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Protecting Laguna Canyon

Editor,

Last week the Laguna Canyon Home Owners Association wrote a letter requesting answers to many questions.  Many questions have already been answered with countless studies, city reports and peer reviews.  Most were answered had any of the four officers of the organization attended three neighborhood meetings that started over three years ago.  Not one of them ever attempted to see what we were building or ever attempted to contact me.

The Indy did a great neutral article comparing the previously approved animal hospital and my artist live work project.

Most of their concerns are about this project opening up the flood gates to more development.  I could safely state that a project like this will not come around again due to the high costs of construction and restrictions on the codes.  The reason that this project is coming so close to fruition is that I and my partners Chris and Marcella Dornin, are willing to take lower returns on investment (for me it is a major investment loss) due to the benefit of the community. This project is truly a labor of love and important for our community.

I started the artist live work project as an “artist”, now I am considered a “developer”.  I can handle that new title as long as I know this is the only project I will build.

I stepped out of my comfort zone to build a studio and live space for myself.  I could not find anything in Laguna and found many other artists with the same situation.  There was a demand and if we could commune and work together we could share the burden of the cost to build.

The canyon is a special place and I take great pride in keeping its unique character and protecting our artist heritage.  I feel I have designed a great building with Horst that reflects the area and will help the degrading image of the canyon when visitors enter on Laguna Canyon Road.  It is a pristine place as long as you are not looking at the industrial buildings, many old and run down properties that line the east side of Laguna Canyon Road.

I did a lot of investigation of the proposed site before purchasing the property from Dr Hamil.  He mentioned point blank to his partner at the time when I was purchasing that he would not oppose an artist live work project, so I moved forward with the purchase.  He never asked size, scale or density;  why would he, he was about to cash out big time.

The site is a unique property, as all the bordering parcels are commercial properties.  That was the main reason for purchasing, knowing that there were no immediate residential neighbors, other than the Sun Valley neighborhood that is further away than they would make it seem.

The market will weed out any development that does not fit our codes, if so it would have been built out by now if it made investment sense.  If another artist live work space is to be developed it would most likely come from other artists and not from large development companies that they are threatening.

The code that governs this project will only allow artists to live and work, it does not allow for apartments.  This code has been around for many years, a few incentives to reduce parking requirements and other minor incentives where changed.  There are no current landlords that would see these as incentives other than me that of which the project will be utilized to create my art.

There are no zoning changes as insinuated and no changing of the codes to fit this project other than a few incentives for parking.  The Indy did a great neutral reporting job showing how Dr Hamil and his neighbors are hypocrites.  Dr Hamil is the only one guilty of making a profit on this project, as he made money the day he sold me the land.  His neighbors that are part of the home owners association supported his project that was comparable in size, scale and traffic.  But I have to tell you, his building was ugly compared to mine!

Read the facts at the city; don’t let a few people scare you in believing that the canyon will change for the worst!  We have taken great care in developing this project to keep the canyon unique and welcoming to visitors.  Write letters to city council letting them know that you support sustainable living with economical and affordable housing.

Louis Longi, Laguna Beach

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