Laguna Beach scrambles to keep parklets, create loading zone amid uproar over closed newsstand

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World Newsstand at 190 S. Coast Hwy. closed its doors Friday after about 40 years due to parking changes. Courtesy of Heidi Miller

Laguna Beach city staffers are examining parking solutions that would create a temporary commercial loading zone on or near Ocean Avenue and South Coast Highway, following public uproar over the closure of World Newsstand after several parklets were installed.

However, city staffers are standing their ground despite calls to remove parklets that were installed in street parking spaces to help restaurants offer outdoor dining during the pandemic.

“We are addressing the loading zone parking needs so parklets can stay in place,” City Manager Shohreh Dupuis said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

Public Works Director Mark McAvoy told the Laguna Beach City Council on Tuesday that he’s assessing a possible re-striping of a white passenger loading zone in front of Wild Taco on South Coast Highway. He’s also looking at using two 10-minute parking spaces across the street from the Newsstand to create a commercial loading zone.

During the pandemic, restaurants were allowed to apply for temporary use permits to build parklets. The permits are set to expire in December. Laguna Beach reserves the right to revoke these permits and can decide to remove parklets, Community Development Director Marc Weiner said Tuesday.

“I do think we need to expedite whatever we’re going to do on the loading zone,” Mayor Bob Whalen said Tuesday.

Heidi Miller, owner of the World Newsstand, said Monday that the closure would be permanent unless city officials remove the parklet in front of the Newsstand. Since the parklet’s installation, her drive-up traffic for magazines and newspapers largely disappeared.

“All of my local residents, that’s what they used to pull in and pull out,” Miller said. “It’s serving only one use but it’s taking away a use from dozens of other businesses.”

The loading zone was previously used by box trucks dropping off orders at restaurants, UPS and FedEx couriers, and drivers for food delivery services. Now truck drivers park in the middle of the street or circle the block to find a parking space.

Additionally, the city built a parklet in front of a new restaurant still under construction at the former home of Ocean and Main, 222 Ocean Ave. Miller said removing a parking spot to provide extra seating to a closed restaurant doesn’t make sense.

“I’m probably in favor of removing the parklet in front of Ocean and Main [restaurant],” Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf said Monday.

Councilmember Peter Blake said he doubts that repurposing parking spaces for outdoor dining would drive a retailer like the Newsstand out of business.

“I can’t help but think that a retailer in 2021, who is so compromised that a parking space, two, four, five or ten [spaces] is going to make a difference between them staying open or not,” he said. “I just can’t imagine [that].”

He added that city leaders should consider the negative impacts on recovering restaurants and bars, including the Marine Room and Wild Taco.

“How can someone talk about a magazine stand when we’re talking about restaurants? How many people does a restaurant employ? How many residents and tourists do they serve?” Blake questioned.

Miller fired back Wednesday at Blake’s comments during the council meeting.

“What does he know about running a Newsstand? It’s a complicated business but fun! It’s not only the parking spots lost, but most importantly, losing the yellow zone,” Miller wrote in a text message.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I was a HUGE fan of outside seating and parklets…..until they multiplied like a virus and took over downtown( yes, hyperbole…)!!!!!
    Seriously….just WHO is planning all this and WHERE it should be built? Implement til all of lower Ocean loses parking? For a CLOSED restaurant? Did the city dig too deep and purchase too many corrals and now they feel they must put them everywhere? And our city gave no advance as to where and how many were to be built….no bueno.

    And lots of empty outside dinning tables but no room for buskers??????? A big ‘BOO!’ to the powers that hold the reins and purse strings.

    I sense the city council does NOT have the pulse of a local…..

