Wednesday night's Planning Commission meeting focused primarily on new zoning plans for the Gateway area—which is located between the I-5 freeway and 73 toll road—called the
Since 1999, the city has been trying to encourage revitalization and new development at the Gateway area by changing the zoning plan to allow more flexible development. But lack of developer interest has been throwing a wrench in those plans.
In response to the lack of interest, the city invited the Urban Land Institute to provide recommendations that might increase interest. The Land Institute recommended that the city should allow developers to build higher density of 40 to 100 units per acre, to take advantage of the Metrolink station—which opened in 2002. Hopes are that this change in zoning will create a more urban feel to the area.
In order to put these plans in place, the city has to change the ratio of land that can be utilized for commercial use. According to City Manager Tim Casey, the new zoning plan will reduce the commercial use area of the Gateway from 3.8 million square feet to 2.4 million square feet. This change will allow up to 3,000 residential units to be added to the area.
The new plan may also allow the addition of up to 350 hotel rooms.
So when will developers be allowed to bite on this new zoning plan?
“The goal is to have final approval for this plan by the end of the year. But this is not raw land. We can put the plans in place, but ultimately it's up to the existing private land owners and developers whether they will move forward,” says Casey.
Casey is also not overly concerned about the impact that creating a more urban feel to this area may have on the rest of our “bedroom community.”
“That area is pretty much separated from the rest of Laguna Niguel. A lot of people don't realize that they are in Laguna Niguel when they hit the Gateway. It's also down in a hole, in a much lower elevation spot, so it won't even affect the view. ”
Casey said that the city was more worried about what would happen if it didn't move forward with plans to revitalize the area, explaining that the need for improvement far outweighed the costs that the city would eventually have to put forward to meet developers' needs.
The City Council is holding a public hearing on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m at City Hall at 30111 Crown Valley Pkwy., and will consider the plan at that time.