Village Laguna believes it is crucial that the Council apply the lessons learned from its Brown Act violations about the legal requirements for transparency, regular process, and public involvement and apply them to the Hotel Laguna’s renovation. First and foremost this means conducting an open and public process for the hotel. That process begins with Planning Commission review. For some reason, the Council has completely cut out the Planning Commission from reviewing the Hotel’s renovation, denying itself and the public from the benefit of the Commission’s expertise. Second, the Council should stand by the staff’s insistence that the Laguna Beach Company submit a comprehensive plan for the Hotel’s renovation. A comprehensive plan is not just good planning. It is a legal requirement. So far, the City has been conducting a piecemeal review of the hotel’s renovation. It is clearly foreseeable, however, that the entire hotel will be renovated. The California Environmental Quality Act therefore requires that the Council conduct an environmental review of the entire project, not just the individual pieces that are under permit.
Regarding the content of the staff report on the Hotel Laguna, there are several topics we raise now that we would have brought to the Council’s attention if we had had a proper public process.
The staff report mentions the historical report which has not been publicly reviewed, and therefore its recommendations have not been vetted nor validated. The interior remodel has been done without public review, and we have no assurance that the changes that have been made are in compliance with the Secretary of Interior Standards and with the recommendations of the historical report. This is a critical component of a CEQA evaluation noted above. There has been a commitment that the Hotel will remain eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and it is critical that that eligibility is not compromised.
The public is relying on the city to enforce its own directives, the most important of which has been to require Mr. Honarkar to provide “a comprehensive plan for the Hotel Laguna property” before stop-work orders are lifted. Disappointingly, the city backed down on this requirement even though Mr. Honarkar has had over a year to produce that plan.This betrays the trust of our city’s residents.
We look forward to continuing to work with you on this important project and hope that you will strongly enforce the city’s regulations and standard processes going forward.
Johanna Felder, Laguna Beach