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Commission OKs updated city land use element

Representatives from Laguna meet with Coastal Commission, which approves plan that's been in the works for years.

December 08, 2011|By Barbara Diamond

Years of preparations and months of negotiations by the staffs of Laguna Beach and the California Coastal Commission paid off Wednesday when the commission approved the city's updated land use element.

The land use element is the centerpiece of the city's general plan, a blueprint for the physical development of the city. The element is one of the major tools used to determine how the city will look and function in upcoming years, according to city staff.

The update has been in the works for about five years.

"After about an hour of discussion, the commission unanimously approved the land use element with some modifications," said City Manager John Pietig. "The modifications were known and are expected to be accepted by the council."

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Laguna was represented at the meeting by former commission member Councilwoman Toni Iseman, Community Development Director John Montgomery and Pietig.

"I came in late in the process," Pietig said. "Hundreds, if not thousands, of hours have been spent on this project. A lot of credit goes to Norn Grossman and Linda Dietrich, the Planning Commission subcommittee chairs and the city staff."

The City Council must now adopt the certified plan, which includes commission staff modifications, for it to go into effect.

Grossman and Dietrich determined after reviewing commission modifications that most of them strengthen the document and do not conflict with the intent of the element as approved by the council in 2009. Staff concurred.

The version originally submitted by the city to the Coastal Commission staff in September 2010 was the result of 37 workshops and Planning Commission meetings.

City and commission staffs, which have not always had the most amicable relations, worked together on compromises for about three months and the commission staff recommended the approval.

"I am so glad John [Pietig] and our staff took the initiative to resolve issues before the meeting," said Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger.

Among those issues was a clarification of the city's policy to preserve and encourage an increase in affordable motel and hotel rooms; to do this, they amended the municipal code to define low-, moderate- and high-cost overnight accommodations to ensure affordable accommodations and maintain an inventory of the rooms. Where no affordable rooms are included in a project, the commission required the imposition of in-lieu fees.

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