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Developer proposes giving Laguna Beach $250,000 to speed up planning projects

Developer proposes giving Laguna Beach $250,000 to speed up planning projects
The Laguna Beach City Council on Tuesday will discuss a proposal from local real estate mogul Mo Honarkar to fund services for the Community Development Department ahead of several planned projects. (File Photo)

A Laguna Beach real estate developer wants to donate $250,000 toward expediting a backlog of proposed planning projects working their way through City Hall.

Mo Honarkar, who recently acquired Hotel Laguna, plans to present his proposal at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

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His gift to the Community Development Department would fund high-level planning services — in the form of employees, contractors or consultants — at a cost of up to $180,000 a year.

The department “is currently not positioned to effectively and efficiently process several large projects in addition to its existing workload,” according to a city staff report.

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The proposed agreement forbids the developer from having a say over hiring and “in no way guarantees, assures, or otherwise represents that the city will provide special or preferential treatment of any application [Honarkar] might submit.”

The agreement also states that any new hires may negotiate and process applications for major development projects in the town as they see fit.

In addition to Hotel Laguna, Honarkar is working on two other Coast Highway hotels, the Heisler Site Project and the Cleo Project.

City to consider hiring a land-use consultant

The council also will consider hiring an urban economist to advise on changes to the land-use permitting process for an update to the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP).

Most proposals from prospective businesses require a conditional use permit approved by the Planning Commission. Commissioners have suggested allowing over-the-counter permits for some applicants, according to a staff report.

The commission recommends hiring an urban economics and financial consultant to perform a market assessment of downtown Laguna Beach in preparation for changes to the DSP, a planning document aimed preserving the village’s unique character.

At a cost of $38,000, Hoffman’s work would be done by May — in time to be incorporated into the DSP update before it is submitted for approval to the California Coastal Commission, according to the report.

The Chamber of Commerce is offering $25,000 toward the work, while funds from the DSP update would cover the remaining $13,000.

Joint school board meeting is on the docket

Before the regularly scheduled City Council meeting at 6 p.m., the council will meet with the Laguna Beach Unified school board at 4 p.m. for a presentation by police Cpl. Cornelius Ashton, who was hired as the city’s school resource officer last year.

The joint meeting will also cover whether funding is available for adult education programming.

Both meetings will take place in the City Council chamber at 505 Forest Ave.

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