New Laguna Niguel Downtown will be Vibrant, Exciting, and other Adjectives

Downtown Laguna Niguel will go here. Photo courtesy City of Laguna Niguel

In the spring of 1990, just a few months after Laguna Niguel incorporated and became Orange County’s 29th city, Jerry and Marilyn McCloskey spoke with a Los Angeles Times reporter about what it was like to live in the South County “master-planned community.” They said it was quiet (of course), temperate (yup), and an all-around great place to live. Well, mostly.

“If ever there was a mistake here, it is that it should have developed a downtown more,” Jerry McCloskey said in the April 29, 1990 Times story. “There is a lot of county government there, but it would have been nice if there were more of a city center. There’s more of an emphasis on neighborhoods than on the city.”

Well, the city listened to Jerry McCloskey. Took them 29 years to do it, but Laguna Niguel is finally getting a downtown. And what a downtown!

“The new city center in Laguna Niguel is going to bring a wealth of opportunity to the community,“ said 5th District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett in a July 24 press release. “This Public-Private Partnership with the County and Laguna Niguel Town Center Partners, LLC, is going to set an example for surrounding cities on how we can all work together to expand our local economies and bring a welcomed mix of housing, dining, and entertainment options to residents.”

In case you’re wondering what exactly Laguna Niguel Town Center Partners, LLC is, it’s a partnership between Burnham Ward Properties and Sares-Regis Group. The former has previously developed projects like SOCO & the OC Mix in Costa Mesa while the later developed the Boardwalk in Huntington Beach.

According to the July 24 news release, the new 200,000 square-foot downtown–located on county property next to the Laguna Niguel City Hall–will have “vibrant mixed-use commercial space,” 275 “stylish apartment homes,” “curated culinary delights,” “intellectuals” (!), “programmed events,” “modern technologies,” and “a variety of communal spaces for people to come together.” The press release also wants you to know that “A high level of attention will be given to the spaces between the buildings to pay homage to Laguna Niguel’s commitment to open spaces, natural landscape and utilizing the natural topography of the land.”

Because when I think of “open space” and “natural topography,” my mind immediately jumps to alleyways and parking lots.

Oh wait, there may not be so many parking lots in the new City Center. According to Chris Payne, a managing director at Sares-Regis Group, “residents will have the ability to walk to an exciting array of restaurants, shops and office[s] without the need to get in a car, which is a unique experience in Orange County and a desirable lifestyle that does not exist in the current marketplace.”

Whoa–you mean to say that Downtown Laguna Niguel will be–and I can’t even believe I’m writing this word–walkable? Like, people can get around it without having to be in an automobile? What the hell kind of utopian science fiction is going on in Laguna Niguel these days? And while Chris Payne is technically correct that such a “lifestyle” most certainly doesn’t exist in the “current marketplace,” I’m not even sure it exists anywhere in South Orange County.

And to think, Jerry McCloskey was probably just looking for an easier way to get to the post office when he made that complaint so many decades ago.

Anyway, this isn’t the first time Laguna Niguel flirted with a building a downtown from scratch. In 2015, the City of Laguna Niguel and the County of Orange agreed to a plan from Shaheen Sadeghi’s LAB Holding to build the “Agora Arts District Downtown” at the same site under development today. But in August 2017, the county soured on the deal and cancelled it, though county officials waited nearly two months before telling Sadhegi and the City of Laguna Niguel, according to this Voice of OC story.

 

 

 

 

 

Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.

44 Replies to “New Laguna Niguel Downtown will be Vibrant, Exciting, and other Adjectives”

  1. So the businesses and apartment dwellers will use up the water, gas and electricity that us residents are constantly being berated for using too much and being asked to conserve.

    1. There’s always a negative nelly…assuming the worst.

      Cmon man…new revenue = more resources.
      That’s the way the world works.

      So, when these new businesses and start generating new income for the city, things will improve with everything you mentioned.

      It is a matter of natural reallocation not increased consumption….instead of going out for nightlife (for instance) at a neighboring city, they will come to LN and those resources that come from the same place will simply be used in LN instead of that neighboring city…

  2. Has basic journalism died? Yes, I see a picture. But what streets are those. Nowhere is the location mentioned. #epicfail

  3. So exciting! So much negativity here! Chill! You should be thankful this development is going to happen for the benefits of the neighborhood!

    1. Please list the benefits. The city has not been able to establish a connecting trolly line from MV to the beach. Laguna Niguel kids do not have the chance to hop on and hop off during the summer vacation or during the holidays. This person is a kid at heart. Would love to do the hop on the trolly and leave the driving to trolly.

