Athens Group has finally unveiled its plans for Aliso Creek Inn & Lodge and another residential parcel in the area, and there is a lot to cheer about in the proposal.
Athens has apparently gone all out to maximize open space and recreation, and has reduced the number of private estate homes that would be built in the Driftwood subdivision.
The developer has bowed to the history of the canyon with a plan to re-create the original 1872 Thurston House, built by the city’s earliest settlers, whose descendants are still in Laguna — one on the City Council.
Hikers will have a mountains-to-the-sea trail to enjoy — an access route that was rejected by the former owners of the lodge as interfering with the golf course operation.
Even the YMCA will have a perk: A parcel of land that has been unused for many years will be swapped with a same-sized parcel in a spot that the Y will be able to use for its programs.
The nine-hole golf course will remain, but will be realigned for “better views and safety,” the developer says.
Aliso Creek itself will be tamed with an extensive restoration project for the creek bed, which has been eroding for years due to the high volume of storm runoff that inundates it.
Athens will replace the existing lodge with 75 rooms, slightly more than the 62 that are now placed in the canyon, plus adding some new amenities.
The best news for Laguna Beach could be the proposal for a 507-space underground parking garage to serve the lodge and its facilities — which is estimated to provide between 95 and 220 “extra” spaces.
City officials have long eyed Aliso as a spot for remote parking during the peak festival season and to get employee vehicles off the streets year round.
The plan has a lot of components, and many neighbors are not thrilled with the prospect of months of grading and construction. But what can you do? Development happens.
Over the next two to three years, we will see how the details play out as the project wends its way through environmental reviews, but Athens is to be congratulated for offering the community something to chew on.