Temporary Park Avenue closure to create a plaza is officially a go

Three organizations on Wednesday received approval they needed to temporarily close a portion of Park Avenue in Laguna Beach later this month.

The Laguna Beach Planning Commission unanimously voted to grant a temporary use permit to Transition Laguna Beach, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Laguna Beach Beautification Council to create a pedestrian plaza in the lower 200 block of Park Avenue from Oct. 21 through Jan. 7.

The goal of the plaza is to create a convivial community center where locals and visitors can relax, interact and enjoy take-out food, according to a letter from the organizations to the Planning Commission.

Ficus trees border the edge of the street, creating a canopy that will allow organizers to string lights above the area.

The approximate 5,200-square-foot area will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, according to a city staff report. No products will be sold in the area, which will include a variety of tables and chairs at different heights, planters, box trees and bicycle racks.

Commissioners said the city will learn a lot during the trial run.

“We’ve got a great group of people with a great plan,” Commissioner Sue Kempf said. “What do you have to lose? It’s a good spot.”

The council had approved the concept at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Laguna police officers will add the plaza as part of their downtown foot-beat patrol and install a camera to monitor the area.

“It’s a great tool for dispatch and our officers to look at what’s going on,” Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson said. “If anything does happen, we can refer back to it.” Johnson said the organizers approached Police Chief Laura Farinella about adding a camera in the area and she supported the idea.

The city’s public works staff will regularly sweep and clean the area, while the organizations will purchase the furniture and landscaping.

“We tried to go for a big mix,” Transition Laguna Beach President Chris Prelitz said in reference to the outdoor furniture that will include high-top tables with backless stools and low pod-style seats, according to the staff report. “Some folks like to stand. Some want to sit down.”

Eight public parking spaces on Park Avenue will not be available during the trial period, the staff report said.

City staff looked at possibly creating a left-hand turn pocket from South Coast Highway onto Laguna Avenue, but that option would have meant losing 18 parking spaces on the state highway, including 12 in the block between Laguna Avenue and Park Avenue, thus it was not recommended, assistant city engineer Mark Trestik told commissioners.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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