The City Council has breathed life back into a moribund proposal
to move the city corporation yard to ACT V.
“It’s about time,” said Greg Vail, a member of the Village
Entrance Task Force that recommended the move in 1996 after a
The council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to hold a special public meeting
Jan. 28, at which staff will report on all components of the
corporation yard and provide parameters for a Village Entrance
project with and without the yard.
Mayor Toni Iseman opposed taking steps to re-animate the move of
the corporation yard to ACT V. She was elected to the council in 1998
on a platform that included opposition to the move and she remains
Iseman claimed the move would eliminate about half of the current
400-plus parking spaces at ACT V, a claim confirmed by City Manager
Kenneth Frank, and would force the city into providing much more
parking at the Village Entrance.
“I heard people tonight using words like magnificent and beautiful
to describe what would basically be a parking lot, because we will be
losing parking at ACT V,” Iseman said. “We need to capture cars
before they get Downtown.”
The original proposal to move the yard to make way for a
beautification project was made in 1996 by a city task force created
to come up with a plan for the highly visible parcel next to City
Hall, called the Village Entrance.
“I am the unofficial Queen of the Corporation Yard,” said former
Mayor Kathleen Blackburn, one of the many supporters of the move who
attended the council meeting Tuesday. “I was the most in favor of
moving it when I was on the council.”
Critics of the council’s subsequent decision to keep the yard in
place maintained that no other city would have such an eyesore in its
“I remember that moving the corporation yard was vital, but ACT V
had environmental problems,” task force member Barbara Metzger said.
During discussion of two agenda items on the Village entrance,
council newcomer Elizabeth Pearson, who had served on the task force,
proposed that the yard be moved. She was advised that no action could
be taken because there had been no public notice that the move would
be on the agenda.
Alan Pullman, spokesman for the Village Entrance Design
Competition-winner StudioOneEleven, attended the council meeting
Tuesday expecting a vote on a work program for the first phase of the
construction of the project. The program included geotechnical and
engineering studies and an aerial survey of the area, not to exceed
$105,000. The city spent about $100,000 on the contest.
“We had a competition, but [the competitors] were not given the
option of moving the corporation yard,” said Councilwoman Cheryl
Kinsman, who had served on the Village Entrance Task Force while a
member of the Planning Commission.
All four contest finalists included the corporation yard in their
submittals, under the impression that the yard would stay put. The
council had voted on Aug. 15, 2000, to spend no more money on moving
the yard to ACT V.
StudioOneEleven proposed an understated, naturalized design that
tucked the corporation yard under a parking structure.
Removal of the corporation yard would send the design team back to
the drawing board.
“We chose a winning project, but not a project,” Councilman Steven
Several attempts have been made over the years to beautify the
area next to City Hall, now a part of what has been designated the
Civic Arts District.
“I have a copy of a final plan dated 1983,” said former arts
commissioner Iris Adam, owner of the property occupied by Art-A-Fair.
She had culled the old plan from the remnants of a pile of
proposals for the area. One memorable proposal, which never got off
the ground, was called the “Hanging Gardens,” a reference to the
vegetation-draped balconies on a hotel design.
Arts commissioner Pat Kollenda said the task force spent a solid
year working on the Village Entrance project, meeting at least once a
“The City Council accepted the report in 1996 and to this day, I
don’t know what happened,” Kollenda said Tuesday.
Costs were estimated at $6,200,000 in 1996 for the Village
Entrance project and construction of the corporation yard at ACT V,
to be funded from a variety of sources, including a $3-million bond
issue based on festival revenue, now seriously curtailed. By 1998,
the estimate had increased to almost $9 million, more than $3.5
million of it for the corporation yard.
The city paid more than $200,000 on preliminary plans for the
corporation yard construction before the council voted to drop the
project. City manager Ken Frank called the plan “gold plated” and
still about $4.5 million over budget, after 16 items were deleted
from the plan.
“Those plans are in a box somewhere,” Frank said.
Funding for the removal of the corporation yard and its
construction at ACT V is not in the 2002-03 budget, nor in the city’s
10-year capital improvement plan. Some funding could come from the
sale of the city nursery lots on Olive Street, but that wouldn’t
cover the full amount. Other sources are available, Frank said.
“We could fund the corporation yard, but not the [previous]
Village Entrance project at present,” Frank said.
The undeveloped Village Entrance would be used for parking.
Funding for the first phase of the Village Entrance project
proposed by StudioOneEleven was supposed to come from the parking
meter increase voted in June by the council. That increase was
* BARBARA DIAMOND is a reporter for the Laguna Beach Coastline
Pilot. She may be reached at 494-4321.