Does the Wet Suit You

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The Pearl 2.0

By JJ Gaspaarotti

Last week’s column asserted the Planning Commission doesn’t possess the intellectual acumen or intestinal fortitude to deal with challenges presented to Laguna by the futures’ looming tsunami of investment money.

Look at their Nov. 7 meeting—the one where they delivered a chorus of kneejerk no’s to the concept of enlarging the defunct Holiday Inn and providing hundreds of off-street parking spaces in a basement. They were correct in their primal fears of the potential impact on the neighbors from increased hotel operations.

But they lacked the basic tools for defining the impact on the neighbors, unable to even manage mass and scale. Zoning allows about 80 rooms on the site. Each room is defined as a door that locks with a key. Each keyed door could have three bedrooms, a living room and several baths behind it, totaling 320 rooms people sleep in. Still, it’s only an 80-room hotel with parking for that many rooms.

Parking for the hotel’s employees, stores, restaurants, and meeting rooms resulted in more vague answers. If the facilities are for the primary use of the guests, the hotel qualifies for parking credits. Oh, okay then, for every wedding the hotel books, the wedding party must rent one room plus the banquet facilities. Now you’ve got 300 wedding guests with parking provided for one room.

At the end of the same agenda was a routine proposal for updating the Surf and Sand. It even included some $80,000 in public art funds that some commissioners were besides themselves drooling over.

Then a lady got up and complained that she was never ever able to park in front of her house because the entire neighborhood was full of parked Surf and Sand employees. All the time. It has been going on since the 1989 remodel of the hotel, where the hotel’s parking study stated all the employees would be valet parked on site. Do they tip? This study’s assertion that there would be no parking impact on the neighbors, because they would all park on site, provided a basis for granting the hotel’s expansion and Conditional Use Permit.

Commissioners did not want to face the fact that the hotel seems to be in violation of that CUP, ruining life for the neighbors for decades. Staff handled the issue really well by providing some needed backbone to help the commissioners face the facts. One commissioner wanted to brush the whole thing off with a statement to the effect that the whole town, near the highway, has this issue of employee parking, and it is unsolvable. Finally, they did impose a condition that the hotel do “something” about the parking problem before final inspection.

How about the Surf and Sand starts valet parking all their employees on site as indicated in their parking study, which was part of their approval package, until such time as they obtain permission from the city to no longer do so? Isn’t a deal a deal? This Planning Commission doesn’t seem like a team ready for the big leagues.

 

J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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