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Experts want multiple traffic panels to communicate

Council subcommittee will be looking for an urban planning expert to help tie elements together.

July 05, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

Laguna's approach to resolving its traffic, parking and circulation woes needs to go in a new direction, according to city officials.

Six separate subcommittees or consultants are working on plans related to making city streets less congested and parking more accessible, but some involved say the lack of communication among them has created a bottleneck.

Studies, updates and plan reviews underway with little or no coordination include the proposal for the Village Entrance, revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan, updates of the Laguna Beach General Plan Mobility Element, and the Scenic Highways and Landscape Resource Document, contracted analyses of the city's transit system, and Laguna Canyon Road improvements.

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Consultants have already reported on how to create the state-mandated Complete Streets in Laguna, and RBF Consulting's recommendations on ways to better manage parking in the Downtown Specific Plan area and along Laguna Canyon Road.

"There is no question that the handling of parking is balkanized," said Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson, who serves on the scenic highways subcommittee. "We need to slow down the process in order to coordinate all the studies."

A council subcommittee was appointed at the April 23 meeting to interview urban planning firms in the search for an expert to synthesize studies centered on the downtown area.

"The city recognized the need for the advice of an expert in urban planning to make sure these efforts are integrated in a logical way," said City Manager John Pietig.

At the very least, the various committees should be talking to one another, said Scott Sebastian, former member of the city Environmental Committee.

"We have spent the last 40 years talking about parking, with little effect," he said.

The RBF consultants attempted to be the most comprehensive, according to Sebastian. But Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman, who serves on the subcommittee reviewing the mobility element, said the study did not benefit the rest of the city.

RBF's objective was to maximize public and private parking downtown and along Laguna Canyon Road.

The plan did not address new parking, most notably the parking structure proposed for the Village Entrance. The structure would be funded in part by parking permits and fees at city-owned parking lots and meters, which would be increased.

"The council made the decision to increase meter fees without considering the demand-price option in Downtown Parking Management Plan," Grossman said.

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