What is the purpose of the village entrance project?
I attended last Tuesday’s council meeting about the village entrance project and was surprised that, ignoring what most speakers asked, the council approved moving ahead with this $50M project without having a vote by the whole town.
They have accomplished this by utilizing municipal financing, which only requires the council’s approval instead of a general bond which requires the voters’ approval. They say the resulting increases in parking fees and sales taxes won’t impact the residents all that much and are worth it because the benefits of the “improvements” will offset any negative impact from these fee increases. You would think that if they were confidant in their project they would get buy-in from Laguna’s citizens by letting the voters approve the project and its cost.
Afterwards I pondered what the purpose of this extraordinarily expensive project is. Is it to attract more tourists to town? I never heard anyone say they are not coming to Laguna because the entrance isn’t pretty. Have you? I’ve heard that the traffic and the lack of affordable parking in the summer keeps people away, but not the entrance. So, this project does address the parking problem by adding a net increase of 200 parking spots in a garage, which is a like drop in the bucket. But it also increases parking fees by 25 percent, making the affordability problem worse. I am sure that these spots will be used during the 10 weeks the Pageant runs and maybe the whole summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But, I think the parking structure will be relatively empty the remaining nine months of the year.
The design also includes a park costing several million dollars to hide the garage and to provide a walkway through the park to the Sawdust Festival and the canyon. At the council meeting, the rationale for the park was that people might picnic there as they do at Heisler. I can’t imagine anyone other than our homeless population having a picnic on Canyon road with all the noise and traffic – particularly with all of the other lovely parks with ocean views available.
So, I can’t comprehend the purpose of this project. If it’s to provide additional parking, I’m sure we could do that for less than a quarter of a million dollars per space. If it’s to clean up the entrance (which I do think should be done) I am sure it could be done for less than $50M and without indebting the city for 25 years. As we did with the greenbelt and Montage, this project should be brought up for a vote. If the majority wants to proceed, then let’s proceed, but at least we should have a say given the magnitude and cost of this project.
If you agree why not contact Councilpersons Pearson, Dicterow and Whalen and share your opinions. Councilpersons Iseman and Boyd dissented, as they wanted the project voted on by the general public.
Now, if the council wanted to do a real worthwhile project, they could underground the wires on Laguna Canyon road, take down the poles and add a second outbound lane. That would certainly make the entrance more attractive.
John Selecky, Laguna Beach