In response to the May 5 column about wayfinding signs, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce would like to present background on the program.
Wayfinding was part of the city’s economic development plan since 2012, though unimplemented. By 2015, the great retail collapse started and continues with headlines highlighting the demise of brick-and-mortar retailers everywhere. Laguna merchants, like merchants everywhere, were looking for help.
Many of our yearly 6 million visitors congregate downtown during their stay. Getting them to frequent restaurants and shops in other parts of our city is critical for the viability of our local merchants.
At a 2015 City Council hearing, merchants from the Sleepy Hollow district, including a Chamber board member, requested a signage program to encourage the majority of visitors who turn back at Legion and Coast Highway, to continue southward for more shops and restaurants.
The City Council allocated $40,000, a consultant was hired, a steering committee was formed and meetings were held after being posted on the city’s calendar. The $250,000-$750,000 cost quoted is unfounded. The final cost will depend on the number of signs, and be determined by the City Council with public input.
The steering committee, on which the Chamber had a seat, wanted signs designed to get visitors walking to the commercial districts along Coast Highway. We encouraged a minimum number of signs with most on bus stops to consolidate existing signage.
The signs are great for visitors and residents because they:
- get visitors to the commercial areas of our city on foot rather than by car. With larger maps in the parking lots and an integrated trolley map, visitors will feel confident parking their cars in the peripheral lots, knowing they can spend the day visiting the districts on foot or by trolley.
- reduce downtown crowding by highlighting other commercial districts, leaving the downtown more inviting for residents.
- show tourists there is more to Laguna than the beach. Beachgoers bring little revenue, but visitors who frequent shops, restaurants, and museums, pay sales taxes that fund important city services, improving our quality of life.
- help merchants stay in business so residents enjoy a diversity of shopping and restaurants unavailable in similarly sized towns.
The Chamber supports a pilot program to help visitors experience our commercial areas on foot or trolley, merchants to continue to be viable, and residents to enjoy a diversity of shopping and dining.
Ken Fischbeck and Laura Henkels
The authors are president and executive director, respectively, of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce.