Letter: Master Plan Needs a Do-Over

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I attended the May 2 Laguna Beach School District Open House, where the district revealed plans for the high school in a Facility Master Plan (FMP) for new tennis courts, administration buildings, aquatic center, two swimming pools, two parking structures, performing arts center, and astroturf for a proposed $88 million and change. Given additional soft costs (legal, EIR, approvals), project estimate costs for all four campuses will be closer to $150 million.

Like most residents attending, I wondered how these campus amenities serve student education – or anyone else during the ten-year construction period Park Avenue will be posted “Demolition Zone.” Although the FMP Project Timeline shows the feasibility study began Sept. 2021 with site walks in Oct. 2022, from the resident complaints, it seems like the site walks didn’t include school neighbors.

Our City Parking Management Subcommittee proposed eighteen parking lots and eleven new parking structures throughout Laguna because they expect to operate them like ATMs. Has the district bought into the action? From the FMP, analyzing (Shoup, UCLA) the parking structures Lot-A and Lot-B lifespan, I estimate a present value of $21 million or $160,000 per space for Lot-A and $171,000 per space for Lot-B. That’s the affordable part. The cost per parking space added is much higher. For a comparison, see LagunaStreets.blogspot.com.

The LBUSD parking structures are not consistent with Laguna’s guidelines. The Vision 2030 Plan states our first priority was “affordable housing” for residents, not “condos for cars.” Our General Plan says “remote parking,” not “parking structures.” Our Climate Protection Action Plan seeks balance among four mobility modes: walking, biking, transit and private vehicles. Our guidelines do not specify parking structures.

Over the last seven years, enrollment has declined 30% at Thurston and 17% at LBHS. Anneliese Schools private tuition starts at $15,000, and LBUSD public about $23,000 per student. Students are taught to pass driving written tests but do not practice driving. In a school curriculum missing vocational training but declining grades in academics, the district project costs for administrative ornaments are unnecessary.

The Facilities Master Plan serves suburban planning for Phoenix. We residents seek planning from Aptos, Calif., not Phoenix, Ariz. Our village community needs a comprehensive vision for the future of Laguna Beach and binding city commitments to achieve it. Our district and city should integrate common infrastructure with city services to meet community guidelines and academics, but this Master Plan needs a do-over.

 Les Miklosy, Laguna Beach

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