  2. Free Heidi
    I go downtown in the morning around 9:00 am.
    Excepting in front of Moulin where perhaps 6 people sit in the cattle pens, The Promenade is basically empty until I return to lower Victoria @ around 10:30.
    As a 50 year resident, and enviro-analyst, I can attest to the value of Forest being multi-functional: Parking, pass through AND an egress avenue. You could turn right onto Glenneyre and go back South.
    Locals like myself availed ourselves of the parking, AND it had a traffic circulation advantage: We didn’t end up in the cue at the terminus of Glenneyre.
    We parked on Forest, hit local businesses BEFORE the day trippers arrived around noon.
    Yesterday, Wednesday the 29th I saw a redux of what’s now all too familiar: Commuter cars backed up Glenneyre past Park/Laguna Avenue.
    Traffic circulation HAS been significantly impacted, diminished without mitigation. That’s in violation of CEQA, maybe Village Laguna should litigate that instead of Heritage buildings?
    The loss of 40-odd spaces telling, not to mention the additional pollution from vehicles in gridlock. A Cal Coastal Act violation, public parking==Public access.
    Laguna ALREADY had sense of community, and turning up Forest off PCH gave us that Small Town USA feeling.
    Now the City has listened to carpetbaggers wishing to exploit, rebrand Laguna in their image. This is outright identity theft in full view.
    The Promenade is just that: Where these self-anointed thought leaders would like to parade around and look at each other, SEE & BE SEEN, note their mutual importance, primp and preen waiting for $50/per person meals.
    Billy Fried wrote an entire name-dropping column doing just that “Hey, look at me, I’m important, hey, look, over there, that’s Ms. So & So….and hey, I’m having a drink with Mr. Big,” blah blah blah.
    Downtown is now an amusement park, those way-finding signs are pitiful, make us look like Disneyland—Laguna has become a The Tragic Kingdom.
    Downtown is now a freak show.

  3. “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people, now that you know who you are?” Baby, You’re A Rich Man by The Beatles
    Maybe Hollywood type celebrity-hood is a better metaphor for what these posing, crypto-plutocrats seek? Somehow they believe that community in Laguna can be manufactured, create simulacra rife with facades, including ersatz District’s. Rodeo Drive South?
    Like 100% synthesized music, computer generated, artificial—–almost disco.
    And elitists, they were born to dictate how that’s accomplished, ennobling themselves and supporting each other as entitled aristocrats.
    What’s next, a circus on Main Beach, autograph seekers and maps to where the stars hang?
    This totally shuns what a significant mainstay has always been in our community: Surfing & other ocean sports. Nobody gives a you-know-what on the beach and in the water (or skimming or boogie-boarding) if you’re a pauper or a millionaire.
    Egalitarian, you’re judged by your etiquette and personal style, your abilities, not your pocketbook. A rude, wave-stealing person, a clown on an $800 board, is still a bozo.

  4. Just drove thru downtown(8:34m) on the FIRST Art walk in a LONG time……and ALL tables were empty on lower Ocean. What a ridiculous fiasco.

  5. I’m puzzled that the City’s suggested solution to the harm done to retail and non-restaurant businesses on Ocean Ave is to rent the Laguna Drug Store lot at NIGHT for parking. Is Areo open at night? How about Little Freebirds for kids clothes? The Sunglass Gallery? The Laguna Beach Historical Society? The copy and print shops on Beach? The now-departed news stand? These are all resident-serving (and tourist-visited) shops that have limited parking space. I realize that our Mayor Pro-Tem claimed that there were over 200 parking spaces on Ocean, but it seems she must have counted the parking spaces at the Wells and B of A–which are for bank customers, and in Wells case–those willing to pay extra $$$. Why in the world would the City think they were helping Ocean Ave retail businesses with night-time only parking? Sounds like something for restaurants versus daytime business patrons.

  6. I echo Theodore’s statement “I sense the city council does NOT have the pulse of a local…” Our tourist driven council and city managers haven’t had a pulse on what locals desire or need for well over a decade. Laguna’s leadership got hijacked in 2018 by PAC LL with their pro-development/pro-tourism candidates Blake and Kempf and we may be getting a good look at what payback looks like. Our downtown is hardly recognizable and we have become a cheap looking tourist trap city. Sadly, our council has convinced each other and some public that this is all good for our city. Locals know better, thus the pushback. Expect more. And by all means don’t cast a vote for these leaders who refuse to listen to their constituents and have chosen special interests group agendas over yours.

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