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Laguna Planning Commission suggests Coast Inn project be denied

Concerns about traffic, trash and aesthetics may doom the latest proposal to renovate the Laguna Beach Coast Inn.

The city Planning Commission unanimously recommended Wednesday that the City Council deny the project.

Commissioners echoed concerns of many of the meeting’s 41 speakers, who claimed that proposed features of the renovated hotel at 1401 S. Coast Hwy., such as a rooftop deck and pool, did not align with the inn’s historical integrity. There were also concerns about the adjoining Coast Liquor opening a deli with takeout service.

Laguna Beach resident Chris Dornin bought the property in December 2013 and worked with architect Marshall Ininns on plans to restore the 1927 hotel, which at one time housed the Boom Boom Room nightclub.

His plans call for a 24-room hotel with three restaurants. Earlier plans included a pool behind Coast Liquor, but Dornin and Ininns proposed placing the pool on the rooftop deck and reducing the size of the deck by 800 square feet to 2,812 square feet.

Commissioners said the adjustments were not enough to convince them to recommend approval to the council.

“There are couches and lounges and tables that look like a hotel lobby,” Commissioner Roger McErlane said. “What you are proposing is a rooftop addition that never existed before.”

McErlane also said there was a disconnect between a rendering of the hotel as it looked in 1935 and a design of the proposed hotel.

“The representation in this image [proposed design] is not representative of the Spanish colonial revival,” he said. “It is very tract house-looking and does not have any quality of Spanish colonial revival. Awnings look thin and rigid. The windows look like anodized aluminum, the stucco looks like [1950s] tract housing.”

Ininns said he had to work with current building codes that were not in play when the hotel was built.

“The front, as you see toward the ocean, has no lateral support in it whatsoever,” Ininns said. “The existing building has no lateral support whatsoever. The code has changed 25-, 30-fold since this building was built.”

Speakers worried there would be an abundance of traffic on Mountain Road with delivery and trash trucks trying to safely maneuver in an area beachgoers use to access the sand and ocean.

“Even now, there is no safe place to walk or unload their cars,” resident Rosemary Boyd said. “Cars constantly back out of metered spaces on Mountain (Road). This is an accident waiting to happen. Please don’t put the safety of the public at risk.”

Four Dumpsters would be placed behind Coast Liquor and trash collection would occur daily.

“There are already multiple restaurants and businesses along Mountain Road having trash picked up every single day, and they manage,” said Cindy Shopoff, who lives on Mountain Road.

Commissioners and residents acknowledged the hotel and liquor store should be improved, though not according to the current plan.

“I like the idea we can do something with else with Coast Liquor,” Commissioner Sue Kempf said. “I don’t want to see all the trash back there. It’s very narrow back there.”

The hotel currently houses a 54-seat restaurant and two bars that seat an additional 67 people, according to a city staff report.

Dornin’s proposal includes an 86-seat restaurant and space for 102 people on the rooftop during normal day-to-day operations. For special events, the number of people on the deck could rise to 175, the staff report said.

City staff did not say when the council, which has the authority to override the Planning Commission recommendation, would discuss the proposed project.

bryce.alderton@latimes.com

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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