“You too, could have gone down a different path,” I thought to myself.
In “The Road Not Taken” Robert Frost muses about different choices and the idea of another chance at a decision, “Yet knowing how way leads onto way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” Still, every once in awhile we have an opportunity to look back and glimpse what might have been if we had chosen a different course.
Such an opportunity was provided by Laguna Outreach for Community Arts (LOCA) with their featured speaker, Scott Moore. Moore’s insightful presentation of his life’s work deserves to be broadly shared, but it seemed especially meaningful to me. Did everyone feel that way?
He began with his early drawings—all of them excellent, yet as slide followed slide depicting the art of passing years we could see the skill and thoughtfulness develop works that are not only technically exceptional, but which present ideas with confidence and humor. He not only has talent, he has persistence. He told of driving to Riverside to photograph a subject for one of his paintings because there was no sun in Laguna that day. Would I (or most of us) have done something else, and waited in Laguna for the sun to come out? I think so.
I was doing watercolors in the 1970s around the time Scott Moore was starting his, and people used to say our styles were similar. I even arranged to take two days a week off from work to paint. During that time I completed a series, almost enough for a show. But then that fork in the road happened. We bought a house. All my creative energies went there and into my landscape architecture business. Those paintings became so precious to me, representing as they did the interval of time devoted to art, that I couldn’t sell them. I still enjoy them in my home, but in comparison to Moore’s they show creativity arrested, frozen, not fully developed. The road partially taken.
Art inspires thoughts like these. That’s why we need it and enjoy it.
Our community faces choices on its path too, one of them presented itself at Monday’s Heritage Committee meeting. Will our city take the next steps to make our historic preservation program more effective and complying with state and federal standards?
Gradually the city has been feeling its way into the historical preservation process. In the 1980s we had the first historic inventory, then a historic preservation element and ordinance, a Heritage Committee and Heritage month. Then in 2005 our city recognized that the California Environmental Quality Act applies to historic resources. The Mills Act, a state program that provides property tax incentives for approved properties on the Historic Register has been applied in our city. We now have historic preservation consultants to advise applicants, staff and committee.
The Heritage Committee oversees all this. They used to meet in the staff lunch room next to the vending machines. Now they meet in the Council Chambers. They even have name signs and microphones, evidence of their improved status. As a result of their efforts we as a community are more aware of the significance of our historic resources and the benefits of preserving them.
An important next step is to become a “Certified Local Government” whose historical program is recognized by the State and Federal governments as complying with historic preservation standards. This makes us eligible for grants and assures that our programs are complying with time and court-tested approaches. We would become part of the state network of preservation planning. It turns out we have already done almost everything needed to be eligible. We just need to have a Historic Preservation Commission instead of a committee. A commission makes decisions. A committee makes suggestions.
It’s time. The unique village character we cherish depends on preserving historic resources. There aren’t that many. They are threatened with demolition and “remuddling.” Once they’re gone they can’t be recreated. In this case time does run out.
That’s why our historic preservation program should be as effective as possible.
We don’t want to be looking back wondering what our town would have been like if we had taken the best preservation path.
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former City Council member.