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Laguna Beach partially lifts stop work order on restoration of Hotel Laguna

A view of the Hotel Laguna from Main Beach.
A view of the Hotel Laguna from Main Beach in May.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Restoration work can resume at Hotel Laguna on its restaurant, lobby, bar and kitchen after the city of Laguna Beach partially lifted a stop work order on the historic landmark that had been placed when officials discovered exterior work was occurring without a permit.

A statement released Wednesday by the city said building inspectors confirmed the interior work done by developer Mo Honarkar on the hotel meets required construction standards, but that no work will be allowed in other parts of the hotel until Honarkar and his team submit a comprehensive plan for the overall restoration of the property and obtain the appropriate permits to do that work.

Work will not continue in other parts of the project that are part of a coastal development permit still under an appeal to the California Coastal Commission. City officials have notified the state coastal commission that minor work would be occurring at the site.

Additionally, prior to issuance of a temporary use permit for the restaurant, lobby, bar and kitchen on the first floor, a structural engineer will inspect the building to make sure it is safe to occupy. City officials said inspectors will also routinely be making rounds to ensure no unpermitted work occurs.

A view of the outer ballroom beach deck at the Hotel Laguna in Laguna Beach.
A view of the outer ballroom beach deck at the Hotel Laguna in Laguna Beach in May.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“The decision by the city is vindication for me, my family and the entire team at the Laguna Beach Company,” said Honarkar in a statement. “We are thrilled to get back to work and complete the first floor restoration and renovation of the Hotel Laguna.”

“The final touches are expected to take just a few weeks to complete. Then, we will open the doors and join together with the Laguna community to honor the hotel’s storied history while celebrating its future,” Honarkar said.

“The reopening will be an important milestone for our family-owned company that has been a part of the Laguna community for more than two decades,” he added. “Bringing Hotel Laguna back to life is just one way we plan on celebrating the unique lifestyle and unmistakable character that make Laguna such a special place.”

Honarkar’s real estate investment firm, Laguna Beach Co., signed a 99-year-lease of the historic property that went into effect January 2019. The hotel — known by its red and white striped awning — has been closed since 2017 when its last operator’s lease ran out.

It is one of the most recognizable buildings in Laguna Beach.

The hotel was initially constructed in the 1880s before it was demolished due to fire concerns in 1928. Its current iteration was dedicated in 1930 and is the building that most visitors and residents would recognize standing today.

A stop work order sign on the front doors of the Hotel Laguna as shown on May 12, 2021.
A stop work order sign on the front doors of the Hotel Laguna as shown on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The city issued a stop work order in May. A letter sent to Honarkar noted the issued at least three stop work orders between June and August last year for extensive work being done to the interior and exterior of the hotel without permits.

“Hotel Laguna is a historic landmark and an important asset to this community,” wrote community development director Marc Wiener. “It is critical that all work is done in the correct manner and in accordance with the applicable regulations so that the historic asset is protected and all legal mandates are respected.”

City officials said developers were working on a plan for the overall restoration of the hotel with a schedule and description of the work ahead, which staff will then evaluate and determine what use permits or coastal development permits may be necessary.

The comprehensive plan will also be subject to the review of the city’s planning commission prior to any further construction.

“Hotel Laguna is a historic landmark and an important asset to this community, and we are supportive of the end-goal of restoring Hotel Laguna,” said city manager Shohreh Dupuis in a statement. “At the same time, we will continue to make it clear that all the procedures and requirements applicable to the project are to be followed.”

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