Village Matters: A Resource as Precious as Yosemite

By Ann Christoph.

By Ann Christoph.

Ever feel like an anachronism?  Out of place, out of step with those around you?  As we see the community around us bit by bit losing the charming features that mark the best of our town, we may feel out of sync and ask, “Do we still belong here?”

This weekend on Ken Burns “National Parks” series, time after time, in park after park the same battles played out. Will the parks remain true to their mission of preservation of wild America for generations to experience and learn from, or succumb to overdevelopment, and the pressures of too many people loving them to death? Over and over, when the decisions were on the side of preservation, there were long-term benefits not only to the landscape and wildlife, and to the park, but to those who visit now and in the future.  Decisions that did not respect the resource, like damming the Hetch Hetchy Valley, are still problematic and regretted generations later.

We’re facing these kinds of choices all the time. A tree’s removed, a historical building is demolished, a cottage remodeled beyond recognition. It’s okay to approve a building that blocks views, as long as there’s a tree that can be sacrificed to open a replacement view.  There’s no money to keep a community garden, but somehow much larger amounts are found to create more parking spaces.

Cumulatively these decisions are depleting our reservoir of charm and beauty.

They’re not only saddening and alienating community members who cherish the Laguna ideal, but they are wearing away at the spirit of Laguna that makes it that special destination. How do you get that back once it becomes so eroded?

Councilmember Steve Dicterow, speaking at the Laguna Canyon Conservancy meeting Monday night, cited more threats to the character and well-being of Laguna Beach; state  laws that require the city to allow apartments added to some single family homes, the dangers posed by overhead wires and poles, and federal regulations that preempt local control of cell towers and equipment.

The inspired leaders who preserved the national parks and the administrators who wisely managed the resources are vindicated and appreciated as generations pass, even though at the time pressures were enormous to do otherwise: to build that bigger road, more and more parking lots, to exploit rather than respect the resource.

No, I saw we’re not nuts. Laguna is a resource as precious as our great parks. Our obligation is not to provide spaces for ever increasing numbers of people to come, but rather to keep our town worth coming to, even if we all have to make a little extra effort.

Laguna can be a lesson in restraint and wisdom. We do belong here.


Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.

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