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Joint city meeting addresses hot-button issues

March 16, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

Talk of aesthetics within Laguna Beach composed a bulk of Saturday morning's joint public meeting of the City Council, Planning Commission and Design Review Board inside the Susi Q Community Center.

The 2 1/2-hour meeting was split into two portions, with council members staying for both segments.

Community Development Director John Montgomery presented projects underway and possible future topics the City Council and/or Planning Commission would consider in the coming months during the first portion of the joint meeting.

Questions surfaced on the future makeup of the Laguna Canyon Road corridor, and how certain projects factor into potential planning — including a possible amendment to the Downtown Specific Plan and the Village Entrance.

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On April 3 the Planning Commission will resume its series of public workshops on the Downtown Specific Plan, focusing on "village character" and "view preservation." Future workshops this spring will include discussions on housing, parking, circulation and public transit. The California Department of Transportation awarded the city a grant for $180,000, matched by $20,000 in city funds, to hire a professional consultant to help the city implement a complete streets model.

The model is supposed to create less traffic congestion while providing safe mobility for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders, the Caltrans' website said. It also strives to create more walkable communities with greater transportation options for residents.

Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson suggested some of the Downtown Specific Plan elements could be combined with possible alterations within the Laguna Canyon Road corridor.

"We've got to have more parking, more centralized parking," Johnson said.

The goal of the Village Entrance project is to improve the look and feel for visitors approaching the city along Laguna Canyon Road. The area includes the Sawdust Festival and Lumberyard and Forest Avenue parking lots.

Proposed plans call for an urban and linear pedestrian park, and replacing and increasing displaced parking. Councilwomen Elizabeth Pearson and Toni Iseman have formed a subcommittee and directed staff to review suggestions. Pearson, a three-time Laguna Beach mayor, and Iseman will present their findings at a special City Council meeting at 5 p.m. March 26 in Council Chambers.

The Village Entrance is 18 years in the making, Pearson told colleagues.

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