Art Studios Are Scarier Than Fires and Floods?



by Louis Longi
by Louis Longi

The title quote is in reference to a comment by an ill-informed neighbor trying to stir up negative controversy surrounding a proposed artist work-live complex in Laguna Canyon. I am writing to dispel the fear-inciting rhetoric that a few of the neighbors have about this project and myself.

First of all, I am not a professional developer. I am a local artist who has lived in Laguna Beach for 16 years, 10 of those years on Laguna Canyon road. Laguna is known for its heritage and culture of art, which is why many artists, including myself and my family, choose to live here. Unfortunately for most artists, rent is too high to be able to afford to live and work here.

This artist work-live project is designed to help prevent artists from leaving our community and to encourage young artists to plant their roots here for continued growth in the arts.  The city has zoned the area along Laguna Canyon Road as light industrial. Many artists living in town have to use their garages as studios and are not permitted to use industrial tools. They need to rent space elsewhere to be able to use tools and have space to create, but can’t afford to rent both a house and a studio so they have to leave the city. This project will provide affordable space where they can work and live while providing shared large communal space and shared equipment all within the city codes.

The city of Laguna Beach has carefully developed these areas of light industrial zones to be considerate of the neighborhoods that may abut these areas. The Planning Commission voted and approved this project Jan. 8. Per the basis of the Planning Commission approval, the project was deemed compatible with the surrounding businesses and compatible with the Sun Valley neighborhood. All properties bordering our project are commercial, with only one resident that is a proponent.

Some of the people residing in the Sun Valley neighborhood are fearful of this project because they are concerned about the noise and traffic. These concerns are unfounded, as shown by the noise and traffic reports that complied with state and local requirements.  In addition to complying with the acoustic impact requirements, the project will actually reduce noise to those behind the project.  The acoustic impact report shows that the ambient noise from Laguna Canyon Road will be reduced by 40 percent to the neighborhood because the buildings will act as a buffer. The traffic studies show there will not be a significant increase in traffic because the artists do not have to commute to and from work. The project will have two entrances so that if one is missed the other can be used.  This design will mitigate the need to go into the neighborhood as a turnaround point. Ample parking, within code, will be provided beneath a flood controlled structure below the residences.

Louis Longi
Louis Longi

Our buildings are not located in the residential area in question and have been carefully designed to reflect the rural area by using reclaimed wood and a pitched roof line to mimic the canyon ridgeline. Ten 80-foot tall old growth trees will remain and many large native trees will be planted to shield the building from the road.  With a 75-foot set back from the centerline of Laguna Canyon Road our building has many terraced facades to break up the appearance of mass and scale.  We have eliminated several units on the top floor to break up the repetitiveness of the roof line.

Please don’t let the rhetoric of just a few self-entitled residents scare the rest of our community to vote away our cultural heritage. This project does fit the canyon and in our city’s general plan. It scares me more that someone is encouraging the plight of artists out of Laguna. Please take a moment to research all sides as I have when designing this project. The city needs the approval of this of project for our city’s future.

Louis Longi is a metal sculptor.

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