A national retail pharmacy chain’s bid to open a second store in Laguna Beach met resistance from the Planning Commission on Wednesday.
Commissioners unanimously rejected CVS Health’s application to amend the conditional use permit for property at 239 Broadway St. currently occupied by Laguna Drug.
The Woonsocket, R.I.-based company sought to move into the space after Laguna Drug, which opened in 2004, struggled to make a profit.
Commissioners commended CVS for its willingness to maintain the building’s exterior and retain interior features such as exposed brick and roof trusses, but said the company’s merchandise mix did not distinguish itself from products offered by other downtown retailers.
“What [CVS] is proposing is significantly different than what Laguna Drug’s merchandise mix is right now,” Commissioner Ken Sadler said, alluding to products CVS would offer such as snacks and alcohol. “The merchandise is not hand-crafted, it’s not special and there is significant product overlap with other nearby businesses.”
CVS’ proposed product line included office and school supplies, milk, eggs, socks and underwear — items residents typically drive outside city limits or to the existing CVS in South Laguna at 30842 S. Coast Hwy., the company said in a letter to the city.
The company proposed to open earlier and close later — 6 a.m. to midnight — than Laguna Drug’s current 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule.
“There is an unmet healthcare need in downtown — CalOptima,” Karen Martin, representing CVS on behalf of Pacific Planning Group, Inc., told the commission. “It’s not carried other than by Laguna Drug.”
CalOptima provides healthcare coverage for Orange County residents who are eligible for Medi-Cal, including low-income families, seniors and persons with disabilities, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency website.
CVS requested to have the requirement to provide CalOptima insurance removed from the company’s application because the plan could be renamed, modified or cancelled from potential changes to healthcare law at state and local levels, Martin wrote in an email.
Laguna resident Thilde Peterson praised CVS for removing tobacco from its shelves, but said the Broadway Street property was not the right location.
“This is not the way to go,” Peterson said. “The reason why Laguna Drug worked was that it was like going to a mini-Nordstroms to buy stuff and get prescriptions at the same time,” Peterson said. “I never saw tabletops like that. I never saw cards like that.”
CVS has 14 calendar days from Wednesday to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council.