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Council to consider appeal for mixed-use project at Sweetwater site, network switches for new recreation center, Pacific Symphony concert


Laguna Beach City Council has a light, but interesting agenda tonight.

At tonight's meeting (Tuesday, Sept. 26), council will hear and/or consider: An appeal of a mixed-use project proposed for the Sweetwater Hand Car Wash site; purchase of network switches for the Laguna Beach Community and Recreation Center; underground utility district in Woods Cove and a free concert in collaboration with the Pacific Symphony at Heisler Park.

Last up on the agenda is an appeal of a mixed-use project proposed for the Sweetwater Hand Car Wash site in the Woods Cove neighborhood.

The Planning Commission voted 4-0 (then-Chair Pro Tem Ken Sadler was absent) on June 7 in support of a conditional use permit, design review, coastal development permit, revocable encroachment permit and variances required to demolish the local car wash and redevelop the site at 1890 South Coast Highway as a retail and residential project.

The June vote also included approval of a determination that the project is exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act. Although commissioners added a condition requiring that a soil and groundwater management plan be reviewed by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. A copy of the approval shall be submitted to the city prior to issuance of a building or demolition permit. All appropriate best management practices shall be kept in place throughout the construction phase as required by the approved plan. Soil testing subject to the standards of the WQCB shall be completed prior to permit issuance.

Following the Planning Commission’s approval, two neighboring property owners filed separate appeals for the project. The petitions contend that the commission: Did not make adequate findings for the requested variances; failed to adequately address the reasonableness of the revocable encroachment permit; failed to consider issues related to neighborhood compatibility, design articulation, view equity, public health and safety, General Plan consistency, and construction staging; made a procedural error by eliminating the variance for covered parking without requiring that the project be re-staked; and incorrectly determined that the project is exempt from the provisions of CEQA and specifically assert that the CEQA analysis did not evaluate contamination on the site.

Tonight, city staff is recommending the council overturn the approval, remand the project back to the Planning Commission and direct staff to prepare an initial study pursuant to CEQA guidelines. The project applicant agrees with the determination, and intends to work with the city on the preparation of an initial study. If remanded by council, the issues raised by the two appellants would be deferred until the Planning Commission has had the opportunity to review the project based on the additional information provided by the initial study. The appellants have been notified of this development and are aware of staff’s recommendations.

Council to consider appeal for mixed use Sweetwater renderings

Click on photo for a larger image

Rendering by Anders Lasater Architects/Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

Previous (top from August 2020 and middle from April 2021) and the revised current (bottom) renderings of the mixed-use project proposed for 1890 S. Coast Highway

Plans call to remove the car wash and construct a new two-story, 8,204-square-foot mixed-use building. The design also includes a 5,221-square-foot deck area above a subterranean parking garage.

Following lengthy discussions and feedback from commissioners, city staff and the neighboring residents, the project has been revised several times over the last five years. The most recent proposal lowered the entire building by four feet and added three residential units to the upper level.

At the June meeting, commissioners thought the project should work with their added conditions, particularly as it relates to CEQA, which are sensitive due to environmental issues.

Regarding the CEQA exemption, Community Development Director Marc Wiener explained in June that staff evaluated the project and found that it “checks the boxes” and meets the requirements as described by the state. An initial study wouldn’t likely yield much more information about the site, he said.

The one exception is the potential for the soil contamination, he added, although a report shows that the site has been remediated. The plans are required to go to the San Diego Regional WQCB for approval prior to the final sign off. If there was an initial study under CEQA, the mitigation would likely be what they’re already proposing on doing through the permitting process with that agency, Wiener noted. The South Coast Air Quality Management District also needs to approve projects like this to ensure there are mitigations in place at the time of the permit. There are a number of mechanisms in place to mitigate issues during construction, many which don’t come before the city.

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Council to consider appeal for mixed use Rec center

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will consider purchasing network switches to connect the new Laguna Beach Community and Recreation Center to the city network

Earlier in the meeting, on the consent calendar (usually passed without discussion, unless an item is pulled by a councilmember or member of the public), council will consider authorizing the city manager to purchase network switches for the Laguna Beach Community and Recreation Center.

