Council agenda includes next steps for Ti Amo property, update on Promenade work plan, July 4 fireworks or drone options, summer parking management plan


The Laguna Beach City Council has several notable items on the agenda next week.

At the Tuesday (April 23) meeting, council will: Provide direction regarding the next steps for the former Ti Amo property; receive an update on the Promenade on Forest Ad Hoc Committee’s work plan and reaffirm the project description as a pedestrian plaza; provide direction show options for the Fourth of July celebrations; and receive an update on the summer 2024 parking management plan and transit services. Earlier in the day, council will hold a joint meeting with the Arts Commission.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will consider the next steps for the city-owned property formerly occupied by Ti Amo restaurant

During regular business, council will provide direction regarding the next steps for the city-owned property at 31727 and 31735 Coast Highway (formerly occupied by Italian restaurant Ti Amo by il Barone).

At the Jan. 24, 2023 meeting, council declared the city-owned property at 31729 and 31735 Coast Highway (also known as 31727 Coast Highway), the former Ti Amo restaurant, as surplus property and “not necessary for the city’s use.”

The item was originally scheduled for the Jan. 10, 2023, meeting, but was removed from the agenda by the city manager.

According to the staff report for next week’s item, the California Department of Housing and Community Development notified the city on November 16 that all the requirements were met under the Surplus Land Act and Laguna Beach is permitted to proceed with the sale of the property, should the city desire to do so.

Staff is now seeking direction regarding next steps for the subject property.

Council may consider options for the property including, but not limited to:

–Sell the property. The city could list the property for sale in the open market. If the city receives an acceptable offer, the sale of the property would result in one-time revenues.

–Lease the property. The city could maintain ownership of the property and issue an RFP for a long-term development lease. If the city receives an acceptable proposal, the long-term lease of the property would result in ongoing revenues.

–Other uses. The city could consider the property for other uses as directed by the council.

The former restaurant property was originally purchased in 2021 by the city for civic uses, including a potential future fire station in South Laguna.

In a 3-2 vote on June 15, 2021, council authorized an agreement with Rincon Consultants Inc. in the amount of $89,199 to provide consulting services for the preparation of an initial study for the acquisition of the Ti Amo property and for a possible mitigated negative declaration, if determined to be appropriate. Councilmembers Toni Iseman and George Weiss dissented.

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 Aug. 4, 2021, to approve city staff’s recommended General Plan consistency determination for the location. Commissioners and staff emphasized that they were only affirming GP consistency for possible future public benefit use, and not a specific use (such as a fire station).

In another split vote on Aug. 24, 2021, council certified the initial study/mitigated negative declaration for the acquisition of the property. The city entered into escrow to acquire the property and offered $2.7 million. Council directed staff to complete any steps necessary to close escrow on the subject property.

On Jan. 5, 2022, the Planning Commission considered a temporary use permit for a parking lot on the empty lot adjacent to the former Ti Amo restaurant, but couldn’t figure out the ingress and egress. They ultimately continued the item to a future meeting, when the idea failed to find a majority of support.

Iseman requested on June 7, 2022, that the council agendize a future item to consider selling the Ti Amo property. While there was no official vote or action at the June meeting, there was general consensus on the dais to obtain an appraisal at the appropriate time in the future when the city might be in the position to sell the property.

Council voted 5-0 on Sept. 20, 2022, to approve moving forward with the acquisition of the property at 31796 South Coast Highway (dental building), which was found to be a superior site for a replacement fire station. After more than a year of contentious split votes on the Ti Amo site and applying the potential pressure of eminent domain on the owner of the 31796 Coast Highway property, there was a consensus of support for the new location. The city closed escrow on the new property on Jan. 4, 2023.

The move to declare the Ti Amo site as surplus came shortly thereafter.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The Promenade on Forest Ad Hoc Committee will update City Council on its work plan

Also on Tuesday’s agenda, council will receive an update on the Promenade on Forest Ad Hoc Committee’s work plan and reaffirm the project description as a pedestrian plaza.

Staff is also recommending that in lieu of holding a design competition between top firms, as council previously suggested, the city utilize SWA as the project’s design firm via an existing on-call services contract for a not-to-exceed amount of $30,000.

At the January 23 meeting, when presented with only two concept options for the permanent Promenade on Forest that felt a bit “formulaic,” City Council decided to hit the pause button.

At the January meeting, council unanimously agreed to affirm the council’s support of an idea of a pedestrian plaza, appoint an ad hoc committee of Mayor Sue Kempf and Councilmember Mark Orgill to work with staff and the consultant with the goal of identifying the project scope and constraints, and set up a process for a design competition. The contest was meant to allow more firms to submit ideas for a more creative, resident-focused pedestrian plaza.

