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Much time, money already spent on Village Entrance

About $1 million has been spent on studies and designs related to the project since the mid-1990s even amid uncertainty about the plan.

October 17, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

The $85,000 that Laguna Beach City Council members voted to spend on the proposed Village Entrance Project two weeks ago wasn't the first public money approved for the development, which was first proposed in the mid-1990s.

The city has spent $1 million on studies and designs related to the Village Entrance over the past 18 years, according to Gavin Curran, city finance director.

And even though a possible citywide vote on the project looms as a resident gathers signatures to put the issue on the ballot, City Hall is not waiting, at least at this point, for the referendum process to play out.

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Still, money drives most conversations about the controversial plan.

The Village Entrance Project includes a proposed pedestrian park and four-level parking structure in an area currently occupied by the Forest Avenue and Lumberyard parking lots and the city maintenance yard.

On Oct. 1, the council voted 4 to 1 — with Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who objects to the proposed project, dissenting — to spend $85,000 to test the soil in the area for contaminants. Members also agreed to use $15,000 from the sewer fund to pay an engineering company to study odors emanating from the site, which includes a sewer lift station.

"We were very careful in approving the latest spending," Whalen said in a recent phone interview. "We need to check out the soils if we scrape away the surface parking lot for a park."

At its June 11 meeting, the council voted 3 to 2 on an initial funding plan for the Village Entrance.

The proposed project is expected to cost $42.3 million, with $22.6 million going toward the parking structure, according to a city presentation.

Project costs would be covered by $13 million in city reserves and $29 in bond financing.

The city estimates that new parking meter revenue ($2 million), coupled with revenue from the parking structure spaces ($300,000), would exceed the annual debt service payment ($2.1 million) for the 25-year life of the bond, according to a presentation during the June 11 council meeting.

Iseman isn't supportive of the parking structure and would like the city to use the $13 million set aside in reserves for the project to find 200 additional parking spaces throughout Laguna.

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