Hospitality workers and environmental advocates held a small protest Wednesday near the waterline at Surf & Sand Resort to attract the public’s attention to construction underway or proposed at a group of Laguna Beach beachfront hotels.
About a dozen protestors chanted “protect our coast” on the sand as resort guests lounged in beach chairs and an employee set up an umbrella. Although Wednesday’s event was held at Surf & Sand, advocates with the Southern California hospitality workers union UNITE HERE Local 11 also raised the alarm about a major remodel at the Pacific Edge Hotel and another stop-work order issued to Hotel Laguna.
“The beaches are for everyone, they don’t get to own the beach,” said Jaime Gomez, a Costa Mesa resident and employee of Balboa Bay Club.
Gomez grew up in Orange County visiting local beaches to play volleyball and hang out. But the rising cost of beachfront hotel rooms has priced out blue collars workers like him.
The California Coastal Act is supposed to guarantee all Californians access to the beach. As a condition of getting approval for construction projects, hotel operators often agree to pay fees to Laguna Beach and other beach cities to fund coastal amenities, such as hiking trails.
A 2012 survey found the most affordable room at Pacific Edge cost $75 per night, said Jonah Breslau, who helped coordinate Wednesday’s protest and works as a research analyst with Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. An overnight stay now costs at least $150 before fees and taxes. This price is anticipated to go up after the completion of the planned remodel, Breslau said.
Steve Leonard, a resident of the Sleepy Hollow Lane neighborhood, was glad to hear the hospitality workers union is taking the lead to do something about the growing operation at Pacific Edge.
“My neighbors on Sleepy Hollow Lane and I are frustrated with the traffic problems that have been created by the Pacific Edge Hotel,” Leonard said. “They use the public street for their valet parking. I’ve been blocked in by delivery trucks for up to 10 minutes.”
Leonard encourages Laguna Beach city councilmembers to reexamine the hotel’s impacts before approving additional improvements to the property.
“I think they should look carefully at how Pacific Edge has been operated so far and how those problems won’t continue with more rooms,” he said.
Following Wednesday’s rally on the beach, the participating hospitality workers hiked up Mountain Road to knock on doors, talk to residents about upcoming hotel development, and ask for contact information. The union has pledged to continue similar actions in the coming months, Breslau said.