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State Legislation Paves the Way for Potential New Fire Station

November 28, 2023 – Since the Laguna Woods City Council conceptually approved locating a new Orange County Fire Authority fire station on a portion of the City Centre Park property, the City of Laguna Woods and Orange County Fire Authority have been working to complete the actions and due diligence necessary for both agencies’ governing boards to consider formally approving the project.

Much of this past year was spent developing, and then supporting, state legislation that would remove a deed restriction that limits the use of the City Centre Park property to park purposes through June 30, 2031. With the need to expeditiously construct an additional fire station well-established, the deed restriction presented a legal impediment that could only be resolved by an act of the California State Legislature.

The City of Laguna Woods and Orange County Fire Authority greatly appreciate Senator Dave Min’s authorship of Senate Bill 475, which paves the way for a portion of the City Centre Park property to be repurposed for fire station and public safety purposes. Assemblywoman Diane Dixon also joined Senate Bill 475 as a co-author. Senate Bill 475 was approved without objection in the California State Senate and California State Assembly, and signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 30, 2023. Like other state statutes approved in 2023, Senate Bill 475 will take effect on January 1, 2024.

“Senate Bill 475 is immensely important,” said Christopher Macon, Laguna Woods City Manager. “Not having to wait until 2031 to potentially construct this much-needed new fire station is vital as we explore repurposing the City Centre Park property. The City of Laguna Woods remains committed to doing whatever we can to enhance emergency response times and increase the proximity of lifesaving resources.”

In addition to Senate Bill 475, the City of Laguna Woods and Orange County Fire Authority have been collaborating on refined conceptual design plans for the potential new fire station that take into account issues like traffic flow on Moulton Parkway, compatibility with surrounding uses, public access to the portion of City Centre Park that would remain, and conformance with the City of Laguna Woods’ zoning and development regulations. The refined conceptual design plans are expected to be complete in early 2024 and will be vetted with surrounding property owners to solicit their input.

According to analysis by the Orange County Fire Authority, a new fire station at the City Centre Park property would most significantly improve response times in the areas of Laguna Woods west of Moulton Parkway, although benefits would extend citywide and into neighboring cities. Notable improvements would be seen in Laguna Woods Village gates 8, 9, 10, and 11, including The Towers at Laguna Woods Village. Laguna Woods’ existing fire station – Station 22 on Paseo de Valencia – would continue to operate.

Due to the number and complexity of actions required before final approvals by the City of Laguna Woods and Orange County Fire Authority are possible, the earliest time that award of a construction contract might occur for a potential new fire station is anticipated to be Fiscal Year 2024-25 (July 1, 2024 – June 30, 2025).