The Laguna Beach City Council approved a construction company for the Village Entrance project Tuesday, though overall costs for the long-debated effort have escalated by more than $2.5 million in recent months.
On a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Steve Dicterow dissenting, Chino-based C.S. Legacy Construction Inc. was awarded an $8.4-million contract to build the project near the corner of Forest Avenue and Broadway.
To the council’s dismay, however, overall costs have risen from about $8.4 million — the amount the panel approved in December — to around 11.1 million. City officials attributed the increase to escalating labor costs, looming tariffs, rising crude oil prices and the fact that they received only three qualified bids.
Still, some council members said waiting longer to embark on the Village Entrance likely won’t make it cheaper. Mayor Kelly Boyd, who is not running for reelection to the council this year, noted that debate on the project has been going on since the 1970s and he wants to see it start.
“It’s time to get it done,” he said. “It’s time to move forward.”
Dicterow said he was frustrated by the cost increase. He said he had harbored hopes of a $5-million project and that he struggled with approving the $8.4-million price in December.
The newest increase, he said, is “the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.”
Dicterow suggested exploring an alternative Village Entrance plan that could tap into private sector resources, namely the owners of the Hive, a newly rebranded commercial center on Laguna Canyon Road, not far from the project site.
Councilwoman Toni Iseman scoffed at the idea, saying hoping for a private entity to chip in could “cause a 10-year delay.”
Some residents expressed concern that the Village Entrance money is doing too little to improve the 1930s-era sewer digester building on a city parking lot at the site. The council said it appreciates the building’s historical nature and Spanish architecture but feels the Village Entrance project isn’t the right time to revive the structure.
Instead of spending more than $430,000 for a comprehensive rehabilitation, the council opted to spend about $100,000 to repaint the building and patch up small holes.
The Village Entrance project could break ground as soon as Sept. 4, the city says. A tentative construction schedule has it being completed by summer 2020, with year-round work except for a construction break during summer 2019.
The project has been approved for more than 120 new trees, thousands of new shrubs and new pedestrian and bicycle pathways in the spirit of making the city’s entry more aesthetically pleasing.
Other elements of the project include parking and circulation improvements and median improvements along Laguna Canyon Road between Forest Avenue and a point north of Canyon Acres Drive.
Bradley Zint is a contributor to Times Community News.