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Village Entrance plans still under review

The decades-old saga involves the land from City Hall to the Art-a-Fair grounds.

March 31, 2011|By Barbara Diamond, coastlinepilot@latimes.com

A decision on what people see when they enter Laguna Beach from Laguna Canyon Road has plagued city officials for at least three decades and still remains unresolved.

The Planning Commission is winding down its review of a revised environmental impact report, or EIR, for the Village Entrance, the strip of land from City Hall to the Art-a-Fair grounds.

"It is important for the public to delve into this and decide what you would like to see on the site," Councilwoman Verna Rollinger said at a public forum Saturday. "It is important that the council get your input."

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The presentation, hosted by the Laguna chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, included the history of the proposals for the site, a pitch for some design features landscape architect Bob Borthwick and Rollinger favor, and an opportunity for the audience to ask some questions, as well as make suggestions.

"This [project] is an important issue for all of us who care about our community," said league member Vera Martinez.

The league, which had taken a position on the Village Entrance project in 1986, will have to do another study before determining its current position, said longtime league member Jean Raun, a Laguna Beach resident.

Borthwick envisions the Village Entrance project as a stepping stone to improvements in Laguna Canyon, which longtime resident Leah Vasquez said is the real entrance to Laguna.

"Almost 40 years ago, we created our Window to the Sea when we purchased the land once occupied by gas stations, shops, restaurants and other structures and developed — or 'undeveloped' Main Beach Park," Borthwick said. "The Village Entrance can be our Window to the Canyon, the entrance to our downtown and a link between our business district and the Civic Arts District."

Parameters in the draft EIR under review are limited to the site. They range from a "no project" alternative to a structure with up to 218,625 square feet, the smallest to accommodate 429 parking spaces and the largest 667 spaces, and a park.

However, Rollinger is lobbying for a smaller — and consequently cheaper — structure.

"Fortunately, the EIR allows us to go smaller, but not larger, without another environmental study," Rollinger said. "I think we have paid for too many studies already."

Parking is a major constraint. The California Coastal Commission requires any net loss in spaces to be replaced nearby.

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