The Lump of Calcium Carbonate
The high-powered automobile came to a stop where a Lagunatic was standing on the gelato-smeared sidewalk. The window rolled down with the scent of expensive aftershave wafting out as the well-groomed passenger said, “Hi there Mr. Village Bumpkin. How’d ja like to have a big sac full of shiny new hotels and artsy bling businesses?”
“The employees and customers will be valet parked on Mars. Elon is building a tunnel. We even made a maquette. It is too big to fit in the car so how about we take a ride and we’ll show it to you. OK?”
The local replied, “I’m not going for a ride with you guys. You must be looking for my cousin, the Village idiot. Right after he voted for that last big hotel he started complaining about the crowds. Sold his house and moved to Montana.
“Ask any of my neighbors. They think so, too. There are only a few useful shops and establishments in town that locals frequent. They never stay in a hotel unless their house burned down or they’re remodeling. This town is backwards. Sales taxes don’t pay the bills. Residential property taxes do.
“So why on earth would we want a new Mini Montage right across the street from our Ralph’s? A store whose convenient size, beachy exterior and new bathroom are the quiddity of charm.
“Despite its somewhat rustic condition, most folks like Laguna just the way it is. Our charm and our issues are the warp and weft of our town’s character.
“We don’t want a new three-story downtown filled with vibrant night life. No new walls of malls and hotels along the highway, even with tunnels filled with parking.
“Laguna Beach, except for a few vacant lots, is built out. Filled up. The folks who live here don’t want any more commercial development than already exists. Not one more reason for day visitors coming to Laguna.
“The only way a property could be entitled more commercial space or intensified use in Laguna is by reducing the apparent mass and scale of the existing development on the site, having no impacts on the neighbors, and providing a new public benefit. Any new development must be good for the town, not just the developer.
“The Montage was a start. The town got a park with new beach access, public parking and much needed public bathrooms. But we should have done better on mitigating the impacts and the mass and scale.
“That is the new development model for success in Laguna Beach. Anything less should be dead on arrival.”
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since