Laguna Beach City Manager Shohreh Dupuis is pleased to announce the City of Laguna Beach closed escro on the 6.5-acre St. Catherine of Siena school property located at 30516 Coast Highway. The City will start programming its use in early 2023.
“The acquisition of St. Catherine’s school is a unique and rare opportunity for our community, given that the City of Laguna Beach is largely built out,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “I want to thank the Diocese of Orange for working with us over the past two years and allowing this property to remain as a community serving facility,” Whalen continued.
“This property will be of tremendous benefit to residents as we now have the space to accommodate added programs and services. We look forward to hearing ideas from our community on the possible uses for this location. With the acquisition of this property the time is right for the City to develop a master plan for all City owned properties and we will work to create a vision for community serving facilities that everyone can enjoy,” Whalen added.
The City successfully negotiated the $23 million purchase of the 6.5-acre property to increase community and recreational opportunities in the South Laguna area. The property is complete with four buildings that provide approximately 39,500 square feet of indoor space, and multiple outdoor spaces, including a gymnasium, basketball courts, recreation field, playground structures and picnic areas. An array of possible long-term use concepts could include a community pool, cultural arts center, recreation facilities, and other City civic and administrative uses.
In August, the City Council adopted a financing plan that includes appropriating $23.5 million for the purchase of the property, minor tenant improvements, and maintenance in the first year using $4 million from the Future City Facilities account, $2 million from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, $3 million from the General Fund mid-year savings, $2 million from Vehicle Replacement Fund mid-year savings and $1 million Insurance Fund mid-year savings. Staff secured a direct loan via a private placement sale for the balance of $11.5 million.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County contacted Laguna Beach officials in 2021 to determine if the City was interested in acquiring the former school property. The acquisition took some time because the diocese had to get approval from Rome to confirm the sale.
The City Council will discuss immediate, interim uses for the property at their January 24, 2023 meeting and will discuss a process for master planning for long term uses at their January 28, 2023 annual planning session.