Laguna City Council to consider CVS’ appeal to move into Laguna Drug site

The Laguna Beach City Council on Tuesday will consider an appeal by CVS Health, which wants to move into a downtown location currently occupied by Laguna Drug.

The Planning Commission in June denied the company’s application to amend a conditional use permit and open at 239 Broadway St. Pacific Planning Group, Inc., the company representing CVS on the application, subsequently filed an appeal.

Commissioners said CVS’ proposed merchandise mix did not set itself apart from other downtown retailers. City staff added in a report that there is “significant product overlap” with the proposed offerings of CVS and other downtown stores.

CVS alleges the commission denied the permit request based on incorrect or improper information about the application and the store’s effect on surrounding businesses, according to the appeal.

City staff responded that each commissioner had concerns, such as failing to meet unmet needs of residents and visitors, with the application that were unrelated to possible adverse effects on neighboring businesses, the report said.

CVS said it had conversations and informal community group meetings that showed a gap in the resident-serving needs downtown, according to a May 23 letter contained in the staff report.

Residents requested customized seasonal items, school and office supplies, milk, eggs, health and beauty items, underwear and socks, items customers have to buy at either at the South Laguna CVS at 30842 S. Coast Hwy., or a store outside the city limits, the letter said.

CVS also claimed the commission’s denial of the amended permit was contrary to public health interests, but the city replied that public health would not be threatened even if the property owner could not attract another pharmacy to occupy the space, according to the staff report.

Laguna currently has five other pharmacies, including Bushard’s Pharmacy at 244 Forest Ave., which provide prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and accept a range of insurance programs such as CalOptima, the report said.

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 said it would not sell alcohol and revised the dimensions and color of its signs, the report said. Letters on the street entry sign would be reduced in height from 12 to 10 inches and be white, not red.

Laguna Drug opened in 2004 but has struggled to make a profit, Quality Drug Holdings Corp. chief financial officer Michael Henn told the Daily Pilot in May.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce