Development Laguna Beach City

Draft Downtown Specific Plan Released

Draft Downtown Specific Plan Released

City Releases Draft Downtown Specific Plan

Laguna Beach – The City of Laguna Beach has released its Draft Downtown Specific Plan (DSP), a planning document that serves to guide growth, design, and development standards in Downtown Laguna Beach. Its primary objective is to preserve and enhance the unique character of the downtown.

How does the community benefit from the Downtown Specific Plan?

The DSP document will be used by the City Council, Commissions, and Committees, City Staff, residents, property owners, businesses, developers, and other government entities as the land use and design policy document defining downtown development over the next 20 years. The DSP also identifies priorities for public improvements to the downtown area. This document was formulated as a result of a multi-year process that included a large number of public outreach workshops, stakeholder meetings and interviews, and both City Council and Planning Commission meetings. It is intended to provide a clear understanding of the vision that the community has set for the future of Downtown Laguna Beach.

What is the history of the DSP Document?

The City formally recognized the need for a specific plan for the downtown in 1983 with adoption of the Land Use Element of the General Plan. In 1989, the Downtown Specific Plan was first approved, and has been subsequently amended, including a comprehensive amendment in 2000, which included the expansion of the Plan boundary to the Boys and Girls Club on Laguna Canyon Road and the creation of the Civic Art District. The Downtown Specific Plan has been successful in preserving the look and feel of a traditional downtown.

What are the Key Updates to the Downtown Specific Plan?

The changing nature of commerce, housing, transportation and circulation necessitates revisions that support flexibility to meet rapidly changing resident and visitor needs and to enhance vitality, while maintaining the special qualities of the downtown. As a result of community input gleaned throughout the planning process, several enhancements proposed in this Specific Plan update include:

~Allowing for changes in permitting requirements to occur on an as-needed basis in order to incentivize or limit certain land uses in the downtown. Specifically, a new procedure is proposed that allows land use permitting requirements to be changed (i.e. from requiring a Conditional Use Permit to being permitted-by-right, or vice versa) by City Council Resolution, upon recommendation by the Planning Commission, on an annual or as-needed basis based on staff/consultant recommendation.

~Fostering opportunities and promoting diversity in housing type and affordability as part of mixed-use development and conversion of existing second-story buildings to help fulfill the need for downtown housing with access to services and transportation.

~Providing for greater flexibility in development standards such as increased building height and simplified parking requirements to meet future needs and growth. The draft Specific Plan update includes revised height standards based upon specific street location and criteria. For more information about the proposed building height standards, please see pages 113, 161-162 of the draft DSP document. In addition, parking requirements are proposed to be reduced for certain non-residential uses such as office, retail and food services.

~Establishing an urban design framework that identifies key opportunity sites and provides recommendations on pedestrian and streetscape improvements, such as pedestrian crossings, improved alleyways, and public parklets to make the area more vibrant, walkable and welcoming for residents and visitors.

~Revising urban design guidelines to provide further direction on elements such as site design, architecture and open space to property owners, developers, designers, City staff and appointed and elected officials involved in review of proposed development projects.

~Rebranding of the former Civic Art District as the Arts District to encourage a greater focus on art and cultural uses and to nurture a culture of creativity.

~Updating flexible criteria and development standards for proposed planned integrated developments that incorporate public amenities and/or benefits in special planning areas such as the Arts District and Central Bluffs District.

The full draft DSP document is being released in advance of the August 21, 2019 Planning Commission meeting, where the Commission will conduct their initial review and provide direction to staff on any modifications if needed. Staff will be recommending that the item return to the Planning Commission at a meeting in October for subsequent review of the final draft, including environmental review (CEQA), and recommendation to the City Council.

For more information or to view a copy of the public review Draft Downtown Specific Plan, visit:
Laguna Beach Downtown Specific Plan
or contact:
Wendy Jung, Senior Planner at (949) 497-0321 or

City of Laguna Beach Media Release August 12, 2019

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