Does the Wet Suit You


Aspiring Heights

By J.J. Gasparotti

Laguna Beach has always been an aspirational place to live. Folks live here because they want to. It isn’t like their car broke down, they found a job and a place to live, and here they remain forever more. Well, maybe there’s some folks here like that. But the bulk of the population live here to satisfy a desire. They aspired to live in Laguna.

You have to want to live in Laguna. Living here is going to force you to pay a price. It’s always been that way. In the early days you had to give up a reliable water supply, a sewer system, police and fire protection, fresh produce, good jobs, decent places to live, a vibrant cultural scene, and adequate medical care. Just to mention a few. Still the population grew.

Mostly, this growth is comprised from the people who visited and fell in love with Laguna. Even then the prices where a bad joke. Sensible relatives from back in the heartland would point out that you had paid more for a postage stamp-sized lot than a nice well-watered ranchette should cost back home.

Laguna benefited from the fortunate convergence of climate, terrain and land ownership. It is one of the few locations in Southern California where the small-scale real estate developer had any chance at all that they could make something from their efforts.

California is full of subdivisions where the straight streets go up and down the steep hills. Places where they gave away a lot when you bought a dictionary. Arch Beach heights is one of the few spots where people actually built houses on the lots. That’s because of where it is, overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean.

It’s still the same today. There is always a certain percentage of a population that is going to aspire to live in a special place, like Laguna Beach, or at least aspire to visit it. Today, what you have to give up to live in Laguna is a lot of money, and you need to tolerate terrible traffic. That’s because the base population, which the constant percentage who aspire to Laguna come from, has increased dramatically in South Orange County. Everything else moved closer, too. Anything you want is now just over the hill. That even includes moderate cost housing.

Proposing parking incentives to develop moderate cost housing in a location like Laguna makes about as much sense as selling a certain percentage of VIP tickets to a Rolling Stones concert for nosebleed section prices. They’ll just get scalped.


J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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