Does the Wet Suit You

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By J.J. Gasparotti

Here we go again. Our City Council seems to be hell-bent on a big dose of social engineering with a renewed commitment to artist live-work housing. This may include taxpayers’ participation where required. What this has to do with keeping the sewers flowing and the potholes filled is hard to fathom.

It’s nice that the council members want to see affordable housing developed for people who make their living full time from creating art. But, in this affordable housing stressed town, county, and state, what makes artists so specially deserving? Are they a more fashionable poor neighbor to have? Better a portrait painter than a house painter. 

This is playing favorites in the crudest way. It selects one group for special favor because of their choice of work, not their health, age, handicap or social circumstance. Think of the single mom, with two kids, that works in your dentist’s office. Where’s she supposed to go? 

Or all those special needs folks, who do such a good job helping out at Ralph’s—where’s a city program for them? Right now, it’s a nonprofit private group home filling their needs. They’d like an ADA-compliant sidewalk so that their wheelchair-bound residents don’t have to go out into highway traffic to get home.

Louis Longi’s artist live-work project finally seems to be cleared to proceed. There’s a private project with no government help. We already have lots of artists that seem to be able to live and work here. That number increases when you include artistic work that doesn’t follow the norms dictated by the menu at the Festival of Arts. 

Should the city’s artist live-work efforts include rap artists, performances artists, movie artists, video game artists, body artists, sound artists or maybe even con-artists? 

None of this is part of the essential functions of our city government. They’ve got their own knitting to tend. Every moment of council or staff time spent on this fairy tale, not dealing with the real issues confronting our entire community, is time wasted.

There’s our huge unfunded pension obligation and a constantly growing city staff making this problem worse every year. It won’t be long before we’re paying for two workers for every one on the job. Our city budget goes into deficit soon. What happens in the next recession when property tax income declines and we’re still paying a huge visitor bill? And the list goes on.

Where the poor starving artists will live isn’t a pressing problem on most voters’ minds. It shouldn’t be on the council’s either.

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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