Planners Consider Changes to Beach Bluff Development

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An update of city guidelines for downtown development will now consider policy changes to the central ocean bluffs south of Hotel Laguna.
An update of city guidelines for downtown development will now consider policy changes to the central ocean bluffs south of Hotel Laguna, left.

City staff will present public recommendations for land use on the downtown ocean-front bluff that includes Hotel Laguna at a Planning Commission meeting Wednesday, Dec. 13.

With the exception of a public pocket park and the Wyland Gallery, the Central Bluffs District under discussion, between Main Beach and Legion Street, is owned by the Porterville-based Merritt farm family, property records show. The outcome of the land use discussion could impact the Merritt’s historic crown jewel, already buffeted by uncertainty due to a legal battle between the hotel’s longtime operator and a new leasing group.

While the hotel anchors the Central Bluff’s northern end, Laguna Village, a cluster of open-air shops, a wedding venue and the Cliff restaurant, holds down its southern end.

“Many of the issues and policies in the existing specific plan are no longer applicable,” said Development Director Greg Pfost in an Oct. 19 notice to property owners in the area urging public input at the upcoming Downtown Specific Plan hearing.

As of Wednesday, Dec. 6, Pfost said he had received four letters with suggestions, including one from a representative of the local investor group granted a 99-year lease for Hotel Laguna. Its principals are filmmaker Greg MacGillivray and developers Joe Hanauer and Walkie Ray.

Pfost said he had yet to analyze the proposals and compare them with current land use regulations. That comparison will be available in a staff report, he said.

The city notice says the Specific Plan meetings, which began in 2014 with the assistance of urban planners MIG, will help establish policies to evaluate future development and reflect the community’s values. Future meetings are planned to review other sections of the plan, says a statement from Pfost this week.

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