The ad hoc committee drafted a project description for consideration by the full council, which reaffirms the Promenade on Forest project as a pedestrian plaza: “The promenade transforms a former street into a vibrant and shaded pedestrian plaza, offering a place to leisurely shop, eat, rest, and relax. Respectful of our history as a unique community, the promenade will celebrate the influence of art, music, and our treasured landscape character of Laguna.”

The committee will also present tentative project work plan milestones that they hope to achieve.

In May, they aim to form focus groups by topic and hold a meeting.

By June, the committee and focus groups will receive a presentation of an economic retail analysis by a consultant. At the same time, the committee will receive an assessment regarding the existing trees in the Downtown by a consultant.

Committee and focus groups will meet with a state board in July to understand regulatory requirements for alcohol in the Promenade and how it impacts project design.

Design goals for the project will ideally be established by August by the committee, with input from focus groups, the community, staff and consultants.

In September, they hope the design consultant will be able to provide conceptual design options for consideration based on the project scope and description.

By October, the committee and focus groups are aiming to select design options to recommend to the council.

The tentative timeline includes City Council selecting a design option at a meeting in November. Staff will then be directed to move forward with future design phases.

Potential focus group members will provide the committee with input and feedback on a variety of topics related to the project’s design. It will be comprised of business owners among the Promenade, architects, the art community, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, officials from Visit Laguna Beach, Planning Commission representatives and others from city commissions or boards.

The work plan also includes opportunities for community members to provide input directly to the committee and focus groups through public workshops. They also plan on conducting a community survey and developing a project web page with up-to-date information.

Council created the Promenade in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Jan. 12, 2021, councilmembers voted unanimously to extend the outdoor dining and retail display temporary use permit program, including the Promenade on Forest, and directed staff to solicit proposals for analysis, design and entitlement for the conversion to a permanent plaza.

In May 2021, the city contracted with RRM Design for services to make the Promenade on Forest a permanent installation. The program plan was approved by council on June 7, 2022, which acted as a guide to develop the design concepts.

The Planning Commission reviewed concepts for the Promenade on Forest on July 5, 2023, and, after nearly three hours of discussion, commissioners unanimously agreed to recommend the more informal, meandering style “Forest stroll” design, which is what staff forwarded to council in January.

Also during regular business on Tuesday, council will provide direction to staff on show options for the Fourth of July celebrations.

The staff report includes options for a firework show (staff is recommending a $42,000 agreement with Pyro Spectaculars for a show at Monument Point) or a drone light show (staff is recommending a $75,000 agreement with Open Sky Drone Light Shows or Skyworx Drone Shows).

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, council will receive an update on the summer 2024 parking management plan and transit services.

If approved, the action will also authorize the operation of summer trolley service on the coastal, canyon and summer breeze routes, and expanded Laguna Local on-demand service hours, between June 28 and September 2.

Staff also recommends that council authorize the city manager to negotiate and execute, or extend lease agreements for seasonal public parking lots with Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, Laguna College of Art + Design, the property owner at 232 Ocean Ave., the property owner at 16355 Laguna Canyon Road and the property owner at 303 Legion St. Also, an agreement with the Festival of Arts for the lease of 30 parking spaces in lot 13 and 65 spaces in lot 12, for a total of 95 spaces, and approve the one-time purchase of parking spaces for special events in lot 10 in July and August.

It’s also proposed to convert the Laguna Beach Library parking lot into public parking lot 23 that will be used for paid public parking during non-operating library hours year-round. If approved, the action will authorize the city manager to enter into an agreement with the Friends of the Library of Laguna Beach, providing $9,000 annually for continued support of library programs.

The item also includes the sale of summer parking passes for festival artists, staff and the general public; and the continuation of the Passport to the Arts parking permit program, which provides discounted parking in lot 16 (Act V).

At the end of regular business, council will also consider continuing two items to a future meeting: An application to remove and de-list to Torrey Pine trees at 465 Hilledge Drive and 517 Mystic Way from the city’s heritage tree list; and an ordinance amending portions of city code, local coastal program and General Plan, relating to compliance with state housing laws and implementation of the city’s housing element.

At the start of the regular meeting, the council will read a proclamation declaring the first Saturday in May as Laguna Beach Bee Day. The council will also hear a groundswell presentation.

Earlier in the day, the council will hold a joint meeting with the Arts Commission. The two groups will discuss an overview of the commission’s programming, public art ordinance and policy and upcoming programming. There will also be time for public communication.

The joint meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. and the agenda is available here. The council agenda is available online here. The closed session starts at 4:30 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 5 p.m.

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

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, or by using this interactive form. In order to allow sufficient time for members of the City Council and staff to review and consider your written comments, submissions will be accepted for consideration up until the close of business (i.e., 5:30 p.m.) on April 22 (the day before the City Council meeting).


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

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