I attended a meeting at last week in which the city planner and a consultant presented plans to alter the downtown area.
I have a few problems with the Forest Ave. closure.
- We will lose at least 50 parking spots. I want to support local business, but I am unwilling to park far away and waste a lot of time doing my errands. Since I have a job, I don’t have time to park in some far off lot and wait for the shuttle bus. I bet that a lot of current downtown customers will feel the same way. Also, will the Coastal Commission agree to the loss of parking?
- The consultant said that we would have street fairs and outdoor exhibits to fill the now empty street. We have a downtown specific plan, which tries to achieve a good balance of store types. While the rules may not change, the type of shopper who now supports the art galleries and interior design stores will go elsewhere, and these businesses will close. The downtown area will become one large t-shirt emporium.
- The proposal was to close Forest for two weeks leading up to Labor Day weekend. While I don’t own a business, I’m guessing that this is the most critical time of year for the health of the shops on Forest. This will really hurt them.
- Finally, I’m not sure what problem this proposal solves. We already have an outdoor craft art fair on Main Beach on the weekend. There are quite a few places for people to sit and enjoy the beauty of Laguna. These include park benches all along Forest and on the boardwalk. On many days, the downtown area is already crowded. Do we need to attract more visitors? For locals, we have summer concerts at Bluebird Park and The Ranch. This seems like a plan in search of a problem.
On the issue of the parklets, my personal opinion is that this is an attempt by Alessa and Marine Room to get sidewalk seating without going through a proper review. All of the slides shown by the consultant were of waiters bringing food out to the parklets from the adjacent restaurants. In addition, this seems to be a different issue from a street closure. I think this should be considered separately.
Gene Roos, Laguna Beach