Village Entrance moves ahead

City Council orders environmental report for downtown project; Festival of Arts raises questions about sale of lots on rim of Irvine Bowl.Two joined-at-the-hip city projects were on the City Council's agenda at its Nov. 1 meeting.

The council reviewed progress on the sale of city-owned lots to finance the city maintenance yard relocation to ACT V, awarded a contract for an environmental impact report for the Village Entrance and approved signage for the interim Village Entrance parking lot.

A color scheme for the buildings that will not be relocated was given a thumbs-up, but funding depends on the passage of Measure A -- the half-cent tax increase on the Dec. 13 ballot.

Christopher Joseph and Associates was chosen to prepare the environmental report. The company submitted the lowest of the four bids the city received for the job.

No realtor was selected to represent the city in the sale of the lots on Olive, Linden and Poplar streets.

"We should go slow on the actual sale, but keep working with the festival to move forward," said Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman.

Festival of Arts officials want more time to review the effects of the sale on the Pageant of the Masters, and they probably will decline to help pay for a geological study of the lots, the stability of which they have questioned.

Six parcels above the Irvine Bowl on Festival of Arts Grounds -- lot 33 between Poplar and Linden streets and lots 41, 42, 43, 47 and 48 on Olive Street -- have been earmarked for sale to finance the ACT V project. Two other lots on which the Girl Scout House sits were taken off the table after the proposed sale roused the community to protest.

"I can't see how a real estate agent can represent the property until all the issues are settled," Scooter Brewer said. "We may be back here in three years with angry homeowners and a Bowl full of mud."

Among the issues are the potential effects of noise and light from homes on the pageant and vice versa.

"How would someone have a normal life there in July and August?" former Mayor Ann Christoph asked.

The city proposal included a buffer zone, but neighbors and festival officials said it was too small to be effective and should include lot 33.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman proposed moving the Girl Scout House to lot 33, which would have no impact on the festival, she said.

That would open up for sale the two very desirable Girl Scout lots while maintaining their presence in the neighborhood.

"That's my great idea No. 1," Iseman said.

No. 2? An ideological turnabout.

"I call Laguna a one-of-a-kind town, but I am asking the city to consider a subdivision and put all the lots out to bid," Iseman said.

"If a developer comes in with a set of homes that don't all look alike but are compatible and oriented away from the festival, it's win-win.

"If we get what we want and [the developers] start fighting over it -- goodie for us."

Council members Jane Egly and Kinsman, who have been appointed to continue negotiating with festival representatives, will also talk to Girl Scout leaders.

"It would be nice if the festival supported us, but we don't need their approval to sell the lots," Mayor Pro Tem Steven Dicterow said.

The council approved a rough draft of proposed restrictions and disclosures that would ultimately be recorded, restrictions that would run with the land for each of the lots, and the elimination of 15 angled parking spaces on Olive Street that would be replaced with 11 on-street spaces, the loss offset by the 190 new spaces in the interim parking lot at the Village Entrance.

Contracts not to exceed $85,000 will be awarded to complete studies and surveys of the properties, the costs to be reimbursed to the Corporation Yard project budget after sales of the parcels are completed.

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