The Laguna Beach Planning Commission will review a temporary use permit on Wednesday that would allow Las Brisas to maintain shaded outdoor seating in its parking lot.
Cliff Drive residents have complained that the cliffside restaurant blocked their views in July by erecting a 40-by-80 foot white tent on its parking lot off North Coast Highway. A COVID-19 relief program approved by the City Council allows restaurants to temporarily place tables and chairs outside, however, the initiative did not outline rules for tents or umbrellas.
This summer, city officials informed Las Brisas that a temporary use permit was required for the tent. The original tent was removed and a shorter tent, which is 12-feet high at its tallest points, was installed in its place.
But the change hasn’t satisfied neighbors.
The 280 Cliff Drive Association, a homeowners association of six condominiums, wrote an email outlining their grievances to city staffers,
“While we have been supportive of the temporary use of the tent, it has already been harmful both financially and from a quality of life perspective,” wrote Jim Caras, an association spokesperson. “We feel we have done our part, and now any further permitting and use of the tent is unfair to us and unacceptable.”
Caras added that tenants have asked their landlords for rent reductions after losing ocean views and two owners are trying to sell their condominiums but have lost prospective buyers because of the view obstruction.
“We have all paid premium real estate prices for these views, we continue to pay the higher property taxes that those are based on,” he wrote.
To assuage neighbors’ concerns city staffers have proposed three alternatives. The first option would replace some of the tented area with umbrellas. A second option would rotate the tent by 90 degrees to restore a partial ocean view. The third option would replace the tent with one that has a transparent canopy.
In other business, the Planning Commission will consider tweaks to city law on Wednesday intended to streamline the regulation of wildfire fuel modification zones
If approved, the changes related to fuel modification zones could have a consequential impact on public safety by offering a streamlined path for homeowners looking to remove dry vegetation from their property.
The Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee (EDPC) has worked with the Laguna Beach Fire Department to develop these proposed changes.
New construction and major remodels in Laguna Beach’s Fuel Modification areas require a fuel modification program, which essentially trims back landscaping to create a defensible space for firefighters. The proposed amendment extends this requirement to properties in CalFire’s Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone, which includes more than 90% of Laguna Beach homes. The EDPC has recommended the City Council waive all fees for review of projects consisting solely of new or modified fuel modification program.
The proposed changes to a city law that would allow property owners to trim vegetation in environmentally sensitive habitat areas are opposed by members of the environmental protection community who say it’s a vital natural resource for threatened plants and animals.
At its Oct. 21 meeting, the Planning Commission decided to bifurcate the new rules for wildfire fuel modification from proposals that would loosen regulation on home remodels.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.