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Council stalls on varied parking issues

Amendments to the city’s parking ordinance to address the parking crunch in Laguna hit a bump in the road Tuesday.

The City Council continued the hearing on the proposed amendments to the first meeting in May to allow further review by the planning commission and staff, both of which were complimented on the draft of the recommended changes.

“This needs lots of tweaking, and I think it is a little early to do a first reading,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Schneider said.

The proposed amendments pertain to off-street parking; requirements for ancillary church uses, valet and employee parking; adequate parking for mixed use establishments and whether users can be charged for required parking.

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Staff supported most of the recommendations approved by the commission, except for implementation of specified time periods for existing businesses or operations to apply for a conditional-use permit to operate a valet service or charge a fee.

Council was leaning toward support of the commission position when City Manager Ken Frank intervened.

“I have to make a pitch here,” he said. “The staff and the commission have done a great job, but I don’t think you [council] understand the amortization issue.”

He opined that about 100 businesses or organizations would be affected.

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“It’s a disaster. You can’t do it,” he said.

The use permit requirement would affect establishments such as the Boys and Girls Club that rents spaces in its parking lot to Sawdust artists in the summer. It would not affect charitable organizations that offer valet parking for special events where parking is on city streets.

Planning administrator Ann Larson said staff recommended against the implementation because of the costs and the burden on the already short-handed department.

“I am so tired of hearing that we are short staffed,” Woods Cove resident Barbara Slevcove said.

She said businesses that abuse parking requirements should be stopped from adversely affecting her quality of life.

Greg Slevcove alleged the Surf & Sand hotel continues to hold events in its parking lot without permits, although advised by the city to stop, and that the city is doing nothing about it..

Mayor Pro Tem Jane Eglytook umbrage at Slevcove’s accusation.

“I have gone to the Surf & Sand with the city manager and we have made a difference,” Egly said. “They no longer have weddings [in the parking lot]. I am irritated that we get no credit for improving the situation.”

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Surf & Sand employee parking on neighborhood streets was one of the triggers that led to a series of parking workshops for the area of the city that became known as the Flatlands, roughly parallel to South Coast Highway between Thalia and Diamond streets.

Egly co-chaired the meetings, which included a study by an outside consultant as requested by the Flatlanders and residents of Woods Cove. The study was conducted during a period when meters were bagged (covered so they were free) on Glenneyre Street to see if employees would park there rather than on neighborhood streets if they didn’t have to pay.

The study verified that employees moved to the bagged meter spaces. The study also showed that all-day employee parking adversely affected businesses and that about 300 vehicles were routinely parked on neighborhood streets at 3 a.m., indicating, the consultant said, resident parking.

“Let’s call a spade a spade,” Schneider said. “We have a parking problem in town. My belief is that it is our responsibility to see that if there is a new business, they have to park it, and when there is an intensification of use, they have to park it.

“We have got to get real. When large-scale projects come in, we should encourage over-parking—and start relieving the neighborhoods.”

Schneider said her recommendation applied also to churches.

“I love them; I love the people, but I want us to get real,” she said.

Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman said “ancillary” uses need to be defined, possibly by square footage.

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“I don’t want to hear the argument that uses are ancillary [and don’t require parking], even when they take up a whole block.” Kinsman said.

Mayor Toni Iseman argued for enforcement.

“If someone is having an event when they said they were not having an event, we should go and count heads and fine per head,” Iseman said.

“Consequences change behavior.”

The Planning Commission will hold additional hearings to address residents and council concerns, date to be announced.


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