How many years does it take for a world renowned artist colony to build a Village Entrance? You know, that inviting reminder to tourists who support the very existence of its attraction and the revenue brought in to our town.
Neighboring communities such as Dana Point built a bridge that goes from an empty lot to a Denny’s. Now Newport has one of those bridges that takes one no where also. Not to mention the millions of dollars Santa Ana invested in its art projects over the past five years.
This may inspire our leaders to take this project seriously for our tourists, our artists and our townspeople to maneuver easily, delight in all of our festivals, and give a little homage to the artists during summer’s festival season and beyond.
The artists who live here should be a constant reminder, yet it seems most of us are scrambling to make a living in one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets. I think it’s time to take this project seriously while we it’s on the table again.
Let’s come together for the arts and be at the meeting Tuesday and indeed support a long overdue investment into the future of our lovely livelihood.
What are we waiting for?
Chamber supports Pearson’s Village Entrance plan
The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is pleased that the City Council is seriously considering a plan to move forward with the Village Entrance. As we all know, this project has been under scrutiny and review, multiple times over, for the past 18 years. It is exciting and encouraging to see this important city asset move forward.
The chamber is very supportive of the original concept that Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson and Councilwoman Toni Iseman originally agreed upon. Although perhaps an interesting concept that we have not actually seen fully fleshed out, the chamber has concerns regarding Iseman’s alternative for the following reasons:
1). The alternative does not seem to address Laguna’s emerging economy. Merchants cannot survive on a two-month economy and are dependent on both local and regional patrons year round. Evidenced by the initiation of Winter Fantasy, Spring into Art, Artist Studio workshops and other off-season events, Laguna Beach venues are promoting off-season events to remain sustainable and viable. In addition, we are already seeing increased weekend traffic, which has generated the request by our local hotels and restaurants to expand trolley service year-round — at least during weekends. Moreover plans are underway to provide off-season events such as a fall festival to further generate local and regional travel to support our local merchants, restaurants and hotels.
2). The alternative does not take into account the increased traffic anticipated and already experienced in Laguna Canyon with the development of Laguna Altura. With only the primary phases complete, it is expected that at build-out, there will be an increase of about 10,000 residents, a good percentage of whom will be traveling to Laguna Beach year-round via Laguna Canyon. Capturing that segment in a parking facility, prior to traversing downtown and further congesting city streets, seems to be an effective traffic management strategy that the alternative plan does not address.
3). The alternative raises questions as to costs, including the commissioning of a new environmental impact report that takes into account the alternative proposal. This alone may involve potential litigation or other delays that could effectively kill the project altogether. While the chamber has not been given a formal presentation of the alternative for full consideration, we question raising another alternative at this late stage when the original agreed upon Village Entrance proposal has been vetted with more than $630,000 invested thus far.
The Chamber of Commerce supports the Village Entrance project now being proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Pearson as a viable and overdue project for the city. This project will not only alleviate the current pressures on parking, traffic and circulation, but will stimulate business and prime the pump for improvements to downtown and eventually to surrounding business districts. Most importantly, it will provide a welcoming community landmark for the city.
We urge the City Council to unanimously adopt the Village Entrance project proposed by Pearson and take the necessary steps to move forward.
Kinsman is the president of the Chamber of Commerce.