Does the Wet Suit You


Home of the Homeless

By J.J. Gasparotti

It has been more than a year now and the Hotel Laguna is still dead. It seems destined to decay at the side of the highway almost forever. Although the previous decades-long slide into decrepitude had taken its toll, the hotel was paying employees, hosting guests and contributing taxes right up till the moment she closed.

Today, it’s a silent hulk reduced to hosting some memories. Folks who pass by the building late at night swear that they can hear the ghost of Eiler Larsen wandering the empty halls, accompanied only by the clanking sounds from his valise. His mighty roar reduced to a ghostly whisper as he taps on the doors of vacant rooms inquiring, “Are you alive in there?” It’s going to be a long time before he gets a response.

It seems such a waste for this once grand edifice to rot and moulder while the investors, deep thinking activists, and regulators tussle over its prospects. Unless the future performance of big project permitting does not resemble past performances, it could be a decade before the old girl comes back to life. There still is a use for the hotel while we wait for the regulatory process to unfold.

The hotel charitably housed Eiler Larsen, Laguna’s most colorful greeter, during the later period of his life. Greeter isn’t the most highly paid profession. Eiler needed the support of his adopted community as his days came to an end. That generosity could be continued and expanded were the County of Orange or some other group to rent the hotel for supportive housing of the homeless.

A recent public survey revealed that homelessness is the number one issue on Californian’s minds. The hotel is available and habitable right now, not five years from now, like what’s being proposed for the old state mental hospital in Costa Mesa. Homeless would have housing and the owners would have some income as the hotel goes through the lengthy entitlement process required for rejuvenation.

No one is suggesting that the Hotel Laguna become permanent housing for the homeless. It just seems wasteful for this big building to sit empty while people sleep outside in the bushes during a winter storm. Surely folks are smart enough to figure out how to secure the last bit of benefit from this historic old building without causing untoward difficulties for the owners as they pursue the future.

It may be said that no good deed goes unpunished, but it doesn’t have to always happen that way. Eiler would love the company.

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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  1. Wow JJ. You leave me in the dust here. Remember what happened when we opened the ASL? If you build it they will come. We have enough problems with the homeless that are here now. Why in heaven’s name would you want to have more? Also, it’s just a guess, but I doubt the mentally ill and drug addicted and criminal types would be good stewards to the hotel. That would just cause more issues for the Hanaker’s to repair and restore. We don’t need any more issues in this town – I suspect this would cause yet another rift between the well intentioned and those who see consequences. Give this a rest.


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