The residents of Canyon Acres have a long history as founding residents of Laguna Beach, way before Temple Hills or Glenneyre were a twinkle in the eye. Like most people who live in Laguna, they are proud of their neighborly environment and are in appreciation of that unique identity. They consider themselves stewards of the bucolic canyon.
A recent letter to the editor by Elizabeth Pearson regarding a proposal to relocate several cottages to the entrance of Canyon Acres from the Third Street community/senior center construction site omits or distorts some important details and misrepresents our neighborhood goals. The project was not rejected because Canyon Acres objected to moving the historical cottages there.
Some time before the Third Street cottages relocation proposal, then-mayor Ann Christoph successfully rescued and helped organize the relocation of a cottage from Victoria Beach to Canyon Acres Drive. Neighbors turned out to welcome it and its new resident owner. Today this old cottage sits happily surrounded by fragrant flowers and next to a very modern glass-and-stucco home. That’s Canyon Acres, sweet and welcoming to all.
The proposed project (for six units, not just the three historical cottages) required a density variance and neglected to address floodplain issues, ingress-egress issues, and was a cluster-style development that was incompatible with the neighborhood. None of these issues, raised solely by Canyon Acres residents, were ever addressed and it was because of them that the project did not go forward.
For almost 40 years, ever since the many trees on the Phillips lot were cut down (on a Saturday, while City Hall was closed) and the lot was paved with asphalt to make way for the car dealer’s parking storage, the residents of Canyon Acres have been waiting to see an appropriate development proposal for the gateway to their neighborhood. In the meantime we have agreed to allow many uses of the property that benefit the larger Laguna Beach community at the expense of our own, for example agreeing to the temporary placement of mobile homes on it for several years while the Bluebird Canyon landslide was reconstructed.
What our neighborhood association argued at the time of the relocation proposal was, essentially, that no density or building variances should be granted unless the development proposal met all four findings established by the state of California. Arguments such as “I like this idea” or “There’s no place else in town to put them” were not proper findings or justifications for breaking this rule. Time after time, the City Council is asked to grant variances for new construction. The neighbors and our neighborhood association are generally the last to know, and this means countless hours of hard work to preserve our sense of place. When in the end the city’s ordinances are upheld, the residents of Canyon Acres are criticized for not knowing what’s best for us.
All this leads me to ask: Are there any plans that we do not yet know about to develop the Phillips lot at Canyon Acres? Why else would all this ancient dead history be popping up again with a fresh, new and false rewrite?
Jeff Powers, Aptos, Calif., former president, Canyon Acres Canyon Neighborhood Association.