Once Bootleg Housing is Outed, It Doesn’t Come Back
Before the 1993 fire an artist friend was trading construction work for rent. He had demolished the interior of a small cottage, revealing a layer of canvas above the rafters. He was working on a tent that someone had moved from Main Beach to Canyon Acres. In the finest Laguna tradition, it was being remodeled into a Laguna charmer.
Laguna Beach used to be filled with this kind of housing. My friend was living in an old pottery shed on the same property, fixing that up as well. One Thanksgiving his wife had to do the dishes in the bathtub after the big family dinner.
These homes had one shining attribute. They were cheap. That was the draw. Cheap housing in a beautiful setting.
The 1993 fire burned a lot of this housing to the ground. It was never replaced. The folks who lived there had to find someplace else. That changed the character of the neighborhood almost over night.
This event reduced the stock of affordable housing in a hurry. Other processes are doing the same.
The annexation of South Laguna resulted in the removal of a lot of substandard cheap rental units that had existed under lax county administration. The folks who lived there had to find someplace else.
There are the cheap rentals where the old landlord dies and the heirs sell the place to somebody who fixes it up. They won’t be cheap to rent ever again.
Finally there is the unrelenting process of code enforcement. Once that bootleg unit is turned in it is gone and the folks that live there have to find someplace else.
Finding someplace cheap in Laguna has never been easy. It’s now almost impossible. During the past decades we’ve down zoned Southern California to the point where the allowable density of housing is about half of what was allowed in the 1960’s. That stopped the construction of affordable housing, but it didn’t stop people moving here.
We’ve been working hard to develop artist live work units. How paltry those results have been. It costs a lot of money to develop housing today requiring high rents to support that investment. Not a lot of artists can pay it. Vincent Van Gogh couldn’t.
The state is prodding us to build second residential units to ease this housing crisis and provide diversity of housing. We’ve formed a committee to work on it. So far nobody’s been willing to live next door to a guy who cuts his ear off.
It might be easier to save what we have left than to try and recreate it once it’s gone.
JJ Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11yrs old. He has loved it ever since.