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

The Pacific Edge Hotel on South Coast Highway will be getting a new look, courtesy…

The Pacific Edge Hotel on South Coast Highway will be getting a new look, courtesy of recent Coastal Commission action.

The Coastal Commission conditionally approved on a unanimous vote a coastal development permit for the remodel of the existing hotel, which spans about 102,498 square feet. The hotel was constructed 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’s restaurant, new office and conference areas, a new cafe and a new pool and spa.

A hearing in October 2021 found substantial issue with the application for the project in an appeal by UNITE HERE Local 11 — a union representing hotel and food service workers across Southern California. The union raised concerns about a lack of on-site and affordable accommodations and parking access for hotel workers.

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

The main body of the Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach.

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

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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

That would come to about 6.25 rooms for the Pacific Edge, though the fractional room will be offset by a one-time in lieu payment of $31,750.

About 15 conditions were applied in conjunction with the approval, including provision of a final transportation management plan to the state; keeping construction off of beaches; and minimizing waste and single-use item usage at the hotel.

Mark Hoffman, who represents Highgate Hotels, said the hotel is in full agreement with staff recommendations.

Ada Briceño, a co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, and other hotel workers vouched their support for the project during public comment.

“As you know, hotel workers came before you last year to raise significant concerns regarding low cost accommodations and parking impacts,” Briceño said. “Hotel workers came before you and said this site would be an ideal for on-site affordable [accommodations] and you listened to them.

“Months later, we have a project before you that will create lodging opportunities for working families. Similarly, workers testified about parking challenges in relationships to this project and the project will now provide 100% subsidized transit passes and enough parking for them and their guests to ensure that they don’t take off-site parking reserved for public.”

The main body of the Pacific Edge Hotel.

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

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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

“As Mark Hoffman outlined, we have an existing 131-room oceanfront hotel that is in badly need of remodeling. It just really needs a face-lift and we’re getting now 25 rooms [and] six affordable rooms, which will be helpful to those people who would like to come and stay at the beach,” said Kempf.

She added that “the best thing of all is we’ll have on-site parking for our employees and for our visitors which helps us all the way around as visitors.”

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

“We have an aging building stock in Laguna Beach and we appreciate that this owner wants to invest in the facility and in our town.”

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