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Village Entrance alternatives aired

A couple of alternatives presented to the Laguna Beach City Council Tuesday for the Village Entrance project sounded almost too good to be true.

The council was impressed by proposals that included a smaller parking structure at the Village Entrance that still accommodated 580 vehicles, wouldn’t require an expensive relocation of the sewer lift station and would create more green space for the park, but voted to have the concept analyzed by the project planning team before endorsing it.

“Speaking off the cuff, this does need study to verify the numbers, but it is an interesting idea,” said architect Alan Pullman, principal of Studio One Eleven, which won the design contest for the project.

If Tuesday’s proposal pans out, the council would have to determine if it merits a recirculation of the draft environmental impact report on the project or if it could be considered just a variation of the present proposal in the draft.

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Community Development Director John Montgomery favored recirculation, which City Manager Ken Frank and Councilwoman Elizabeth Schneider questioned.

“The description is a brand new alternative, and we have to have a design,” Montgomery said. “Traffic impacts might be the same, but circulation might not be.”

Recirculation of the draft impact report would set the project back about six months on top of whatever time Studio One Eleven took for its analysis.

“We would have to look at how the slopes and ramps work,” Coleman said. “The garage [in the original impact report] is functional, and I would hate to lose that, but I think this is worth a study.”

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Former Mayor Ann Christoph presented the slide show to the council, which sketched in a proposed alteration in the parking structure. Councilman Kelly Boyd said he also had an alternative, which was similar, prepared by Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee member Vic Opincar.

The alternative proposals were prompted by the council’s direction on March 6 to investigate moving the South Orange County Water Authority sewer lift station to another location rather than build the parking structure on top of it.

By notching a corner of the original parking structure plan, as Christoph proposed, the pump station could be left where it is, saving money and relieving council concerns.

“Way back, way back, I was saying we couldn’t put a parking structure on top of a pump station,” said Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman, who served on the Village Entrance Task Force as a planning commissioner more than 10 years ago.

The council said the Studio One Eleven study should include the alternatives presented Tuesday and other options of its own that would not move or cover the station and still retain 580 parking spaces.

“I feel we are so much closer to the Village Entrance than we have ever been,” Mayor Toni Iseman said.

Laguna Canyon Conservancy President Carolyn Wood has been waiting since 1983 for the project.

“I didn’t know it was going to take 20 years,” Wood said.

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In a separate motion, the council voted 3-2 to keep the historic sewer digester building on the site intact. Kinsman and Egly opposed.

“It is an icon,” Iseman said.


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