Mobility Committee is seeking public input at meeting

Getting around Laguna Beach can be a headache for some, particularly at this time of the year.

City officials want to figure out how people can more efficiently get from one place in town to another and they want the help of residents and business owners.

The public is invited to attend a Planning Commission subcommittee meeting at 5 p.m. Monday at the Third Street Community Center to discuss the operation, cost and funding of the city transit system, an important component of the city's new Mobility Element of the General Plan.

"We want to hear what people think is good and bad and we are willing to listen to anything," said Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman, who is co-chairing the subcommittee series of meetings with Commissioner Linda Dietrich.

"Right now we are in the process of gathering information," he said.

The goal is to promote a Laguna Beach transportation network that is pedestrian friendly, traffic-calmed, congestion-mitigated, and provides frequent and reliable transit service between home, workplace, school, recreation and shopping for residents and visitors, according to Senior Planner Scott Drapkin.

Additionally, the environment will benefit by reduced congestion, decreased emissions per passenger mile and encouragement of non-polluting modes of transportation, such as electric vehicles. The city has already installed charging stations.

"The subcommittee is looking at the movement of people and it is changing," architect Marshall Ininns said. "We need to look at it from a different perspective. We are moving a lot of people and it shouldn't all be by car."

He added, "I live in the Village area because I like to park my car and walk."

Ininns would like to see more diverse public participation in the meetings.

Changes to the former Circulation Element of the General Plan were prompted by the state Complete Streets legislation in 2007, which mandates having alternates to automobiles for personal transportation, Grossman said.

"The city's current element has been in place for 22 years and the city's philosophy has significantly changed from maximizing parking and minimizing congestion to emphasizing less reliance on automobiles, while enhancing other modes of transportation," Grossman said.

"We need to bring the element up to date and incorporate key policies from the recently revised Land Use Element as they relate to the various ways people get around," he added.

Recommendations included in the city's upcoming Downtown and Laguna Canyon Road Parking Management Plan will also be considered, according to Drapkin.

The General Plan Update will guide future transportation capital investment and development entitlement decisions.

Laguna is the only South County city with its own transit system, and it is costly. All $675,000 in the transit reserve is expected to be gobbled up this year. Even so, the transfer of $710,200, which has become an annual routine, will be needed to subsidize operations.

Alternative funding is being studied to reduce dependency on the Parking Fund, City Manager John Pietig wrote in his overview of the city's 2012-13 budget.

"The system is costly, but well worth it," Grossman said. "It facilitates the movement of people, especially in the summer, and hopefully its use will expand under the new mobility element to lessen people's reliance on the automobile.

Three meetings have already been held by the subcommittee, including one on insight into bicyclists and bicycles as transportation and another on pedestrians.

At least three more meetings will be held, according to Grossman.

The fifth meeting will deal with the business community concerns, hopefully with Chamber of Commerce participation, Grossman said. The sixth meeting will be on the Americans with Disabilities Act; the seventh on alternative transportation modes. None are set in stone, Grossman said.

Information about the element and the meetings is available at http://www.Lagunabeachcity.net.

Anyone interested in being on a contact list to be notified about upcoming meetings or for more information, contact Drapkin, at sdrapkin@lagunabeachcity.net or by calling (949) 497-0362.

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