A New Village Entrance Proposal
This column proposes a new Village Entrance opposite the Festival of the Arts site. This proposal may be controversial to some, but its benefits far outweigh any possible downside.
First, build a 300-400 car parking structure with one end anchored by the Digester, which would become a stairwell. Set the structure against the side of the Digester hill, and mask its front and sides with extensive landscaping cascading down the sides of the structure. This has been done hundreds of times in other areas and always draws accolades.
Finance the structure with municipal tax-free bonds paid for by a new tax on tickets to the Festival of Arts and other arts venues. Plus, add the usual parking fee. For tour buses, charge an in-lieu tax. The financial numbers easily work. That is not an issue.
Secondly, replace the existing (and cramped) parking lot with four things:
-An expanded library addition. No, I am not suggesting the existing downtown library be torn down or replaced, as too many people enjoy it as is. Instead, the expansion would allow an enriched environment for all visitors.
-Next to and (really) a part of it, create a space roughly like the space next to the new Newport Beach Civic Center lecture hall and events center (and please, don’t throw rocks because Newport, as despised as it is, did it). This space could and would be used for highly popular lecture series, public and private events, and even entertainment.
-This leaves a next-door ground plot large enough for a 20,000 square foot gallery expansion space for the Laguna Arts Museum, which needs it and can be funded through philanthropic donations to the museum. The existing museum facility on PCH (which has zero parking) would continue as museum headquarters and be used for smaller shows and events. The museum has an active support base, and plenty of rich folks would donate.
-Create a worldwide design competition for an entrance “statement” and give it an adequate budget (also paid for by the ticket tax revenue stream. Again, the economics are solid). The best method for selecting the winner is through appointing two committees: a) the first composed of three internationally acclaimed experts who would make the final choice, and b) another committee composed of all City stakeholders who would voice their opinions in an open forum. Note the final decision would be up to the experts. A committee of concerned citizens never creates great art as it dilutes the result down to the lowest common denominator – mediocrity.
The additional parking would support all the uses contemplated herein and add enough parking to satisfy the Coastal Commission to make up for parking lost to a permanent Promenade and outdoor dining.
The objections to this, as usual, would come from those who hate any change in Laguna and believe adding parking is akin to inviting yet more tourists to clog all streets further. This is a false argument. The tourists are coming whether we like it or not (last weekend, the whole city was overwhelmed with tourists clamoring to escape the inland heat). They can be charged to park at the new facility, where the city’s existing trolley system can pick them up and distribute them to beaches along the coast (and help alleviate the hated on-street tourist parking in South Laguna).
There you have it. Remember, the numbers work. All uses would greatly benefit this city.
Michael co-founded Orange County School of the Arts, The Discovery Cube, Sage Hill School, Art Spaces Irvine and several other area nonprofit organizations. He is a business partner with Sanderson-J. Ray Development and has lived in Laguna Beach since the early 1980s.