Laguna Beach soon will be accepting bids from consulting companies for a new Downtown Action Plan that is projected to go into effect in conjunction with the city’s Downtown Specific Plan update in April.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved sending out a request for proposals within the next couple of weeks. The city expects several firms to submit plans suggesting improvements for sidewalk and landscape design, trees, street lighting, and public art and furniture.
The Downtown Action Plan will set in motion parts of the Downtown Specific Plan, said Community Development Director Greg Pfost. Laguna Beach has been working on an update to the specific plan — which outlines policies for urban design, land use and overall downtown feel — since 2014, according to the city website. The specific plan was adopted in 1989 and has been amended several times.
“The action plan ... takes these policy ideas of what generally we already talked about and puts them into the street and actually says ‘OK, let’s put trash cans here and let’s improve this alley this way,’” Pfost said. “So it actually implements design.”
Pfost said the Community Development Department, along with consulting company MIG, are wrapping up the specific plan update and will send it to the Planning Commission in late February or March. Once the commission finishes its review, the document will head to the City Council.
Pfost said he expects the city’s specific plan review process to end in April, coinciding with the projected timeline for Downtown Action Plan approval.
Once the council is finished with the updated specific plan, the document must be reviewed by the California Coastal Commission. But some parts of it — those in the Downtown Action Plan — can go into effect sooner, Pfost said.
Ruben Flores, owner of Laguna Nursery, and several other community members spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, emphasizing that the Downtown Action Plan should reflect the importance of trees to the community.
“It distinguishes our town from the other towns nearby,” Flores said. “It’s something that many of us moved here for and appreciate.”
Pfost said the city’s goal is to find an action plan consultant steeped in urban design with an arborist’s perspective. He said the consultant will comb Laguna Beach street by street, inspecting trees and assessing whether to expand tree wells.
Some residents said the city should hold another community workshop before the action plan is completed. Council members discussed the effectiveness of an outside consulting group and whether there should be more community input.
“Some of the consultants that we’ve had can’t be trusted,” Councilwoman Toni Iseman said. “The community knows much better than the consultants.”
Ultimately, the council decided the public had sufficient opportunities for input during past Planning Commission meetings and community workshops.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said he doesn’t want a consultant for the Downtown Action Plan to “reinvent the wheel” by undoing the progress made over the past five years with the specific plan update.
“We take what we’ve learned up until now, use that as a basis and have this not be a study group … kind of thing but instead an implementation,” he said.