David Hansen's opinion piece in the July 26, 2013 edition of the Coastline Pilot regarding the Cliff restaurant's application for outdoor music badly misrepresents the relationship between the restaurant and near-by residents who object to the noise.
Mr. Hansen compares Laguna Beach residents who complain about noise from the Cliff to city dwellers who move to the country and complain about cow odors. There's only one thing wrong with this fable: Mr. Hansen has his facts completely wrong.
When my wife and I moved with our two young daughters south of downtown Laguna, there was no outdoor music at the local bars and restaurants. It was a quiet neighborhood where people raised families and got up early to go to work, as they do today. Live music on the South Coast Highway was confined to a handful of bars and restaurants, and none of it was outdoors.
The effort to remake the Coast Highway south of Broadway into Bourbon Street by the Beach is new. And it is affecting family neighborhoods south of downtown in very negative ways.
There is a better way to understand the conflict between bar and restaurant owners on the South Coast Highway than Mr. Hansen's good guy/bad guy fable. Instead, there is a balance of interests between residents and businesses, and it has swung out of balance for the past several years, to the detriment of residents. Sophisticated business owners — and city officials — will recognize the wisdom of maintaining an appropriate balance, fearing the restrictions on businesses and their patrons that will be demanded by an energized public. It is in everyone's interest for the Cliff's application regarding outdoor music to be denied.
Pearson was on point in radio interview
I listened to a recent KX 93.5 interview of Councilmember Elizabeth Pearson regarding the Village Entrance project. The interview struck me less as a forum for community enlightenment and more of a platform for the interviewers to express their own opinions in the form of questions. Overall, it had a whiff of a red herring — a logical fallacy that misleads or detracts from an actual issue and that seeks to lead one to a false conclusion.
The red herring in this instance pertained to questions that seemed to be intended to lead a casual listener to conclude that the Village Entrance project has been designed with insufficient community consultation; is focused only on parking; would cost too much and would put the city in financial jeopardy; that it couldn't be designed to withstand earthquakes; that it would excessively expose the community to contaminants; and that it would be damaged in El Nino events. Fortunately, Ms. Pearson effectively countered these impressions. The recent Q & A Village Entrance press release from the city manager definitively addresses these issues.
As a former planning commissioner, Design Review Board member and participant in the 1996 Village Entrance Task Force that defined the still-current vision for the area, I would like to reconfirm Ms. Pearson's points.
After 18 years of public input — including a six-year environmental impact report review — the project has been vetted to the point that it is ready to be moved forward with confidence.
The Village Entrance was always intended to be a "beautification" project (with parking) to reflect that we are aesthetically oriented community. With all the present focus on parking, a neglected but key fact is that without the parking garage, the beautification could not occur. The landscaped promenade along Forest Avenue and Laguna Canyon Road will create an aesthetic ambience commensurate with our international reputation for beautiful landscapes.
The recently-raised notion of reducing landscaping and substituting it with more grade-level parking in order to reduce the size of the parking structure and costs is self-defeating in relation to the long-adopted vision. It is also penny-wise and pound-foolish. Careful attention to proper siting, design detail, quality construction and materials is essential for the vision to be properly realized. I urge the council and community to resist this half-baked idea.
By building the garage and limited surface parking area of 600 spaces, a net increase of some 200 stalls, the community gains many benefits, several of which have not received much attention. Aside from accommodating the inevitable increase of visitors due to intensive nearby growth (thousands of new inland homes), the location of ample parking on the edge of the immediate downtown core can have the effect of reducing congestion there.
Equally important, the additional spaces would allow for the possible removal of asphalt currently occupied by parking for and replacement with more pedestrian-oriented and aesthetic amenities. Without the additional spaces, this could not be done because of Coastal Act restrictions.
Parking at the Village Entrance, combined with future structures in other parts of town, expansion of the trolley and creation park and ride programs from inland areas, are all essential parts of an effective mobility solution to reduce the number one issue for the community — congestion and parking difficulty. All of these strategies need to be implemented in a coordinated, comprehensive manner.
Are there risks of increased costs due to unknowns and natural hazards to be addressed? Of course there are. But the notion seemingly implied by the KX93.5 interviewers that we should not build the Village Entrance because of cost uncertainty and the hazards that face everyone here is undue risk aversion as opposed to prudent risk management. Taking this logic to its ultimate extension, we would not build anything anywhere.
Pearson was also on point regarding the consequences of a referendum. A referendum by nature cannot effectively deal with the nuances of a project of this type. Referendums —particularly in a tight knit community like Laguna — inject unrelated political agendas into the debate, fracture the community, destroy friendships and often produce no useful or different result from the original decision. We've seen this before in Laguna Beach.