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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 55  |  July 10, 2020

Council delays hearing on revised Coast Inn project


The City Council on Tuesday decided to allow its staff more time to analyze last-minute revisions to the proposed restoration and remodel of the Coast Inn.

Given the choices of hearing the project despite the staff’s qualms, returning it to the Planning Commission, or continuing Tuesday’s hearing until July 28, the council concluded a 75-minute hearing on the options by voting 4-1 for the delay. 

Councilwoman Toni Iseman, the lone vote against the continuation, wanted the project returned to the commission, which was adamantly opposed by property owner Chris Dornin in a telephone call to the council. 

“We have made drastic reductions [in the project] to make it approvable,” said Dornin. “It is frustrating to be in this position.”

Project architect Marshall Ininns finds the delays exasperating and incomprehensible. 

“I can’t believe the opposition,” said Ininns on Thursday. “This building has been neglected for 50 years. Our plan is to restore it to attract guests to the city that will spend money in Laguna’s restaurants and stores.”

Mayor Bob Whalen directed staff to prepare a report on the project to be made available to the public on July 17, 10 days prior to the continued hearing. 

“Staff and the applicant need to sit down and come to terms,” said Whalen. 

Councilman Peter Blake would just as soon have heard the project on Tuesday. 

“We know the project will be appealed to the [California] Coastal Commission,” said Blake. “It is our responsibility to hear it and send it on its way to the appeals.”

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow was given pause by the admonitions from City Attorney Philip Kohn, who advised the council not to proceed with Tuesday’s hearing. 

“I would prefer to hear it tonight, but I hear hesitation and concern in Phil’s voice,” said Dicterow. 

Councilwoman Sue Kempf said the planning commission could have done a good job, but she felt it would prolong the process an unacceptable amount of time. 

Seven of the 12 members of the public who called in comments also favored the project going back to the commission.

Council delays building

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

Proposed rendering of the Coast Inn

As submitted prior to the last-minute changes, the project includes the historic rehabilitation of the building to reflect the original Spanish Colonial Revival style as shown on a 1930s hotel postcard. The exterior of the building would be plastered and historic turrets, architectural features, deck railings, roof details, and signage would be reconstructed.

The proposal also includes 24 remodeled hotel rooms and an existing restaurant. Rooftop signs and a new 3,707-square-foot deck exceed Laguna’s height restriction.

Deck occupancy is limited to 101: five staff members and 96 guests from the hotel’s 24 rooms, but Dornin said Tuesday it was not feasible to check the identification of everyone on the roof, an issue for the staff. 

Staff opined in its report that the project is neither a major remodel nor deficient in parking spaces.

Under the current staff interpretation, demolition of 50 percent of the exterior walls in linear feet or the combined measurement of roof, walls, and foundation constitutes a major remodel. The application calculates the demolition or reinforcement of walls to be 40.9 percent and 44 percent of the combined measurement. 

Grandfathered parking of 98 spaces meets the requirement with no request for additional credits, according to the staff report.

Even without this week’s changes, the project that would have been considered on Tuesday differs markedly from the one first reviewed by the commission and later presented to the council in 2018. That version included the liquor store across the street, designed by the late Chris Abel in the mid-1950s, and two structures behind it.

“We scaled back the project after the council meeting,” said Dornin.    

Prior to the changes submitted Monday and Tuesday, staff opined the project would not result in any environmental impacts pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act and variance findings could be made. 

Staff now believes a new analysis is needed on issues that could affect the CEQA ruling, according to Director of Community Development Marc Wiener.


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