The megaproject proposed by an investor group to transform the Coast Inn and Coast Liquor property by dramatically increasing the intensity of use and altering the structures has been a contentious issue for more than a year. The substantial list of major problems with the developer’s project has been thoroughly documented, including: construction that would require extensive structural changes and height variances; only about a dozen parking places for hundreds of daily parking space demands; a huge increase in the facility’s alcohol-serving seats; addition of a rooftop swimming pool and bar; deleterious impacts on the fragile ocean bluff; and enormous negative noise, light, safety, traffic and parking problems for the neighborhood and on Pacific Coast Highway. Throughout the process, the developer has exploited the guise of a “historic restoration” and problematic “grandfathering” requests to endrun a multitude of problems.
After careful analysis, the Planning Commission sensibly rejected the project in a unanimous 5-0 vote. The Planning Commission exposed the project for what it is—a deceptive effort to convert a classic landmark into something that is not a net positive for our city and Laguna’s residents. Sadly, at its Jan. 23 meeting, despite the depth and quality of opposition to the project, the City Council threw the project a lifeline. A meeting was convened by a two-Council member subcommittee on Feb. 12 to allow additional public testimony and to hear from the investor group. Without exception, everyone who spoke at that meeting detailed deep problems with the proposal. The developer’s team sat quietly, likely assuming they could work city staff in private.
Since then, and behind closed doors, it seems the investor group has offered only minor changes, anticipating that a Council majority will overturn the Planning Commission and ignore the public’s objections.
Citizens should actively monitor this project now, before the proposal slides through. Here are the commitments we should require from our City Council and staff (as well as from candidates for the upcoming election):
The revised proposal must:
- Be subject to a new, full EIR.
- Meet all city regulations applying to (at least) a major remodel.
- Not receive grandfathering of parking requirements.
- Be analyzed by the Coastal Commission.
- Be circulated to the public well before the Council hearing.
Given the problems, scale and major impacts of this project, anything less would be negligent.
James Danziger, Laguna Beach