The action will approve buying four CISCO computer network switches, including support subscriptions for three years, licensing and required hardware, from Presidio in the amount not-to-exceed $82,436.

The switches would connect the city’s network to the new facility (former home of the St. Catherine of Siena parish school campus), located at 30516 Coast Highway.

A network switch is a specialized hardware component that securely connects all devices in the network by receiving, monitoring and forwarding data to its desired destination. CISCO switches are designed for large enterprise organizations and provide software allowing for granular access policies, further improving the city’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

The pricing for Presidio was obtained through the National Association of Procurement Officials program, a national cooperative purchasing program. Laguna Beach city code allows an exemption to standard purchasing bidding requirements if the purchase is based on the bidding efforts of another public agency. NASPO aggregates competitively sources bids from public agencies across the country to ensure fair and competitive prices for public goods and services.

During regular business, council will consider resolutions related to an underground utility district in Woods Cove.

If approved, the action will also appoint the December 12 council meeting for a public hearing regarding proposed underground utility assessment district. Council will also acknowledge the intent to contribute $1.58 million for the general benefit cost, if the district is approved and prior to bonds being sold.

Council action will also authorize the city manager to sign and return ballots in support of the proposed assessment district for two city-owned parcels, located within the district at fire station no. 2 and Bluebird Park.

Petitions requesting the formation of an underground utility assessment district for a portion of the Woods Cove neighborhood were submitted to the City Council on Sept. 16, 2014. The council approved the preliminary boundary map, directed staff to forward the map to the utility companies to begin design work and authorized staff to solicit proposals for assessment engineering services.

The utility designs were completed, but due to a few starts and stops in the formation process, including the absorption of 20 parcels from the dissolved Agate/Glenneyre assessment district into the Woods Cove boundary, the project was required to be redesigned by the utility companies. The revised plans were approved by the Planning Commission and construction bids were solicited in accordance with state requirements.

A preliminary engineer’s report was prepared for council review by Harris and Associates. If approved, the action will commence the process for a public hearing and a final ballot by the affected property owners.

Councilmember George Weiss’ residence is located within the district boundary and results in a possible conflict of interest. Staff is recommending Weiss to recuse himself from the dais for the entire discussion of the item.

Also during regular business, council will review their proposed 2024 meeting schedule.

The annual council retreat is tentatively scheduled for April 9, 2024 and the budget review workshop on May 14, 2024. The council also has joint meetings planned with the Design Review Board, Planning Commission, Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education and the Arts Commission.

Also on the consent calendar, council will consider a concert in collaboration with the Pacific Symphony at Heisler Park.

If approved, the concert is scheduled for October 6 and will authorize the use of amplified sound during the event. The concert would feature four of the Symphony’s musicians who would perform a 45-minute concert at the park’s amphitheater stage.

The Arts Commission is recommending hosting the free “Symphony on the Go” concert for the community to experience and enjoy. The Symphony received a grant from Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley to present free concerts throughout the county.

The council agenda is available online here. Closed session will begin at 4 p.m., and the regular meeting at 5 p.m.

Members of the public may speak in person in council chambers.

To participate via Zoom, you may click here from your computer or smart phone. You may also call 669.900.9128 and wait for instructions. The Webinar ID is 91641723096#. If you have issues getting into the Zoom meeting or raising your virtual hand to comment, you may text the city clerk at 310.722.5051.

The meeting can be watched live on Cox channel 852 or on the city’s website at

Comments may be submitted on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda in writing via mail to the City Clerk at: 505 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, Calif. 92651, by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by using this interactive form. Comments were emailed to the City Clerk no later than 3 p.m. on September 25 (the day before the City Council meeting) in order for your comments to be submitted to the members of the City Council the day prior the meeting, which provides them sufficient time to review the comments.

You may continue to provide written comments up to 12 p.m. today (the day of the meeting). While these comments will be provided to the City Council at 2 p.m. on Sept. 26, councilmembers may not have sufficient time to review them prior to the meeting.


Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.

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