Temporary Park Avenue plaza and weapons at rallies are on Laguna council’s agenda Tuesday

Three organizations have teamed up on a proposal to temporarily close this part of Park Avenue to vehicular traffic in order to create a pedestrian gathering area. The City Council will consider the matter at its Tuesday meeting.
Three organizations have teamed up on a proposal to temporarily close this part of Park Avenue to vehicular traffic in order to create a pedestrian gathering area. The City Council will consider the matter at its Tuesday meeting.
(Rendering courtesy of Gary Headrick)

Three organizations are teaming up on a proposal to temporarily close a portion of Park Avenue in Laguna Beach to vehicular traffic in hopes of creating a destination for pedestrians.

On Tuesday the City Council will consider a proposal from Transition Laguna Beach, the Laguna Beach Beautification Council, and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce to close part of the 200 block of Park Avenue — a section that connects to South Coast Highway — from Oct. 21 to Dec. 1.

The same area was twice converted into a street plaza by Transition Laguna Beach for Earth Day celebrations in 2012 and 2013, according to a letter signed by representatives of the three organizations.

Two goals of the project would be bringing more residents and visitors downtown and stimulating sales of area merchants, the letter said.

“The goal of the project is to help vitalize a downtown area that generates little to no sustained foot traffic, partly because of a dearth of pedestrian gathering spaces,” the letter said.

The owner of Adonis Restaurant agreed to sweep the street and clean the tables nightly, the letter said.

The group wants to include tables, chairs, planters, landscaping and lighting, with no street vendors, in the area, which organizers said includes ficus trees that provide shade.

Ruben Flores, president of the beautification council, would provide landscaping and maintain the plants, the letter said. Flores hopes to include boxed trees in the area, which would be used for other city projects after the plaza pilot.

The city budgeted $50,000 for the project, which includes $21,000 for renting traffic control signs and equipment, $9,900 for décor and landscaping, and $8,400 in lost revenue from eight metered parking spaces that would not be used during the temporary closure, according to a city staff report.

If the council approves the closure, the organizers would need a temporary use permit from the Planning Commission, the report said.

If the council is amenable to the plaza concept, the organizers would like to extend the program from Dec. 2 through Jan. 2, 2018. In that case, the cost to the city would be another $25,100.

Proposed weapons ordinance

Also on Tuesday the council will consider adopting an ordinance that would prohibit attendees or participants of public demonstrations, rallies or protests on city beaches and parks from carrying certain items that could be used as weapons.

The recommendation from Laguna Police Chief Laura Farinella follows an Aug. 20 anti-immigration rally in which four people were arrested, including one man who allegedly carried a knife. People had daggers, sticks, poles, chains, metal pipes and pepper spray, according to a city staff report.

The demonstration’s organizer, Johnny Benitez, said the event was meant to honor victims of crimes allegedly committed by immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators square off during last month's rally at Laguna's Main Beach. Police Chief Laura Farinella proposes an ordinance that would prohibit participants or attendees of certain rallies and demonstrations from carrying objects such as sticks, bats.
(File photo)

The ordinance would pertain to any item “generally considered” a weapon or “reasonably capable of being used as a weapon” and include knives, firearms, metal beverage or food cans or containers, pepper spray, metal pipes, baseball bats, and wooden sticks, including sticks attached to signs.

Farinella said she got the idea from the city of Berkeley, whose City Council last month passed an ordinance giving City Manager Jovan Grogan authority to extend rules for unauthorized demonstrations on streets, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Asked to give examples of demonstrations held in Laguna that would fall under the proposed ordinance, Farinella mentioned March Against Monsanto — concerning genetically-modified crops — because the events can generate a large gathering of people who may have opposing viewpoints.

Farinella said the intention is not to look through people’s backpacks or purses, but for officers to watch for people carrying visible objects in public view.

Police recommend the ordinance takes effect immediately. Four of the five council members must approve the ordinance for it to pass.

Police would give warnings when possible and feasible, according to the ordinance.

Tuesday’s council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall at 505 Forest Ave.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce