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The Cliff singing a happy tune

Planning commissioners allow the restaurant to play host to bands during certain hours as it monitors decibels.

September 26, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

The music can play on at The Cliff Restaurant.

The Laguna Beach Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved certain types of tunes at specific times and days.

About 30 supporters of The Cliff raised their hands when Steve Kawaratani, a former Design Review Board member who consulted for the restaurant, asked who was in favor of music at the South Coast Highway locale, which is within walking distance of Main Beach.

"We believe it's reasonable for the Planning Commission to approve amplified music," Kawaratani read from a prepared statement before commissioners voted. "There's a synergy that exists between entertainment and retail stores that's clearly verifiable. Music is what brings folks in. They can shop at galleries, eat at restaurants."

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The commission voted 4 to 0 to allow outdoor live entertainment, including disc jockeys and amplified music, from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for weddings and special events, according to a city staff report. Commissioner Anne Johnson was absent. Also approved were no more than four daytime events per month

Wednesday's vote allows the restaurant to continue its Music Matters weekday series, which features soloists and four-piece bands whose members play guitars, saxophones, pianos, cellos and harmonicas.

The commission's approval amends the property's conditional use permit, first adopted in 1995, to allow open-air amplified music for weddings and special events on weekends at Laguna Village, 577 S. Coast Hwy.

The Cliff came to Laguna Village, which also includes retail shops, in 2006, according to Kawaratani's prepared statement.

Though approved, the special-event music portion of the permit never became effective since the former owner or applicant didn't return a signed consent form and affidavit, a staff report said.

Residents complained about noise from The Cliff, and police tracked calls of complaint.

"They call, but don't leave names," The Cliff general manager Andrew Turula said in a previous interview.

Resident Kurt Wiese, who lives a half-mile from The Cliff, voiced his concerns about noise during Wednesday's meeting.

"On occasion I can hear music from the restaurant when I'm sitting in my living room. It is annoying," Wiese said. "I'm concerned about allowing music to impact residential neighborhoods in Laguna Beach."

Commissioner Linda Dietrich wanted to make sure that any noise complaints would be taken seriously.

Kawaratani assured commissioners and the public that the restaurant keeps a close watch on sound levels.

The restaurant's staff measured decibel levels every 30 minutes at different portions of the property since June, he said. The city has not received any noise complaints since that time, associate planner Wendy Jung said.

The restaurant hired a sound engineer to study music noise levels, and readings never exceeded 65.1 decibels, less than the maximum allowed level of 70 in that area, Kawaratani said.

"We self-police," Kawaratani said. "We do logs every evening, and we don't allow musicians to stay at The Cliff if they don't abide by sound levels."

Resident Jeff Gati, who lives within view of The Cliff, urged the commission to allow the music to continue.

"Music has never been a problem," Gati said. "[The Cliff staff members] are excellent neighbors."

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