Speaker’s Corner

Keeping Promises

John Hamil

By John Hamil

Horst Noppenberger’s article,   “Addressing the Town’s Evolving Needs,” in the Feb. 7 edition, like the associated rendering, needs some added perspective.

The picture shows a very modern building with trees towering above the structure and canyon hillsides and ridgelines serving as a backdrop, making the building appear to be very small in comparison.  In reality this huge building’s height, length, and proximity to Laguna Canyon Road, will completely obscure the hillsides and ridgelines on the eastern side of the canyon when viewed from the northbound lane of this “rural scenic highway.”

The article, like the rendering, distorted the facts about this 30-unit development proposed by Louis Longi and the Dornin Investment Group. This 36-foot-high, 250-foot long, 18,000 square foot apartment building (picture a gymnasium almost as long as a football field) dwarfs all of the surrounding structures in our small, quiet eclectic rural neighborhood.

Historically, the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area (from El Toro Road to the Big Bend) was in the unincorporated part of the county.  Laguna Beach induced the residents to join the city by offering sewer hookup and a specific plan, which, we were assured, would protect our community from intrusive development.  The question is will the city keep its promise?

Horst’s claim that the opposition to this project is “composed mainly of Laguna Canyon residents in the area of Sun Valley Road” is inaccurate.  Although this opposition rightly originated in the neighborhood most directly impacted by the negative consequences of the proposed project, many of our most moti-vated activists are from other Laguna neighborhoods as well as environmentalists from other cities.

We are aware of no other M1-B use that has 30 plus fulltime residents.  Additionally, the Planning Commission has granted limited retail sales and three annual “events” without requiring a temporary use permit.  We are concerned that the conditional use permit was granted without a limitation on the number of attendees, lack of a traffic study addressing weekend Laguna Canyon Road traffic, overflow of cars into our narrow streets and lack of adequate parking on site.

Horst’s claim that “this project conforms to all of the applicable standards of the LCAA Specific Plan would be laughable if not so dishonest.  The specific plan cites five special findings required for conditional use permits:

1. “The proposed use is compatible with the surrounding land uses.”  The height, size, mass and density of this use are incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

2. “The proposed use is compatible with and does not detract from the rural atmosphere of the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area.”  This building looks like a modern apartment building and, consequently, detracts from the rural atmosphere of this area.

3. “The proposed use is not in conflict with the designation of Laguna Canyon as a scenic highway.” Maintenance of views of ridgelines and hillsides is a requirement for scenic highway designation.

4. “The proposed use does not create a density, which would compromise the environmental sensitivity of the area.”  The activity, noise and light created by the residents and visitors would not only disturb the tranquility of our neighborhood but of the wildlife that frequent Laguna Creek for food and water.

5. “The proposed use will not result in a substantial increase in traffic generation or adversely impact vehicular circulation patterns.”  The residents and visitors utilizing the 47 parking spaces below this building are estimated in the traffic study to make 200 day trips.  Many, if not most, will involve left turns onto and off of Laguna Canyon Road causing dangerous disruptions of the heavy traffic on this very busy state highway.

As you can see this proposed use is inconsistent with all five requirements.

When Mr. Longi first came to our neighborhood, we, like most of you, supported his desire to build an eight-unit artist live/work project.  We cannot, however, support this “for profit” 30-unit apartment building for artists and art students.  This proposed project is not only an intrusion into a long standing quiet rural community but an eyesore for everyone travelling on Laguna Canyon Road. That is for all of us, residents and visitors alike.

If you marched to save the canyon and or feel that this proposed use is inappropriate in this location, please write to the City Council about your concerns and attend the next city meeting (probably in late March) regarding this proposed project to see if the city will keep its promise.

John Hamil, a 37-year Laguna Canyon resident, owns Canyon Animal Hospital, is co-author of the Laguna Canyon Specific plan and vice president of Laguna Canyon Property Owners Association.

An architectural rendering provided by opponents depicting the Longi project from the shoulder of the northbound lane of Laguna Canyon Road with story pole heights added to image.

An architectural rendering provided by opponents depicting the Longi project from the shoulder of the northbound lane of Laguna Canyon Road with story pole heights added to the image.

Correction appended Feb. 21.:

A description of an architectural rendering submitted with the op-ed Speaker’s Corner submission (“Keeping Promises,” Feb. 14) by John Hamil was inadequate in alerting readers to its alteration from the original and was done so without permission of the architect.


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