Lifeguard project to go to Coastal Commission

Lifeguard project to go to Coastal Commission

Council revises previous plan in effort to pass muster with panel, but seeks to keep restrooms part of Main Beach facility.

A smaller version of the Lifeguard Headquarters project on Main Beach will be submitted to the California Coastal Commission for approval.

The City Council voted at the June 15 meeting for revisions to a previous plan, hoping that reductions on both levels of the structure will pass muster with the commission, which had voted to limit the footprint to 2,000 square feet or less, despite its own staff support for a larger version.

The new plan could meet the commission's limit by separating the public restrooms from the two-level headquarters, but city staff will try to convince commissioners that beach and bluff restoration made possible by combining the project provides a significant public benefit worth an exception.

"We have tried to come up with some language that will pass coastal," said Assistant City Manager John Pietig. "It is tailored shamelessly to this project."

The council voted to "approve replacement of the lifeguard headquarters on north Main Beach with a one-story building and a basement having footprint of 2,200 square feet, with an

adjoining public restroom

with a footprint of 800 square feet."

Laguna's general plan limits structures in parks and recreation areas to 500 square feet or less, to be exceeded when necessary to provide "public benefit uses."

A narrow and carefully worded amendment to the general plan was adopted by the council that would allow for an exception to a 2,000-square-foot limitation on the footprint of structures on land designated for "Parks and Recreation" uses when the exception serves a public benefit and combines public restrooms with Marine Safety facilities to allow sand and bluff to be restored to a natural condition;

The city and the commission must approve the revised language.

Staff was directed to meet with members of the Coastal Commission and its staff to discuss the benefits of the revised design and to seek support for amending the city's land use element to allow the project to move forward, including the restoration of the sand and bluff around the existing public restrooms at North Main Beach.

City staff must also revise the Capital Improvement Program to provide an additional $1.2 million for the project, even though cheaper than the junked 6,800-square-foot project with a footprint of 3,400 square feet.

Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow was not thrilled by the reduction in size that Pietig said was essential to get the project approved by the coastal commission.

Snow said the main difference is the loss of the apparatus bay and a reduction in the size of the briefing and training room and the report writing area by about 380 square feet, which would still accommodate 25 people. Snow manages a staff of 100 employees, 65 a day in the peak season.

The public appears to have accepted the project. In fact, no public opposition was voiced to the 6,800-square-foot version recommended for council approval by the Planning Commission at the April 28 hearing.

"I was thrilled that no one spoke against the project," said Pietig, who has been point man on the project since its inception. "It was the first time on any project that I have worked on."

The project to be submitted to the commission is a concept only. A specific design must be approved by the council and, if appealed, upheld by the commission.

Replacement of an existing sewer lift station is also part of the project, to be completed before construction begins on the headquarters.

In related actions:

The council approved a Temporary Use Permit and Coastal Development Permit for temporary lifeguard and public restroom facilities during construction of the new lifeguard headquarters and public restrooms.

Staff was authorized to set aside reasonable funds to hire a facilitator to assist staff in processing the Local Coastal Plan amendment.

City Manager Ken Frank to pay Whitman and Associates up to $25,000 to complete the concept design for the project.

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