Economic Upturn



By Ann Christoph
By Ann Christoph

Dateline Laguna Beach: On Monday, Jan. 13, as the South Laguna Civic Association board went over the agenda of proposed nearby projects, President Bill Rihn announced, “The 2008 great recession is officially over!”  The Obama administration will be notified immediately.

Economic indicators have been erected in our neighborhood in the form of two by four stakes, string and fluorescent tape.  Vacant lots and “underused” properties alike exhibit the symptoms.

The last Design Review Board meeting went on intensely until 1 a.m., a sure measure that the change is city-wide.

No longer will we have peaceful evenings at home on Thursday nights, with little worry that something is being decided that will change our lives.  We will have to be wary and vigilant once more, as applicants who “love Laguna” seek to build out their part of it, ever more grand and definitely not village-like.

An example from that agenda reveals a four-level single family residence with “ a proposed program of 10,816 square feet” including an 8,000 square foot house with a 1,200 square foot garage and 1,350 square feet of decks, plus storage areas. The middle level alone is 3,600 square feet. This is four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, closets and laundry room. That is 900 square feet for each bedroom, larger than many nearby cottages. Fortunately this was continued.

Then there is the cluster of stakes at Mar Vista, outlining looming second stories and a large new house for a future agenda.  Residents were there after midnight to urge the board to say no to this proposal as being too large, too prominent, and not in character with the much smaller scale and softer cottage neighborhood of which it is supposed to be a part. The board agreed and unanimously sent the proposal back to the drawing board.

The Ti Amo restaurant remodel promises to “upgrade” what used to be a cottage style building long ago, giving it that “ upscale “ look with panels of flagstone and ipe siding.  Two significant trees are slated for removal.  The board approved it, expressing concerns about the intensity of use, enlargement of the bar, and the noise and activity impact on the adjacent residential neighborhood. Staff insists however, that the number of seats and inadequate parking is all grandfathered, and thus off limits for evaluation.  Are we creating another Agate Street/quiet zone situation?

As I walk to my office or work in the garden neighbors pass by and speak their minds.

“How could the board approve that restaurant?  What is happening to our community, the village feel? Change is good, I get it, and I accept change.  But when it affects my lifestyle, that’s when I have to say no,” said one resident who is also a realtor.

A resident who operates a business across the street from Ti Amo was saddened with the prospect of losing the trees.  “The design is hard, and is not what people come to Laguna for, that feeling of the village,”

Over all there’s a ship of design and decisions going in the direction away from Laguna’s heritage and toward an unknown port, veered by the winds of standardization, and the latest design trends.  The recovering economy seems to be creating a gale force behind this direction.  Uniqueness, quirkiness, and casual village lifestyle are but a gentle breeze in the equation without you.


Landscape architect Ann Christoph lives and works in South Laguna. She is former City Council member.











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