Having a Say on Laguna Beach’s Downtown

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Those interested in re-imagining Laguna Beach’s downtown stop by an outdoor workshop on Ocean Avenue. Photo by Jennifer Erickson
Those interested in re-imagining Laguna Beach’s downtown stop by an outdoor workshop on Ocean Avenue. Photo by Jennifer Erickson

Have you ever really considered what kind of walkway you prefer to tread? Or how high buildings should be? Or what might replace parking lots in the downtown?

Residents had the chance to share their responses to these and other questions during a three-hour “pop-up workshop” organized by city staff and urban planning consultants last Saturday.

A portion of Ocean Avenue was closed to allow residents to peruse interactive displays, including mini parks with seating areas, intersection treatments and poster boards asking participants to provide feedback on ideas to improve livability and mobility downtown.

Not everyone shared the same priorities, but most people appreciated having their voices heard, whether literally by talking to planners on hand or by placing red stickers next to preferred poster-board scenarios or by filling out comment cards.

Judging by the red stickers placed next to poster board images of different types of

A mini park-like space suggests how a parking space could be remade.
A mini park-like space suggests how a parking space could be remade.

alleys and walkways, Laguna’s shop and bench-lined Peppertree Lane proved very popular, as did an umbrella art alley in Thailand and a cafe alley in Portofino, Italy.

Red dots on another board indicated that a majority of participants preferred pedestrian strolling areas and cafe squares to smaller parklets that allowed for traffic.

“It is a great beginning for transparency,” said local Audrey Prosser, who believes maintaining surface level parking downtown for residents is more important than creating pedestrian thoroughfares.

Others noted the “feeling of safety” as they roamed the car-free street and scanned exhibits, and they seemed willing to swap parking to continue the privilege.

Temporary markings on the street to indicate bike lanes in place of metered spaces met with mixed reviews, with some enthusiastic about safer passage for cyclists and others placing greater value on parking spots. Still others weighed in with red stickers on their preference for building styles and heights.

“This is a great opportunity for people to get together to talk and meet,” said local resident Leah Vasquez. “I think it’s exactly what the downtown needs.”

“Something clicked downtown. This is exciting,” said Les Miklosy, former chair of the city’s disbanded Complete Streets task force and longtime advocate for improved mobility around town.

The City Council selected San-Diego-based MIG to help city planners shape the guidelines for future development downtown (by updating the downtown specific plan) and along Laguna Canyon Road. Saturday’s event was one of a number of creative initiatives proposed by MIG to elicit feedback from residents on how they would like to see their city evolve.

“It’s very well done, and I appreciate the opportunity to give input,” said resident Sherry Loofbayrrow.

A poster board at the entry to an Ocean Avenue parking lot asked, “What do you wish was here in this parking lot in downtown Laguna?” The hand-written responses included calls for a park with a fountain, a seating area, green space, an outdoor patio, and a Spanish-style courtyard, among numerous other pedestrian-friendly suggestions. But some respondents predicted that removing parking would starve the area of people. One person noted that existing seating in the Broadway Street food court is underused and another said that enticing courtyards could end up serving as encampments for the homeless.

Organizers estimate the event drew about 400 to 500 participants and 122 filled out comment cards, said planner Wendy Jung.

Residents who missed the workshop and want to learn more or share their opinion with planners should look for the “plan trolley” parked at events like Sawdust’s upcoming Winter Fantasy and Hospitality Night. They can also contact Jung or visit the city’s web page.

 

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