I grew up in Corona del Mar, but I began working at age 7 for my Dad who was building single houses in Laguna Beach. Our family loved the artistic community—the old, European-style historic buildings that had been carefully protected over the years. We also loved the trees that had been planted by an artistic group led by Harry Lawrence, a man interested in preserving Laguna’s history as a place characterized by groves of trees—eucalyptus and others. Ten years later, in 1963, my family and I moved to the village we loved. And we’ve continued to love it just as much ever since.
Thankfully, about 25 years ago, a group of planners, architects, and artists gathered together to create Laguna’s Downtown Specific Plan. They worked hard to describe the desired look, feel, and function of our downtown area, a place where we locals wanted to protect forever Laguna’s charm. That plan called out for “an abundance of well-cared for flowers, trees, and shrubs.” It says, “In Laguna’s Downtown, large Eucalyptus, Date Palms, Pepper, and Sycamore trees combine artistically to make a pleasant pedestrian environment.” In fact, Peppertree Lane is singled out in that plan as “the example of Laguna Beach’s village character.”
The City Council has approved this plan 10 times over the years—and it is a plan that shows trees placed every 30 to 40 feet on both sides of the downtown streets to provide a canopy of shade for all us locals to enjoy.
I’m sad to say that about 25% of those trees are yet to be planted! None of these trees would block views of the ocean from hillside homes or downtown residences.
This approved plan has been our town’s guideline of beauty and charm. And now, a committee is updating the plan, but something has changed in Laguna in the past 25 years. Today, there is a war on trees and, to some degree, a war on charm. Part of this is driven by the fact that a lot of our artists have moved away, so there are fewer artistic types to say, “Hey, that looks ugly!” So, is there a way to save Laguna’s charm? Can we hire a Commissioner of Charm to work with John Pietig and his staff? What if our active group pays half the salary for 10 years? Whatever the solution, we have to do something, as our town’s trees and charm are the reasons that my family and many others have settled here.
Greg MacGillivray, Laguna Beach
The author says he is a member of a newly established group, Save Laguna’s Charm, which has 20 members.