Who Hijacked the Downtown Specific Plan?
What is the Downtown Specific Plan, and why is it important?
The Downtown Specific Plan is the City’s development plan for the downtown area of Laguna Beach. It also contains the rules that property owners and developers must follow when they build in the downtown area. The Downtown Specific Plan is important because it shapes the downtown area for the foreseeable future.
How did the process of the amending the Downtown Specific Plan begin?
In 2012, the City of Laguna Beach began developing an update to the Downtown Specific Plan by asking community members about their vision for the future of the downtown area. In 2014, the City hired a consulting firm, MIG, that did extensive public outreach on the goals for the new Downtown Specific Plan.
What were the community member’s goals for the downtown area?
MIG reported that community members’ main goals for the downtown area were:
• Preserve the historic charm and buildings of downtown Laguna
• Enhance Laguna Beach’s artistic environment
• Promote resident-serving retail and services
• Promote areas for outdoor gathering
• Create pedestrian-friendly streets
Are these goals carried out in the proposed Downtown Specific Plan?
Generally not. The changes proposed in the new Downtown Specific Plan are in many instances diametrically opposed to the community’s goals. The main features of the Downtown Specific Plan will encourage building new residential units downtown by allowing construction of an extra floor to single-story buildings for office or residential uses, by removing density requirements, and by adding new areas where lots can be combined for large residential development.
How did this happen?
Good question. What is crystal clear is that downtown property owners and developers who can enlarge downtown buildings and increase density will reap financial windfalls.
What can I do to stop this?
1) Show up at City Council meetings and voice your opposition to the new Downtown Specific Plan. The first City Council meeting to consider the Downtown Specific Plan is scheduled for Tuesday, December 17, at 5 p.m. (It is unlikely that this matter will be heard before 6:15)
2) Email the City Council at CityCouncil@lagunabeachcity.net. Ask the Council to direct staff to redo the Downtown Specific Plan. Some of the downtown area needs a facelift, but one that keeps the look and feel of downtown Laguna, not downtown Brea.
3) If the City Council approves the Downtown Specific Plan, sign the referendum petition voiding its adoption sponsored by Laguna Residents First and vote yes on the referendum. See lagunaresidentsfirst.org for more information.