Village Matters: Luxury Accommodations

By Ann Christoph.

Accommodating the inconveniences and downsides that shadow our every choice, especially the ones we love the most, leads to some creative coping.

Forget about the swimming pool, spa, wine cellar, those passé luxury adjuncts to the upscale custom home. The latest in luxury customizing is a cat toilet room. This one is a 4’ x 4’ x 4’ tall addition to the human bathroom. It has its own roof, foundation, stucco walls and copper louvered vents on two sides. It has a door for cleaning the litter box on the outside, and a self-sealing cat door between the cat toilet and the inside of the house.  The floor is epoxy sealed like those stain-repelling garage floors.  For anyone who loves cats but hates walking around on small bits of gravel no matter how many times you clean, this invention is for you and your cat.

Now my friend Debby says that this is all unnecessary because you can teach your cat to use the toilet. She did it too, but the problem was she couldn’t train her boyfriend to leave the lid open so the cat could use the facilities. Must have been an unusual boyfriend. Most of the ones I was afflicted with always left both lid and seat vertical, the perfect method for a short-term relationship, which is probably what they wanted anyway. Debby ascribed boyfriend’s lid-closing attribute to some passive-aggressive tendency. Or maybe he thought Debby should have taught the cat to flush too, and closed the lid to avoid being a cat attendant.

I couldn’t even get my cat to use the box, much less toilet train her. You may recall my problems with my lovely cat Bonita? She was wearing beads from New Orleans in her portrait published in the Independent. Bonita was just too elegant for the scruffy litter box, and became a wide-ranging problem child with her urinary exploits. Now she has special disposable plastic-backed absorbent cloths installed in her favorite location, and we have a truce.

What silly-sounding accommodations we make to live with these wonderful creatures we love.  We’re always balancing the benefits of some life decision with the inseparable repercussions, like coping with quirky, unpredictable impacts of living in Laguna.

Having to make accommodations to one’s normally placid lifestyle during summer in Laguna may sound silly too, especially to someone content in a standardized community.

They don’t understand why we put up with the narrow streets and all that traffic.

I remember before annexation to Laguna Beach when we used to have to go to Santa Ana to the Orange County Planning Commission with South Laguna’s pleas for reduced development. Most of the commissioners were from places like Anaheim and Buena Park, cities with wide arterial highways, straight flat streets, where all the lots were designed to be as equal as possible in terms of size, exposure to traffic and access to schools and stores. Tall walls separate back yards of houses from the busy streets, presenting a formidable enclosure and very plain streetscape.  Houses on standardized lots march along block after block.  It may be boring, but it’s safe, practical and predictable.

One of the commissioners remarked that it didn’t matter what they decided about the case we were testifying about, anyone living in Laguna would have to be crazy anyway.  No matter what he decided, traffic and congestion couldn’t get much worse, he thought.

Part of the “unique village character” is that each house and property in being unique is also unequal.  Some have beautiful views. Some have peekaboos.  Some front on a busy street. Others on a quiet lane. Some lie close to the festival and downtown’s beach and liveliness. Others are closer to the open space and wildlife.  Each has its own assets and its own downside. In the summer we can experience the downside more than we want to accept. The crowding, activity, traffic, noise that comes with the Festival season is an intense contrast to a low-key overcast day in fall and winter.

So we plan our vacations away, we have our secret routes through town.  Or we plunge in and experience the beach and art festivals. We smile at the tourists, pick up some extra trash on the streets. And remember they just have a few moments here. We get to love Laguna’s uniqueness all year long.


Former Mayor Ann Christoph works as a landscape architect.

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