Laguna Beach approves Red Dragon restaurant parking plan

A conceptual drawing of a view of Red Dragon restaurant as seen from Coast Highway. Courtesy of James Conrad Architect

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.

Share this:


  1. How realistic is a parking plan that requires employees to park 13 miles away in a lot in Irvine, relying on a shuttle to take them back & forth on LCR? Under optimal circumstances the 1-way journey will take about 30minutes. During the summer and weekends, who knows? 1-hr? Never?
    During a time of historic unemployment, how is this restaurant going to find and retain employees willing to go thru this hassle? Let’s face it, PC & CC felt obligated to require an off-site parking mgmnt program, given how residents have been calling them out for egregious & irresponsible parking forgiveness; but to agree to such an unworkable plan is equally irresponsible. I understand that the El Mirador neighborhood agreed to the plan, but was this a hostage situation, where they felt either they agree to this ridiculous plan, or they have to deal with employees parking all over their streets? The responsible thing to do would have been to not approve a CUP for a restaurant with such intensification & hence, such a big requirement for staffing.

  2. I’m willing to give this solution a try because what we have in town now is not working for residents. HOWEVER, I would like to see follow-up and accountability. Are all workers really taking the bus? There should be some kind of oversight to make sure they are following this plan and it’s not just on paper. As Reagan said “Trust, but verify”.

  3. Twenty-five Red Dragon employees are shuttled from Irvine to compensate for a parking deficit after 52 parking spaces rented from a church, that leaves another 6000 city service industry employees to shuttle from Timbuck II. A Complete Streets Policy in conjunction with our state affordable housing mandate of 394 units would eliminate the parking requirement and temptation for parking structures, especially those costly mausoleums proposed previously.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here