disrupted residents
“This doesn’t say that people who own shopper parking permits are quiet at two in the morning,” commented resident Herb Rabe at Tuesday’s council meeting. “This is not control. This lets anybody park there with a parking permit.”
Nearby resident Dan McKenzie, who lives on Glenneyre at “ground-zero of the supposed problem,” opposed the template, saying parking is not a problem on his street even on July 4. “This starts to transition us into a commercial district, which is not where we live,” he said. “This should be Mozambique’s problem; it shouldn’t be my problem.” McKinsey suggested that the restaurant expand its parking lot options and “sacrifice a little bit of their bottom line” instead of potentially impacting his property value.
According to councilwoman Jane Egly, Mozambique has morphed from a fine-dining restaurant into a nightclub, and discounted the quiet zone plan as the answer. Egly claimed the conflict is a result of the City Council failing to enforce the limiting conditions on the establishment’s operating permit, as recommended by the city’s planning commission.
“This is a concession the neighborhood is making to support a local business and it certainly is not an endorsement,” said Mallory McCamant, who said if the program is not a success by September, neighbors will again ask the city to enforce the planning commission’s restrictions and conditions on the restaurant.
“I guess I’m afraid this program will either be a success or will fail,” quipped the other dissenting councilmember, Verna Rollinger, who opposes the restaurant as a rock-and-roll music venue.
A new concern voiced by McKinsey was that the neighborhood parking restrictions and accompanying signs could set a precedent and creep to other streets in town. “I can just see this popping up all over town,” added Rollinger. “I, for one, would like to take down half the signs in Laguna Beach.”
The cost of the new signs will be covered by Mozambique, reported Mayor Toni Iseman. Additional signs emphasizing that metered parking spaces are free from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. will be added to existing sign posts on Agate Street and Coast Highway to encourage patron parking there.
After months of discussion, heated public hearings and neighborhood meetings, councilmembers Elizabeth Pearson, Kelly Boyd and Iseman supported the trial run. Boyd and Iseman previously met with neighbors to work out the details. Boyd said the effort was in response to neighbors’ requests. “I thought we resolved what we thought were the problems. If it doesn’t work, we’re going to have to take some steps we might not like to take.”
The conflict arose when restaurant owner Ivan Spiers added late-night entertainment in the upstairs Shebeen lounge. The city planning commission denied that activity, stating that it did not comply with the restaurant’s business permit. Spiers appealed the decision to the council on the grounds that the added income was sustaining his business in difficult economic times
City Manager John Pietig announced that another thorn in the trial run came earlier Tuesday in a telephone call from the California Coastal Commission. Pietig was informed that approval of the quiet zone will require a special coastal development permit because it could restrict 24-hour beachgoer access to the ocean.
“City staff doesn’t necessarily agree that a coastal development permit is needed,” Pietig said. The council directed staff to include the permit, which will be voted on at its March 22 meeting. “It is our opinion that issuance of the permit would not be appeal-able to the Coastal Commission,” by disgruntled residents, Pietig added.
Police will issue warnings during the first month for neighborhood parking violations and parking tickets after that. No extra police will be added to patrol the area. Pietig said vehicles will not be towed unless left on the street more than four days without owner response.
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