CVS Health has appealed the Laguna Beach Planning Commission’s decision earlier this month to deny the retail pharmacy chain’s bid to move into a Broadway Street property currently occupied by Laguna Drug.
Commissioners on June 7 claimed the company’s merchandise mix did not differentiate itself from other stores in downtown Laguna and unanimously denied CVS’ request to amend the conditional use permit and move into the space at 239 Broadway St.
The appeal, filed with the city on Wednesday by Pacific Planning Group, Inc. on behalf of CVS, claims the commissioners’ decision was “arbitrary, discriminatory and contrary to the municipal code, the downtown specific plan and the interests of the community.”
CVS says the decision was contrary to the health interests of the community, particularly senior citizens, disabled people and people who are required to access pharmaceutical services in the evening or on weekends, according to the appeal.
CVS’ store hours would be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The pharmacy would be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Further, CVS says commissioners and staff misinterpreted the specific plan to require that every retail use in the downtown provide unique merchandise rather than unique functions or services.
The city discourages formula-based businesses that fail to meet criteria regarding the quality of unique merchandise, market saturation, regional draw of destination shoppers, contribution to resident needs and interior and exterior presentation, according to the downtown specific plan.
At the June 7 meeting, Commission Chairwoman Sue Kempf said she was concerned that CVS would siphon business from other downtown area retailers.
“When I think of businesses, I think of survival of the fittest,” Kempf said. “If you put a good business out there and you do well, good for you. If you don’t succeed, then that is your issue. When you have a big chain coming in like this, it cuts into a lot of businesses in a very significant way. It’s not a nominal change for some businesses. It will be significant.”
CVS said it heeded concerns from residents and at least one commissioner about alcohol sales and will not offer liquor in the store.
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 last month.
Laguna Beach has a CVS at 30842 S. Coast Hwy.
The City Council is tentatively scheduled to discuss the matter Aug. 22.