The 6.5-acre property set to increase community, recreational opportunities in South Laguna
City Manager Shohreh Dupuis has announced the City of Laguna Beach closed escrow this Wednesday on the 6.5-acre St. Catherine of Siena school property at 30516 Coast Highway. The City will start programming its use in early 2023.
“The acquisition of St. Catherine’s school is a unique and rare opportunity for our community, given that the City of Laguna Beach is largely built out,” Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said. “I want to thank the Diocese of Orange for working with us over the past two years and allowing this property to remain as a community-serving facility.”
The City negotiated the $23 million purchase of the 6.5-acre property to increase community and recreational opportunities in South Laguna. The property has four buildings that give around 39,500 square feet of indoor space and multiple outdoor spaces, including a gymnasium, basketball courts, recreation field, playground structures and picnic areas. An array of long-term use concepts includes a community pool, cultural arts center, recreation facilities, and other City civic and administrative uses.
“This property will greatly benefit residents as we now have the space to accommodate added programs and services,” Whalen said. “We look forward to hearing ideas from our community on the possible uses for this location. With the acquisition of this property, the time is right for the City to develop a master plan for all City-owned properties, and we will work to create a vision for community-serving facilities that everyone can enjoy.”
In August, the City Council adopted a financing plan that includes appropriating $23.5 million for the purchase of the property, minor tenant improvements, and maintenance in the first year using $4 million from the Future City Facilities account, $2 million from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, $3 million from the General Fund mid-year savings, $2 million from Vehicle Replacement Fund mid-year savings and $1 million Insurance Fund mid-year savings.
Laguna Beach secured a direct loan via a private placement sale for $11.5 million.
In 2021, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County reached Laguna Beach officials to determine if the City was interested in acquiring the former school property. The acquisition took time because the diocese had to get approval from Rome to confirm the sale.
The City Council will discuss immediate, interim uses for the property during its Jan. 24 meeting and a process for master planning for long-term uses at the Jan. 28 annual planning session.