Envisioning a ‘Streetcar Named Desire’

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In 1948 play “Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams received the Pulitzer Prize for drama. In 1951, the American film debut was selected for historical preservation.  Laguna Beach now has the opportunity to own its first streetcar with a thoughtful approach given to creating a transit-oriented, walkable and bicycle friendly community.

Ample design space and a convenient route exists from the Sawdust Festival along the frontage road, with stops at Art-A-Fair and across from the Festival of Arts on its way directly into downtown along Ocean Avenue, with its final stop at Coast Highway.  This single tracked streetcar would service direct travel back and forth.  Pedestrians and bicyclists could transverse the same route safely.  It would be slow moving, primarily standing room for the short trip with limited seating and yes, ADA compliant.  This would help to create a vibrant Ocean Avenue and add an element to the success balancing downtown. We could designate this route as a new trolley route, until streetcar funding becomes available. Parking would be replaced with the Cliff Avenue and Las Brisas underground parking concept design proposed (on Monday, July 20) by MIG.

Portland, Ore., opened their first streetcar in 2001. A federal transportation bill assisted with the design and the first modern manufacturing plant in Oregon unveiled a prototype streetcar in 2012.  Federal and state funding and lottery backed bonds covered most of the cost. Portland approved expanding streetcar lines in 2009. Lighter modern trackways require only 12 inches of excavation.

A Streetcar Named Desire has potential in Laguna Beach to move people from the Civic Arts District, through the village and into downtown and should be implemented into long-term planning. Let’s ride with pride, Laguna Beach!

MIG also suggested creating a storm channel down Ocean Avenue. The drought has us all discussing water cisterns, reservoirs and water storage, so lets use the historic digester for reclaimed storm water storage. Our city can seek federal and state funding for these improvements.

The city plans to demolish some of the City Hall parking lot to repair the existing sewer lines. This would be the time to replace asphalt with a permeable surface as part of the new village entrance design. Thoughtful discussion about our future long term planning of this lot should precede sewer line construction.

If we are to underground utility lines citywide, consider the 1950’s streetcar concept and the historic digester as a water storage facility.  These are just a few thoughtful concepts that could assist to serve the long-term goals for our Downtown Specific Plan.


Lorene Auger, Laguna Beach

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