Laguna Beach OKs permit to lease 52 parking spaces near Treasure Island Park

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Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated the council’s action on July 12. The Independent regrets the error.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted 3-2 to approve a temporary use permit that clears a path for the City to lease 52 public parking spaces on Coast Highway from Laguna Terrace to Montage Resort Drive on Tuesday.

The lot had previously been leased over five years ago by Montage Laguna Beach for employee parking, which was moved to the resort’s property and Ruby’s parking lot, General Manager Mary Rogers said.

“We’re looking right now… it would probably be between two to four weeks to get that in operation,” Laguna Beach Capital Program Manager Tom Perez told councilmembers.

A spokesperson for the property owner, Hometown America Communities, later clarified that this construction timeline would take effect upon execution of a lease agreement, adding the deal’s terms remain under negotiation.

The project is tentatively scheduled to return to the City Council on Aug. 16 for additional discussion pending a finalized lease agreement with Hometown.

If both parties sign, the parking spaces will be available daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with paid parking enforcement from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. City officials had initially planned to close the lot by midnight but trimmed the hours at Hometown’s request.

“I think we should give it a try and see how it works. If there are problems we can take further action down the road either to modify it or terminate it,” Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen said.

Councilmembers Toni Iseman and George Weiss dissented in moving forward with leasing the lot.

Initial rates will be $2.75 per hour during the summer and $2.50 per hour off-season. The lot is expected to annually generate $225,000 for the city coffers, City Manager Shohreh Dupuis said.

The City Council has earmarked $70,000 to improve vehicle ingress and egress, add a payment machine, paint new road striping, and remove non-native shrubs to improve motorist sight lines. Three on-street parking spaces will be temporarily removed to help drivers see oncoming cars as they attempt to exit the lot onto Coast Highway. There will also be five bike parking stalls.

Iseman recalled recently driving southbound on Coast Highway and trying to make a left into the Gelson’s shopping center amid heavy traffic. The existing traffic pattern creates a potential problem for motorists on Coast Highway because they can’t get through while someone attempts a left turn into the center, she said.

“We have to do something there. At our last council meeting we were happy to hear that we are going… to be adding a new [parking services officer] but I think we need to have someone there directing traffic at least on the weekends because it is dangerous,” Iseman said.

City staff will monitor traffic conditions around the temporary parking lot and evaluate if more resources are needed, Dupuis said.

Laguna Beach resident Jennifer McCoy was among the Laguna Terrace homeowners who opposed opening the lot to public parking, arguing they already have challenges getting into their neighborhood.

“If you have 50 people parking, plus motorcycles and bikes, I don’t even know if we could get into our neighborhood, which is concerning,” she said.

The noise from more revving engines and yelling visitors will also have a detrimental impact on Laguna Terrace residents, McCoy said.

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