Lately, there’s been a concerted attempt to remake Laguna Beach, progressed by a very vocal minority. First, they wanted to close off Forest Avenue to traffic, disregarding one obvious fact: downtown parking and vehicular circulation would become an even bigger nightmare than it already is. Ideas are easy; implementation and adverse impacts entirely different beasts.
Although Park Plaza’s less disruptive, it’s a reflection of a mindset being pushed by a few unhappy campers, none of them long term residents: they want to change us into the image of what they think that we should be.
As a retired general contractor (I’m now an enviro-analyst) it’s typical of people with what we as builders called “remodeling syndrome.” New residents from out of town bought their dream home, then within a year or two decided it needed revamping.
Humorously, they often remodeled many times subsequently, never quite satisfied, as if there was still something not quite right. The people who lobbied heavily for the Plaza seems to be of the same ilk: There’s something wrong, something missing in our lives that their tweaking could fix. They know what would be best for us.
They’ve unfortunately called those who don’t want what they do as flat Earth types, xenophobic, afraid of change. It apparently never occurred to them that we understand what they cannot. “Community” isn’t just things, it’s also a place in the heart, a sense of time and place, the guts of a town’s character. We like where we live, warts and all, natives who’ve stayed along with those of us who moved here primarily because of its non-urban feel.
Community can’t be manufactured by putting up some chairs and tables in what’s basically an alley, sequestered in an asphalt and concrete compound. So near to Coast Highway that the noise and air pollution hardly stand a chance of becoming social change-drivers. Coughing and yelling don’t equal Laguna in my opinion. Creating such simulated environs isn’t a field of dreams, unless your dreams are urban in nature.
Laguna Beach is not irreparably broken. No it’s not perfect, but it still has some of the same funky coastal surf vibe that drew me here from northern OC and my native Long Beach. Ironically, not one of the proponents is a professional land use analyst or planner. Just people with an itch to change, an itch to fix what’s not even broken.
Roger E. Bütow, Laguna Beach