  4. Better than the vagrants that Lisa Barlett approved then took back after residents found out. Especially since there is a school there

  5. I moved to Laguna Niguel 26 years ago for what it was, at that time, not for what it could be. In recent years, there has been too much development going on. They have destroyed the entrance to the city, on Crown Valley, with the massive apartment complexes. The city doesn’t need to add additional apartments, and the added congestion on the streets that will come as a result of this. Do we need more drunk drivers spilling out of the restaurants/attractions onto the local streets?

    This article sounds like it was written and paid for by the developer.

    1. I left the natural beauty, peace and quiet of Palos Verdes, to move to Laguna Niguel. I chose it because it seemed like an ideal setting, and I was told that LN was “built out.” I am not happy about having 275 apartments, more traffic, noise, events, crowds, probable crime, etc…dropped into to our community. The whole idea of building a “downtown center” a quarter of mile from my backyard doesn’t appeal to me.

  6. We have more than enough shopping centers as it is. They need to work on a plan to revitalize the existing town center, the smart and final shopping center and then connect the two with a pedestrian bridge.

    The open land needs to remain open and be turned into a park.

    And last but not least, the Laguna Niguel city council needs to be investigated by the FBI. Otherwise we will soon be overrun with high density apartment complexes like every other corrupt city in California.

    This is 2020, not 1990. Revitalize the existing and keep the green spaces green.

    1. With all due respect, you are ignorant Jeff. The City is Laguna Niguel is the nations 4th financially secure city. They have 80+ million in reserves, revenue exceeds expenditures by 10 million a year, all capital projects are paid for in cash, and they have zero debt. This particular property is owned by the county of Orange and the city of Laguna Niguel is limited as to their involvement and suggested direction. Do your homework Jeff. You are hard pressed to find a city that is managed as well and with such success.

      1. Research is easy Dennis. Logic seems to be a little harder to come by. The City of Los Angeles has $500M+ in reserves. So based on your logic, Los Angeles is a well-run city, right?

        The county property has been vacant for several years now. It would’ve turned into a homeless encampment (while your beloved city council slept) had it not been for the hundreds of citizens who showed up in March of 2018 to remind them who they work for.

        There are FOUR (count them Dennis) shopping centers within 100 feet of the proposed development. All FOUR of those shopping centers are underutilized and need work. We also have several brand-new monolithic apartment developments at Crown Valley and Cabot Road all courtesy of the Laguna Niguel City Counsel.

        Well run cities understand that you revitalize the decay and save the open spaces. Use some of that $80M to develop a plan to revitalize the city. Use some of that $80M to lobby the County of Orange to gift the land to the City of Laguna Niguel and then use some of the money to build a park for our citizens.

        You need to tell your boss that he/she is wasting their money. Tell them a park is going in the space and the citizens of Laguna Niguel will not accept anything else.

      2. Hi, Dennis – I have to agree on the financial well being of our City. Why not purchasing the land from the county ? The city will have full control over the no development, the development or conditional development.

        I have to respectfully disagree with the rest of your statements.
        This particular property went through a number of urban planning cycles. And yes, there is a planned community text that was created, analyzed, adopted and approved by the Laguna Niguel Community Council, the OC Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, hence our city was founded based on the provisions of this planned community text. Let’s respect the provisions, let’s respect our environmental process. Let’s respect our citizens of Laguna Niguel.

        Finally, let’s send a message to the fifth district supervisor that her ambitious plans for our city is not in align with the citizens who cast their vote at election times.

    2. Jeff, you are spot on. The two nearby shopping centers, S&F and Albertsons are embarrassments to our neighborhood. Potholes in the parking lots, outdated facades, bad lighting. Alicia, Crown Valley and Pacific Island have become speedways. Beautify what we have…NO more high density housing!

  7. I could have sworn I already read this article a few months ago, but with the words changed up a bit from a different news outlet. Some of the quotes are the same. Was this updated and recycled?

    1. I wrote this article yesterday, and as is noted in the article, based it off a press release the developer sent out on July 24. Other than the archival research mentioned in the opening and closing paragraphs, I relied on no other materials when I wrote it.

  8. My God you have a Mall at Crown Valley and the 5, that is struggling and you want more more shopping and restaurants and the one’s that are here are just barely getting by. Your joking aren’t you?

  9. Please, we need new blood in the city government. These want to be politicians are no better than any politician out there . Alot doesnt get done around this city,…example look at the slopes around town. Most are overgrown, unkept and a mess. Just cleaning up our slopes, new plants, water systems, and upkeep would do wonders to the appearance of our city. Big news,a new downtown…who cares. Take better care of what’s already here before you start dishing out tons of money to build this new area, and make developers, builders, and politicians more wealthy than they already are.

