A Fitting Send-off

A final flourish of graffiti marks a deteriorating house that neighbors have complained about for years.
A final flourish of graffiti marks a deteriorating house that neighbors have complained about for years.

A throng of people with quarts of paint doused a boarded-up, ocean-front Laguna Beach structure with balloon-like messages, wall-length streaks and artistic giant-sized lettering last Saturday.

The “graffitiers last hurrah,” was the description of Morris Skenderian, the property’s architectural advisor hired by owner Gary Groves to demolish the deteriorating former boathouse at the south end of 1000 Steps Beach. The architect said the structure would be obliterated by Monday.

Police, responding to a report of about a dozen people swarming over the structure, did not intercede after confirming with the property owner that the visitors had the owner’s permission to enter and film on the property, Sgt. Louise Callus said.

Neither the city nor the county require permits for filming on private property, thus no record of the production could be s1 chateau new_MG_3770found. Film directors sometimes request the addition of graffiti at a location, as they would dress a set, but the premises are typically returned to the original state, said the county’s film commissioner, Janice Arrington.

And Chapman University film students often trek to 1000 Steps Beach for location shooting, said a resident whose home overlooks the north end of the cove and declined to be identified.

Even so, the latest graffiti bloom surprised Chimo Arnold, who estimates over 13 years he’s made 30 complaints about fires, trash and drinking around the structure. He and other residents of bluff top Point Place met with the owner’s son, Jordan, last year. “For the first time he learned how aghast we were at what’s being painted on that wall,” said Arnold, who came away feeling confident something would be done.

“You have no idea what pleasure we feel seeing equipment starting to destroy that wall,” said Arnold, a retired executive counselor and author.

chateau demo imageHe believes complaints by residents brought pressure on city code enforcement officers to push for demolition of the 1940s-era house as a public nuisance, but Arnold thinks another factor played a role, too. At the same time, South Coast Water District was negotiating settlement with property owners, including the Groves, to buy five feet of property beneath 183 residences to make repairs to a sewer running through the bluff top, said Linda Homscheid, a water district spokeswoman.

The soon-to-vanish sand-level structure is but one of at least three homes on the large Groves’ compound entered from Coast Highway. The property slopes away from the street and is bordered to the south by Three Arch Bay.

To clear a path to haul off debris from the expected house demolition, workers last month first tore down a bluff top garage to allow a truck to pass, said City Manager John Pietig.

“We didn’t approve or condone,” the final proliferation of graffiti, he said. Even so, citing the owner for violating the city’s municipal code forbidding graffiti on public or private property is not under consideration, he said. “The goal of code enforcement is to achieve compliance. The structure will be removed more quickly than it can be cleaned up,” Pietig said. “We’re pleased the structure will be removed and the problem solved permanently, something the neighborhood has asked for.”

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