Laguna Beach’s City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to move forward with a $35 million multi level parking structure and park for the town’s village entrance, despite concerns raised by dissenting member Toni Iseman about costs.
More than 30 people addressed the special meeting in Council Chambers, which was filled to capacity.
Council members Elizabeth Pearson and Iseman had worked together to develop the concepts.
Iseman expressed concern about the project’s expense and the impact of sewer fumes from a sewer lift station. She proposed a much smaller park area, a 30-foot wide “greenway” along Forest Avenue to Laguna Canyon Road, allowing for 79 surface spaces in addition to a smaller parking structure with 372 spaces, estimated to cost $30 million.
Iseman proposed obtaining 40 more parking spaces in the summer by transforming the tennis courts on the Festival of Arts’ grounds into a parking area during the 10-week summer festival season.
Pearson proposed cost reductions to her original plan, which she estimated at $35.3 million.
While $7 million more than Iseman’s proposal, Pearson said her plan would encompass a larger park and more parking.
Most of the public speakers urged council members to “move forward,” though some agreed with Iseman’s desire to save money to spend on other projects. Few agreed with shrinking the proposed park. Several people suggested increasing parking capacity with a structure in the existing Laguna Canyon parking lot at ACT V instead of downtown.
Representatives of the Festival of Arts, Playhouse and Chamber of Commerce endorsed Pearson’s proposal.
No one expressed support for using tennis courts for parking. Though two people opposed the structure altogether, most supported a multi-level structure since it would not obstruct views and would remain under the city’s height limit.
Council member Steve Dicterow pointed out the value of taking advantage of current low interest rates and construction costs.
Mayor Kelly Boyd said he would like the community to endorse debt financing of the proposal, saying such a large expense should not be decided by the council alone.
Pearson and Council member Robert Whalen will form a sub-committe to tweak the proposal based on comments and map out a financing strategy, returning to the council in May.
Iseman said that she opposed the vote because of the park costs, but that she supported the rest of the motion.