  10. I left the natural beauty, peace and quiet of Palos Verdes, to move to Laguna Niguel. I chose LN because it was a planned community, without the feeling of “city.” I was told that it was “built out.”
    I am not happy about having 275 apartments, more traffic, noise, crowds, events, probable crime, etc…
    dropped into our residential community. The whole idea of building a “downtown center” a quarter of a mile from my backyard doesn’t appeal to me.

  11. All I see is a certain group of individuals getting more rich here. This is a bad decision, which will prove itself out in five years. Can’t drive there from Laguna Niguel neighborhoods because there won’t be anywhere to park! You expect people to walk to the new “downtown” from even s mile away? Only people that will benefit are those that live there in one of the 275 units, and the developers and supportive “friends”, in and out of government.

  12. City government has ruined Laguna Niguel. Apartment development has driven down house prices, % of rented property has increased, and school ratings have decreased. This article is a puff piece to try and keep the valuable residents to stay.

  13. Mr. Pignataro’s article shows why sarcasm is sometimes called the weapon of the weak. His attempt to deliver a witty critique falls flat because the underlying premise isn’t well-supported. What’s wrong with the City trying to create a vibrant core? Does he have any better ideas?

  14. I certainly hope this development will not be built. Part of the plan is to demolish the library. Have you been there lately? The place is always busy. The open area adjacent to the library should be developed…..as a park. What about converting the old courthouse into retail? There is certainly adequate parking already in place. If the proposed development has minimum parking, how is that going to attract other LN residents who will actually have to drive to get there.

  15. Why don’t we put it to a vote of the people who live here rather than a politically motivated city counsel. We should all have a say in what happens with our city, especially when it will mean so much more traffic and congestion. We have a beautiful city that is a quiet and restful home to all of us as we drive up the hill on Crown Valley. We don’t need or want a “vibrant” downtown, and just because some developer says it will be walkable doesn’t mean anything. Try walking from the top of Golden Lantern down to town center. The developers clearly do not live here nor will their life be impacted by this nightmare they want to thrust upon us other than to make them wealthy. I thought the city counsel was supposed to be concerned with the residents of the city. If they are, then it is time they asked our opinion with a vote not a city counsel meeting that is a waste of time.

  16. I am with Jeff and Marie. Let’s keep Laguna Niguel the oasis of cookie cutter neighborhoods and update and beautify what already exists.
    Maybe a poll to see what LN residents would like to see in their neighborhood.

  17. The statement about being able to walk to the center seems more like a developer ploy to cut down on the amount of space they have to allocate for parking. It’s a clever way to get around zoning standards for parking requirements.

  18. There are too many apartments bringing trashy cars and using up excessive parking already in Laguna Niguel.
    We need a downtown.We DO NOT need more apartments.

  19. Twenty-two years ago when we brought our new home we were told there was only one more housing community planned for Laguna Niguel. But that wasn’t true. Look at all the apartments being built off of Crown Valley and Cabet. Our city certainly doesn’t need 275 more apartments which means more traffic on Crown Valley. And as far as more store space and restaurants, look at how many empty ones we have at all the shopping centers in our city. Maybe just add a park and play area for children. Something pretty for all to enjoy.

  20. The plan that was proposed a few years ago would have been okay for our city (at least there was art walk, open space, etc.) The new plan from the hot shots and Burnham and Ward (look at what happened in Dana Point) is an insult. Every last inch will be used to generate revenue. High density apartment buildings (whether they have golf video game or not) are ugly. Cheap. Bad. I don’t want to live in “the culinary capital of south county.” We just spent millions of dollars on the library. Do we have that much disposable income here? That we’re gonna knock it down and put up a small building with checkout kiosks in its place? AV has a beautiful library. So does MV. Costa Mesa has several, so does Irvine. Newport library is top notch. Every great city deserves a great library, and so do we. Here’s an article you all might find interesting. If you think this thing is a good idea, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/cities/2014/sep/17/truth-property-developers-builders-exploit-planning-cities

  21. NO MORE APARTMENTS!! They have already ruined the entrance to our city at Crown Valley. Laguna Niguel is turning into a mini-LA. The Irvine company may think putting up massive amounts of high rise apartments is a good idea but most of us in Laguna Niguel do not. Apartments are ruining the community feel of our city. If we are so financially sound then we do not need the additional revenue this tax base would create

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