City Council narrowly approves 'Quiet Zone'

A parking plan designed to limit late-night noise near Mozambique squeaked past the City Council Tuesday night.

The council voted 3-2 to approve a "Quiet Zone" that restricts nighttime parking to vehicles with shopper's permits or residence-specific guest passes on both sides of Glenneyre Street up to, but not including, Carmelita Street, between both sides of Center Street to, but not including, Bluebird Canyon Drive. The council also approved preparation of a coastal development permit as recommended in a last-minute communiqué from the California Coastal Commission.

"I am afraid either the program will be a success or fail," said Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, who voted with Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly against the proposal.

"People will either park in front of your home or somebody else's and have to pass your house to get there. If it succeeds, I can see it popping up all over town."

Some requests popped up at the meeting.

"I would really, really appreciate it if you could include both sides of Carmelita," Mary Rabe said.

Annette Stephens, who owns property near the corner of Glenneyre and Calliope streets, said that although the council's goal is to bring tranquility to the neighborhood, her problem is parking. She also asked to have the zone expanded.

The program resulted from meetings between restaurant representatives and neighbors, and was triggered by a litany of complaints about the conduct of patrons of the restaurant and bar who park their vehicles on neighborhood streets rather than use valet parking provided by Mozambique. It will be reviewed in September.

"Neighborhood participation is an accommodation, not an endorsement of Mozambique," said Mallory McCamant. "We will be back in September. I hope it will be a success. If not, we will ask you to enforce the [conditional use permit]."

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rose Hancock said the chamber's Government Affairs Committee supported the test, but suggested starting the restricted parking an hour later than the proposed 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and also questioned how the success or failure of the test would be measured.

"It might be helpful to have the residents keep a log," Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said. However, Boyd said that wasn't and probably shouldn't be the neighbors' job.

"That is why [council members] have e-mail and phones," said Councilman Kelly Boyd, who co-chaired the neighborhood meetings with Mayor Toni Iseman. "They can communicate with us, good or bad, but we should be the ones to keep logs."

The chamber committee also asked if the Coastal Commission had been notified in light of its beach access policy.

As the council was informed at the beginning of the hearing, the commission communicated on Tuesday its position that a coastal development permit was required for the program.

"Today, we received a call from the California Coastal Commission indicating their opinion that the approval of the Quiet Zone as recommended would require a Coastal Development Permit and none is recommended on the agenda bill before the City Council," City Manager John Pietig said.

Although city staff does not necessarily agree that a permit is needed for the zone, according to Pietig, the council directed staff to move ahead on the program and then bring back a recommendation for the issuance of a coastal development permit at a properly noticed meeting. Pietig also said that staff does not believe that council approval of the permit or the issuance will be appealable to the commission.

Restricted parking, however, was not the main driver of the program.

"This is not about parking; it about noise," Iseman said.

But in the opinion of some of the neighbors noise won't be resolved by restricted parking.

Herb Rabe said permits limited to Laguna Beach residents and their guests doesn't guarantee quiet.

"As long as they [Mozambique operators] have entertainment, it won't be a quiet zone," resident Barb Self said.

She also found fault with the estimated costs of the test period, which includes $ 6,000 for clerical help and an analyst and $5,200 for signs, to be funded from salary savings in the Public Works.

"Instead of eliminating the problem, residents are asked to pay $16,000 for a Band-Aid," Self said.

Egly agreed with her.

"This is difficult, complicated, annoying and expensive," Egly said. "I don't know if it will be a mess or not, but it's because we didn't enforce the CUP on Mozambique. They have morphed from a fine dining restaurant to a nightclub and, I have heard, a full entertainment venue.

"We are imposing on a neighborhood what the Planning Commission knew we shouldn't do."

The lack of police presence in the zone was also a concern.

Ed Todeschini said he doubts that police can enforce the parking restrictions during the evening hours when criminal activity is most prevalent.

"Intermittent enforcement makes people behave best," Iseman said. "And Mozambique has people on the street."

Iseman proposed staff meetings with the neighbors and restaurant representatives every six weeks to be find out how the test is going, rather than let it fester until September.

"I anticipate it will be pleasant surprise," Iseman said.

The coastal development permit hearing will most likely be held March 22, which Pietig said would not delay the proposed April 1 start of the program.

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