By Clara Beard, Special to the Independent
The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved Red Dragon restaurant’s parking management plan Tuesday, paving the way for the building remodel on track for a September opening.
The parking plan includes two main components, a valet service and an employee vanpool. Valets will park up to 52 parking spaces that will be leased from the Neighborhood Congregational Church at 340. St. Ann’s Drive. Restaurant patrons will drop their cars off at the Cleo Street loading zone.
For the anticipated 25 restaurant employees, Red Dragon plans to use the Orange County Transportation Authority vanpool program. All employees will park their cars at a parking lot in Irvine and will be shuttled into Laguna for their shifts. They will be paid for their time while in transit.
“I think it’s a great solution, very creative, and a model for other future restaurants and hotels that have issues with employee parking, that we have a model that they can look at,” Councilmember Toni Iseman said.
Council approved the initial project back in 2016, but the entity ran into a six-year roadblock after disagreements between Laguna Beach and California Coastal Commission impeded its momentum. The final step was providing a parking management plan to City Council.
When the City Council approved the major remodel to the Red Dragon restaurant in April, featuring 152 seats and a third-story deck, councilmembers asked the entity controlled by local developer Enshan Zhao to return with a parking management plan for the council’s review.
At that time, City Council and area neighbors expressed concern that the employee and patron parking may negatively affect the surrounding El Mirador community, but the majority have since been pleased with the solution set by Red Dragon and City Council.
In other businesses, councilmembers authorized a request for proposals from trash haulers for the first time in 28 years.
The draft agreement and request for proposals were designed around the city’s unique needs and changes in state law. The new franchise agreement would be for eight years, with two optional one-year extensions based on performance measures.
Councilmember George Weiss said the new plan makes sense.
“I think this is a great plan,” Weiss said. “I really liked the things you’ve added to this and it’s very flexible. I like the pricing flexibility and the options that residents would have. I think everybody wants choices. Right now, you could get the biggest bins and pay the same price as somebody with a small bin.”
The Draft Agreement and Request for Proposals will be released on Aug. 22, with proposals due on Oct. 28. The City hopes to award a contract in early 2023, which would go into effect in July 2024, creating a 14-month runway for the chosen hauler.