Late-night parking fix proposed

Disgruntled Woods Cove neighbors of Mozambique restaurant might get an early Christmas present.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday to hold a public hearing on Dec. 7 to consider the general public's opinion of a privileged parking program for Woods Cove residents up to six blocks away from the restaurant. The residents' complaints about the disruption of their lives by tipsy or just ebullient restaurant patrons who park on the streets rather than the free valet parking prompted the council's action.

"This is not about parking, it is about noise," said Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman. "The goal was to make it as simple as possible and enforceable."

If approved as proposed, parking would be limited to neighbors and Laguna Beach residents with shoppers' permits from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., for three square blocks from Bluebird Canyon Drive Center Street and from Carmelita Street to South Coast Highway.

"There is some concern that the rowdy people might be Laguna Beach residents," Iseman said. "This is a temporary solution. We will see how it works."

The program, if given a green light in December, would go into effect on Jan. 1 and be reviewed in May to determine if it should be extended.

Iseman and Councilman Kelly Boyd chaired the sub-committee that worked out the proposed program at a meeting between neighbors and restaurant owner Ivan Spiers.

"The meeting was not easy, but pleasant," Iseman said. "Ivan has a lot invested, and he was willing to do anything the neighbors wanted."

Councilwoman Jane Egly, who voted against the proposal, said Dec. 7 wasn't an appropriate date to hold the public hearing. The failure of the city to get a business to follow the rules was not a reason for the program, she said.

At a previous meeting, Egly characterized the restaurant as a nightclub that should not be operating in a residential neighborhood.

She also objected to the costs of the program, which include the addition of parking meters on Bluebird Canyon and Agate Street, police overtime to enforce the proposed parking restrictions and signage.

Each restricted block would get six no-parking signs, three to a side, with highly reflective lettering and possibly a photo of a shoppers permit.

Egly agreed with Councilwoman Verna Rollinger that the proliferation of street signs on city streets is a visual blight.

"It is hard to look at anything [to photograph] because there are so many signs," Rollinger said.

The proposed program would also include provisions for guest parking.

One suggestion was for each property owner to be given three reusable passes. The passes would be numbered and addresses would be listed to avoid counterfeiting. However, that would not preclude residents from using the passes to park their own vehicles on the street or renting the spaces.

Emerald Bay has for years issued date-specific parking passes to visitors in the gated community.

An online system was also mentioned as a possible alternative.

City staff will report to the council on the need for a coastal development permit for the restrictions, which the sub-committee opined should have no impact on beach parking. The city will pick up the tab for notifying neighbors within two blocks of the restaurant of the hearing. Public notices will be sent to local newspapers.

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