(This was also addressed to the City Council)
It is with great regret that Laguna Canyon Foundation asks you to reconsider the Planning Commission’s 3-2 vote approving the Longi artists live-work development in Laguna Canyon. As a longtime part of Laguna, we strongly support local artists, and all that the arts have done for our community.
However, we cannot support development of such large size and scale in a rural Laguna Canyon neighborhood immediately adjacent to the wilderness park. As a community, Laguna residents spent thousands of hours and $65 million to preserve our open space hillsides. Years of effort went into preserving the canyon and our greenbelt is one of the most special things about living here.
Unfortunately, a building of this size would irreversibly alter the character of the canyon and would degrade the ridgeline views and rural ambiance that form the long-treasured gateway to our town.
Laguna Canyon is a very special place. So special, in fact, that when it was annexed into the city in 1988, a specific plan was formed to make sure that the unique resources and aesthetics of the canyon were preserved. That plan requires all development in Laguna Canyon to be small scale and rural, and also consistent with surrounding land-use.
Simply put, a 36’ high, 37,000 square foot, 30-unit apartment building (of which eight units are proposed to be affordable) cannot be classified as small-scale, rural in nature, or consistent with surrounding land-use.
By approving this project, and thus disregarding the Laguna Canyon Annexation Specific Plan, the city would set a precedent for the large scale urbanization of Laguna Canyon. Presently, several other extremely large, urban projects proposed for Laguna Canyon are already following in this development’s footsteps. Just one example is the proposed self-storage at Big Bend (also 36 feet tall and a stunning 100,000 square feet). Thirty-six foot high developments like the Longi project pave the way for a densely developed, tunnelized version of Laguna Canyon Road. One in which the rural, small-scale ambiance is replaced by tall, urban structures which hide the greenbelt and degrade the village entrance.
Please consider the precedent this project sets and evaluate a revised development scope. A smaller, scaled-down Longi project would likely be an effective compromise that the entire community could support and which would be in keeping with Laguna’s decades-long commitment to the canyon.
Hallie Jones, Laguna Beach
The author is executive director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation.