By Michele Hall
I feel it is time to weigh in on what has become quite a heated issue: the village entrance project. Back in
the 1990’s when I was working as the executive director of United Laguna, the idea of a village entrance began to evolve. And as we are all aware, the project has been on the “drawing board” ever since. The project has evolved into an issue that many residents, myself included, are very concerned about. Costs, environmental impacts, supposed benefits, traffic and parking are just some of the issues being discussed.
This whole situation reminds me of a few years back when a good friend of mine was engaged and planning to be married. She booked the RItz Carlton and began planning a very elaborate wedding. Friends threw engagement parties. There were numerous engagement and bridal showers. The wedding gifts began streaming in.
And as the whole process grew and grew, she began to doubt that her fiancee was the right man for her. She called me one day and expressed her concerns, it was three days before the wedding. She didn’t want to call the wedding off because so many people had put so much time and effort in to helping her, not to mention the money spent on the parties, gifts, wedding dress and venue. My advice to her was to stop the wedding and do what was right for her long term. Just because she was so far along in the process, didn’t make getting married the right thing to do. The next day, she called the wedding off and has never regretted her decision since.
The village entrance project seems to have a similar energy. Should we really approve it simply because we are so far along in the process? A bad idea is always a bad idea, no matter how much time and effort has been spent on it.
Laguna Beach is intended to be a forward thinking City. We have amazing people representing us and countless volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to improving our town. Laguna needs more than simply a parking structure; we should embrace a multi-level plan that looks at the downtown as a whole. We could easily turn to other cities such as Pasadena and Santa Barbara that have transformed their downtowns into areas that support local businesses, are pedestrian friendly and have improved parking and traffic circulation.
There are many ideas and examples for us to explore so lets work together to move Laguna Beach into 21st century thinking. Let’s go back to the drawing board and consider ideas such as turning Forest Ave into a pedestrian promenade, utilizing the ACT V parking lot year round and parking structure lifts to double our parking spaces (for more information regarding parking lifts please log on to automotionparking.com and unitronics.com).
Every once in awhile an issue will present itself to the town in which organizations who normally don’t agree find themselves on common ground. This is one of the issues.
Let’s re-assess and re-evaluate the project. The camera lens needs to open wider and look at the whole downtown as something that has much opportunity to improve on at so many different levels other than just building a parking structure and the village entrance. As it stands, the village entrance project does not solve the city’s longterm problems, is an archaic idea and costs way too much. It’s not too late “to call the wedding off.” And we need to, before we make a decision we are going to regret for a very long time.
Michele Hall is president of Laguna Beach Republicans