Plans for Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach get Coastal Commission approval

The Pacific Edge Hotel on the South Coast Highway will be getting a makeover, thanks to recent action by the Coast Commission.

The Coastal Commission has approved conditionally on a unanimous vote a Coastal Development Permit for the renovation of the existing hotel, which spans approximately 102,498 square feet. The hotel was built between 1932 and 1967, according to commission staff, and was developed before the California Coastal Act.

The renovations include 131 hotel rooms and the construction of 25 more. Other updates include the expansion of the hotel restaurant, new office and conference space, a new cafe and a new swimming pool and spa.

A hearing in October 2021 revealed a substantial problem with the application for the project in an appeal by UNITE HERE Local 11 – a union representing hotel and restaurant workers in Southern California. The union has expressed concern about the lack of on-site and affordable accommodation and access to parking for hospitality workers.

Highgate Hotels, the applicant for the coastal development permit, responded by providing six lower-cost hotel rooms to rent for $130 a night, including parking fees and resort fees every night of the year on place, and submitted adjustments to their parking and transportation plans.

The main body of the Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach on August 13, 2021.

(Don Leach / personal photographer)

District Supervisor Zach Rehm said the proposal also nearly satisfies other conditions the Coast Commission has applied to other projects where new hotel rooms were proposed – that 25% of new hotel rooms should be provided at lower cost.

That would work out to around 6.25 rooms for the Pacific Edge, though the split room is offset by a one-time payment of $31,750.

Approximately 15 conditions were applied in conjunction with the approval, including providing a final transportation management plan to the state; keep construction off beaches; and minimize waste and the use of single-use items at the hotel.

Mark Hoffman, who represents Highgate Hotels, said the hotel fully agreed with the staff’s recommendations.

Ada Briceño, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, and other hotel employees showed their support for the project in public comments.

“As you know, hospitality workers came before you last year to raise significant concerns about low-cost housing and parking impacts,” Briceño said. “The hotel employees came before you and said that this site would be an ideal place for affordable prices on site. [accommodations] and you listened to them.

“Months later, we have before you a project that will create accommodation options for working families. Similarly, workers have testified about parking difficulties in this project and the project will now provide 100% subsidized transit passes and enough parking spaces for them and their guests to ensure that they do not take off-site parking reserved for the public. »

The main body of the Pacific Edge Hotel.

The Pacific Edge Hotel was built between 1932 and 1967, according to Coast Commission staff.

(Don Leach / staff photographer)

Laguna Beach Mayor Sue Kempf also offered her voice in support of the project, adding that the city is “excited” about the renovation of the Pacific Edge Hotel.

“As Mark Hoffman pointed out, we have a 131-room beachfront hotel that is badly in need of a facelift. It really needs a facelift and we are now getting 25 rooms. [and] six affordable rooms, which will be useful for people who want to come and stay at the beach,” Kempf said.

She added that “the best thing is that we will have parking on site for our employees and for our visitors, which helps us throughout as visitors”.

Community Development Director Mark Weiner said the project was unanimously approved by the Laguna Beach City Council, which he says “doesn’t happen very often; that tells you it’s a good project.

“We have an aging housing stock in Laguna Beach and we appreciate this owner wanting to invest in the facility and in our city.”

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