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Pizzeria to Restore Historic Former Bank

Residents craving a Brooklyn-style pizza will soon be able to save their airplane miles and instead head over to Dom DeMarco’s Pizzeria and Bar, which plans a casual and affordable family-style restaurant on Ocean Avenue.

First, though, the owners intend to restore the 68-year-old building to its Spanish Colonial Revival design.

Laguna Beach’s City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved multiple permits for the business, including a historic preservation incentive that reduces the parking requirement by over 70 percent.

Thanks to the parking incentive, the owners need only provide 13 parking spaces, instead of the 44 that would have been required, including one space for every three of the restaurant’s planned 126 seats, as well as two spaces for the second floor residential unit.

Laguna’s municipal code relaxes parking space requirements up to 75 percent based on the degree to which the historic character of the building is preserved or enhanced.

In this case, the owner’s restoration plans include reviving an outdoor patio, along with its decorative fountain and murals, which had been covered over by a 1,149 square foot addition in 1965.

Todd Skenderian, the project’s architect, noted that the original building, constructed in 1945 to house the Laguna Federal Savings and Loan Association, was designed by renowned local architect Aubrey St. Clair who also designed City Hall and the Laguna County Water District building. Plans call for restoring the structure to its 1952 appearance, before the patio was enclosed and before the numerous facade changes were imposed that were insensitive to the building’s original character, Skenderian said.

Sitting on a 5,628 square foot site, the building most recently served as the Sirous & Sons Rug Gallery and Big Dog Sportswear before that. The current structure contains 4,567 square feet of commercial space on the ground level and a 1,761 square foot second-story residence.

Dom DeMarco’s takes its name from Italian immigrant Domenico DeMarco, who opened the still-popular Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn in 1964. The owners of Dom DeMarco’s Pizzeria apparently received permission to use the recipes from Di Fara before opening their first location in Las Vegas in 2011, which currently has 183 reviews on Yelp averaging four stars. The Laguna Beach pizzeria will be their second location.

While the eatery’s touted Brooklyn-style pizzas dominate the menu, sandwiches, salads, appetizers, pasta and a kid’s menu will round it out. They’ll also serve beer and wine, but no liquor.

Council member Toni Iseman thanked Kari Laurent, the owner’s representative, for promising to preserve the historic building. “I can’t wait for the rest of Laguna to see what you are doing,” she said.

Laurent, in turn, described “an amazing experience with the city” in moving the project forward. She said the ownership group has some roots in the city and when the building came available and they saw it’s potential for restoration, they knew “it was a great fit and the perfect size” for their concept. “We look forward to being here,” she added.

The ownership group is Laguna Dana Investments, LLC, based in Santa Barbara, which is in turn owned by the Patrick N. Smith Living Trust, whose trustee is Patrick N. Smith.

The city’s principal planner Monica Tuchscher walked the owners through the project, and it received unanimous approval from both the Heritage Committee and the Planning Commission, whom Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson praised for meticulously working through all of the logistics.

The City Council also separately supported the Planning Commission’s recommendation to remove the three ficus trees in front of the building and replace them with another variety, to be decided at a later date.

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