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Gas hikes hit Laguna hard

The city sees some of the highest prices in the county. Location, real estate and its name as a tourist destination are some of the reasons why.

March 22, 2012|By Alisha Gomez, Special to the Coastline Pilot
  • The Chevron station at Legion and Coast Highway shows gas prices at nearly $5.00 a gallon. The city sees some of the highest prices in the county.
The Chevron station at Legion and Coast Highway shows… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Hold on to your steering wheel. Gas price hikes may not be over, especially if Laguna Beach is any indicator.

The city is seeing some of the highest prices in Orange County, with some stations selling gas for as much as $4.69 a gallon, according to orangecountygasprices.com.

"It's probably 30 to 40 cents more expensive [in Laguna], so I try go out of town," said Rosanne Nitti, a real estate agent who lives in Laguna Beach but does business throughout the county.

Nitti, who was driving back to Laguna from Huntington Beach on Tuesday afternoon, said the recent gas hikes have definitely impacted her both personally and in business.

"I try to plan my outings," she said, "especially since I have meetings with clients out of town. I try to plan my shopping around that and plan my routes in advance."

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In Orange County, the average is about $4.35 a gallon, with the current national average at $3.84 a gallon, according to orangecountyprices.com.

It's a bit of a seasonal phenomenon, said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist at Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

"Especially in California, there is a definite seasonal pattern with gas prices," he said.

Factors such as winter gas versus summer gas production, which takes some refineries offline — plus the uncertainty of what is happening in the Middle East and the price of oil — are pushing up prices, Kleinhenz said.

Gas prices typically peak somewhere around Memorial Day, hold steady for the high travel season of summer, and then dip back down when kids go back to school and people return to work after vacations, according to Kleinhenz.

But, he cautioned, prices are not as high as the summer of 2008, when the average price for gas in the Southern California region was $4.61, but they've hit consumers harder because of the recession.

And, he added, gas expenses are a relatively small percentage of total household expenditures in America — a little less than 3% — when compared to other expenses, such as groceries and entertainment.

Businesswise, reactions are mixed. Some merchants are not feeling any effects yet, while others have been immediately impacted.

Rarash "Eric" Alavi of Laguna Florist said his is one of the few businesses already affected by the recent gas hikes. But while gas is costlier for the deliveries he does, he hasn't passed on the increase to customers.

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