A dedicated trolley lane downtown and smaller, open-air shuttles were suggested as transit alternatives during a Planning Commission workshop about updating Laguna Beach’s Downtown Specific Plan, an area bounded by Legion Street to the south and Cliff Drive to the north.
About 30 locals attended to weigh in on the three topics up for discussion: parking, circulation and public transit; municipal services; and hazard planning. Not surprisingly, the first topic generated the most interest and a few salient points of at least partial consensus rose to the surface.
Most agreed that improving the pedestrian experience was important enough to sacrifice parking spaces and to slow the speed of traffic.
No one disputed Visitor’s Bureau chair Karyn Philippsen’s description of the city’s free open-air trolleys as an “integral” and “valuable” part of experiencing the town. A designated trolley lane, perhaps on Broadway Street, might speed up trolley service and improve circulation overall, suggested Peggy Trott, general manager of the Inn at Laguna Beach, whose idea earned nods of approval.
Any solution to improve mobility must begin with a plan that integrates all types of transit, whether by foot, bikes, trolleys or cars, resident Les Miklosy insisted.
Others suggested some parking spaces could be traded for wider sidewalks, trolley lanes or bike lanes.
Multi-modal transportation should be ranked higher than discussions about adding parking, said resident and Design Review Board member Michael Wilkes. “We don’t have a system for moving pedestrians through our city seamlessly,” he said, pointing out numerous sidewalk impediments that require attention. “The last thing you want to do is spend $55 million on parking spaces only used part of the year,” he said, referring to the price tag for a proposed parking structure and park known as the village entrance.
While favoring replacing surface parking spaces that are proposed to become parkland at the village entrance, local architect Morris Skenderian didn’t see the need for the structure to increase the number of parking spaces available.
Smaller sized transit options, such as open-air, golf-cart type vehicles that carry eight people might improve mobility, he said, a suggestion that generated enthusiastic responses. That option should be part of the bus system analysis the city expects to begin, said Planning Commission member Norm Grossman.
This was the latest in a series of workshops to solicit feedback from residents and business owners on various aspects of the Downtown Specific Plan since the City Council called for an overhaul last year. As the Planning Commission defines objectives and drafts amendments they will hold more focus group workshops by topic. Anyone wishing to be added to the notification list should contact Principal Planner Carolyn Martin, who is spearheading the project, at (949) 497-0398 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Finalized in 1989, the 133-page Downtown Specific Plan, available on the city’s web site, serves as an overarching growth and development guideline to “preserve and enhance the unique character of the downtown.”
Martin expects an amended plan will be ready for the adoption next spring.