It was exciting to watch our city decide March 27 to make our first downtown public plaza a permanent reality. After fans of the Park Plaza experiment this fall showed up in force at city hall, the City Council voted unanimously to reinstitute the block-long stretch near Main Beach into a car-free gathering spot—as part of their larger developing plan to improve the flow of downtown traffic and pedestrians.
I loved how longtime residents and groups from Laguna Beach—Billy Fried, Bill Hoffman, Chris Prelitz, Ruben Flores, the Beautification Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Transition Laguna, and others, from varied personal and professional backgrounds, teamed up to promote this public gathering space in the heart of downtown.
It was equally heartening to see our city officials, especially the city manager, assistant city manager and police chief, recognize the potential of this plaza, embrace the idea and navigate the many bureaucratic hurdles.
Unlike the proponents of other local projects for profit, such as expanding hotels, restaurants and shops, these Park Plaza advocates were after nothing more than helping Laguna Beach retain its prized identity as a forward-thinking community with a village atmosphere.
Also, as someone who used that treacherous shortcut on Park Plaza for more than 20 years to return to our Top of the World home, I’m happy to spend an extra minute or two getting through town to enable the new pedestrian plaza. (And, since pedestrians regularly stepped into the crosswalk against the light there, I believe we will all be safer when it’s blocked off for good.)
Let’s hope the City Council continues to sustain the momentum of this collective effort. A few councilmembers even offered ideas to explore similar pedestrian plazas in other parts of downtown. (To many residents, lower Forest Avenue is the no brainer.)
The greater point of this little Park Plaza victory, I believe, is that we still have the ability, despite our differences, to turn a creative vision into a source of community enjoyment and pride.
Laguna Beach, you still got soul!