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Editorial:

Village Entrance should move forward

May 02, 2008

The City Council voted April 15 not to move forward with the long-planned and dreamed-of Village Entrance parking and park project for at least a year, after being told that a large parking structure wasn’t needed in downtown Laguna Beach.

The study purported to show that additional parking was only needed during the two-month festival period and that Laguna Beach can’t support the cost of such a facility the rest of the year.

We question the results of the study.

The report the council relied upon doesn’t say when the study was conducted, so we asked city officials for the dates. According to Community Development Director John Montgomery, the study was conducted on three days in late 2007: November 15 and 29, and December 1.

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That such a momentous decision was made based on three days’ worth of parking data is stunning.

Not to mention the fact that these dates, around Thanksgiving, tend to be slow times in Laguna Beach and can pretty much guarantee a showing of lessened parking demand, which is exactly what they showed.

The report concludes: “After reviewing our parking occupancy and inventory data, it does not appear that a parking structure will be financially viable during the non-festival months. The city may still decide that a parking structure is necessary because of the significant demand generated by the summer arts festivals, but there does not appear to be sufficient demand to financially support it during the remainder of the year.”

The study goes on to present the per-space cost of parking at that location — $140,000 — and that “sticker shock” dealt a death blow to the project. But the report clearly states that the “main factor that contributes to such a high cost figure is the elimination of 167 surface parking spaces in order to construct the linear park.”

In other words, the consultant took the overall number of parking spaces in the latest proposal for a multi-level parking structure, 605, and subtracted the 393 “surface” spaces that the parking structure would replace to arrive at a “net gain” cost of nearly $30 million to build 212 spaces. This is fancy figuring. The actual per-space cost is $48,915, according to figures in the report.

We think the Council did a disservice to the residents, the festivals and the business community by failing to look beyond the numbers. The city desperately needs parking relief, and folks want a beautiful entry to Laguna Beach. The City Council should make it happen.


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