Commission denies approval of Coast Inn project


The Planning Commission didn’t like the revised proposal for the Coast Inn any more than the original submission in March.

Commissioners unanimously voted on Wednesday after about three hours of testimony to recommend the City Council deny approval of the project. The commissioners voiced concerns about the proposed roof-top deck, which includes a swimming pool, and the extent of the project, which they felt verges on a major remodel and does not conform to the current city code.

“I was surprised and pleased with the commission’s decision,” said project opponent Barbara Metzger, a former planning commissioner.

Development Department staff had advised the commission to recommend approval of the project to City Council.

The project still will go to the council because it includes parking credits for historic preservation.

Parking was an issue with many opponents of the project and a parking study was mandated in March, now completed. 

Project architect Marshall Ininns said the Coast Inn has 98 spaces grandfathered in for the hotel, 12 spaces grandfathered for the liquor store, plus 13 actual spaces. The remainder of the required parking would be fulfilled by Uber, Lyft, private vans, trolleys and buses, he said.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LB Historical Society

The original Coast Inn with iconic tower

“This is a perfect opportunity for Laguna to preserve one of the historical icons and prevent it from being lost forever,” said Ininns. 

Coast Inn owner Chris Dornin is no stranger to controversial projects. He partnered with Louis Longi in the battle for approval of an artist work/live project in Laguna Canyon, opposed by the Friends of the Canyon. 

“Commissioners missed a significant opportunity on Wednesday to beautify this blighted neighborhood and to put significant restrictions on the project,” said Dornin, born and raised in the HIP District of Laguna. “They had the opportunity to put 54 conditions on the project and limit the property to 300 people.  

“We could open the Boom Boom Room tomorrow with 597 people in it, live music or a DJ and about 200 cars parked in the neighborhood.”

The project as presented to the commission on Wednesday still included a request for a variance to restore documented towers and the original sign on the hotel that disappeared decades ago and the swimming pool on the roof of the hotel, but eliminated the pool deck, spa, gym, and conference room in the defunct store on the corner of South Coast Highway and Mountain Road, according to Ininns. 

“Our future plans depend on the outcome of the City Council review,” said Dornin. 

The entire staff report on the Coast Inn project, more than 200 pages long, is available for review on the city website, Click on City Meetings and Agendas.

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