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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 64  |  August 11, 2020

Councilman Blake sparks Coast Inn 4-1 approval


History will repeat itself – almost.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve plans for the restoration of the Coast Inn to its former glory – with some horse-trading. Councilman Peter Blake orchestrated an agreement, which property owner Chris Dornin and Mayor Bob Whalen would both accept, including a proposal for the applicant to purchase three in-lieu parking certificates, which cleared a major stumbling block to the approval.

“I’m sure Chris loves how I am spending his money,” said Blake before verifying that Dornin was willing to pay the $69,000 fee.

The addition of the in-lieu parking was suggested by Blake to appease Whalen’s dissatisfaction that the project had 98 grandfathered parking spaces, without the city getting something in return. 

“No rooms were added, so there is no intensification of use, so there is no need for more parking,” said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow, who joined Blake in supporting the project as submitted. 

Other modifications to the application for the renovation included pulling the rooftop deck back from the ocean side that eliminated the need for a variance, and parallel amount from the Mountain Street façade that reduced the size to 2,700 square feet. The number of approved rooftop umbrellas is to be reduced proportionately. 

Councilman blake rendering

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of City of LB

Proposed Coast Inn restoration

A proposed rooftop sign was not approved, but turrets and flags, deemed to have historical merit, were given a green light. 

The official resolution of the project was amended to read: “The proposed rooftop towers and flags are considered key character-defining features to the historic rehabilitation of the property and constitute justification for the variance from the standards of the Zoning Ordinance.” 

The specified features intrude into height limitations. 

Revised signage and the coverage of rooftop equipment will be reviewed by the Planning Commission. Some members of the public recommended the entire project be sent back to the commission. 

A majority of the folks who called in comments to the council during the meeting opposed not just the deck but the entire project. 

However, of the 201 emails sent to the council prior to the meeting, 126 favored it. 

The project was reviewed three times by the City’s Heritage Committee in 2015, and eventually supported. The Planning Commission reviewed the project three times and found itself unable to make the findings for a variance from the normal standard, objected to the overall size of the project, neighborhood impacts, and inadequately addressed concerns. 

Council first reviewed the project in January of 2018 and subsequently appointed a subcommittee of Whalen and then-Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede, which met later that year to review council concerns, concluding the project should be revised and returned to the council. 

The project is located on the corner of South Coast Highway and Mountain Road and once housed the iconic Boom Boom Room. 

As approved on Tuesday, the 24-room hotel will be restored to reflect the original Spanish Colonial Revival Style, as shown on a 1930s postcard.


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

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