Coastal Panel Approves Monarch Beach Hotel

Times Staff Writer

A 550-room resort hotel planned for the massive Monarch Beach development in Laguna Niguel cleared its last major hurdle Friday when the California Coastal Commission unanimously approved the project.

Chris Downey, executive vice president of the SteinBrief Group, the Laguna Niguel-based developer, said construction of the yet-unnamed hotel is scheduled to begin in mid-1986, after the company secures construction financing and a hotel operator.

Downey said SteinBrief is negotiating with several hotel companies to manage the $115-million hotel, which will be the centerpiece of the 550-acre development. Downey declined to identify the prospective operators for “fear of insulting the losers” when one is finally chosen.


As a condition of granting the permit, the Coastal Commission will require SteinBrief to make available to the public about 50% of Monarch Beach’s amenities, such as tennis courts, swimming pools and golf course, according to John Leslie, a commission planner.

When the hotel is completed in late 1988, it will be the second largest in a part of Orange County that hoteliers and industry analysts say is rapidly gaining a reputation as a desirable resort area.

Far from diluting the potential market, they say, another resort hotel near the $100-million Ritz-Carlton will only enhance south Orange County’s image as a competitor for such established vacation spots as Hawaii and Miami Beach.

“There is going to be a synergy created in the Monarch Beach-Laguna area as a result of not having just one major destination resort,” said Tom Goff, senior principal in the Los Angeles office of Laventhol & Horwath, an accounting firm.

Despite a glut of hotel rooms in the county, the opulent, 393-room Ritz-Carlton hotel, which opened last year amid a mountain of unpaid bills and with an uncertain future, has enjoyed occupancy rates that topped 90% this summer.

John Toner, the Ritz-Carlton’s director of marketing, said that business for the hotel has been good so far and promises to stay that way. A little competition nearby, he said, “won’t have as much impact on the Ritz-Carlton as much as it will on the area.”

‘Find Good Company’

“I know the way the SteinBrief group works and they will find a good company to run it and it will improve their development,” Toner said. “I’m sure that it will be some competition, but it will be like putting another hotel up in Hawaii.”

Downey said the new SteinBrief hotel is “likely to cater to recreation-oriented visitors to a greater extent than the Ritz.”

In addition to the hotel, SteinBrief aims to eventually build 3,400 homes, a shopping center and a private health club on the Monarch Beach site, purchased for $80 million in 1983. Downey estimated that total development will be worth at least $1 billion when completed.