The current Lumber Yard parking lot, where Forest meets Ocean Avenue, is part of the the proposed Village Entrance project. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot / September 30, 2013)

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The Village Entrance's initial design includes trees, parkland and stone walkways, but no shooting range.

Still, concerned residents took target practice at a proposed four-level parking garage that is included with the proposed development near the intersection of Forest Avenue and Laguna Canyon Road during Tuesday's Laguna Beach City Council meeting.

Nearly 50 speakers addressed council members on the proposed Village Entrance, a $42.3 million project 18 years in the making that includes a pedestrian park. Audience members gave their opinions after watching three men, including Alan Pullman, founder of architectural firm Studio One Eleven, unveilpreliminary design renderings.

Most residents who spoke oppose the structure, though supporters also had their say.

More public input is on the way after the council approved a list of recommendations from Councilman Bob Whalen that included scheduling a public workshop that all council members would attend to discuss residents' project ideas and concerns.

The council also approved, by a 4 to 1 vote, the city's recommendation to spend $85,000 to test the soil in the area for contaminants. It also agreed to use $15,000 from the sewer fund to pay an engineering company to study odors emanating from the site currently occupied by Forest Avenue and Lumberyard parking lots that includes a sewer lift station.

Whalen set the meeting's tone with a list of principles to abide by throughout the process.

"We have a responsibility to listen to the public. ... The project benefits both residents and businesses, and [we have] a responsibility as a council to move ahead with a Village Entrance project.

"The easy thing would be to put the issue on the back burner. Right now that area is the Village Arm Pit. There is nothing world class about the Village Entrance. It is devoid of landscaping and public art."

Councilwoman Toni Iseman dissented because she would like crews to place stakes in the ground before any public workshops to let community members know where the parking structure would go.

"The graphics were beautiful," Iseman said Wednesday of the renderings. "It's hard to imagine how big a 324-foot-long [parking] structure that is 36 feet high is; the only way is to stake it. Before we spend any more money, why not let the community know [where the project would be]?"

Iseman also disagreed with spending more money to study odors that are clearly in the air, she said.

"Don't ask how to get it fixed, get it fixed," Iseman said.

Engineers from Laguna Beach-based Geofirm tested the soil and water and found no "violations of state or federal soil standards requiring mitigation," a city staff report said.

The parking structure would hold 528 spaces with entry from Laguna Canyon Road, Forest Avenue and from a city lot, according to design renderings. One level would be underground.

The city has $13.3 million available for the project and would need to borrow up to $29 million, according to the staff report. No borrowing would occur without a public hearing and council vote, the city said.

The project would incorporate undulating terrain, indigenous trees, walking and bicycling, Pullman told the audience.

Landscape architect Bob Borthwick elaborated on the proposed park, a setting where artists could exhibit their work and farmers could set up their stands during the Saturday's farmers' market, which will be included in project designs. Borthwick dedicated a few slides to illustrate where vendors could set up.

"The inspiration is to take the canyon into town," Borthwick said, noting that groundcover could include turf, decomposed granite or paved cobblestone.

Borthwick suggested planting succulents and other low-height California native species to preserve open views into the park for security, he said.