Guest Opinion: Preservation of ‘Dog House’ is Unjustified



Thomas Slattery

By Thomas Slattery


This letter was addressed to the City Council


As the designated unpaid member of the South Laguna Water and Sewer Advisory Committee, serving at the Council’s pleasure for over seven years, I have serious issues and concerns regarding the process that has brought this appeal forward.


As you know, the South Coast Water District is required to obtain a demolition permit for the purpose of removing a structure from their recently acquired property at 31762 Fourth St.  in South Laguna. The removal/demolition of the boarded up structure is absolutely necessary to facilitate the safe and efficient execution of the tunnel shaft project at that location. The full use of the entire land area is required by the licensed certified project engineers for the use of support vehicles and mining equipment necessary for this project. Full use of the land area will make it possible for all vehicles to be off neighborhood streets and a safe area for such vehicles to maneuver in the project space.

The structure in question has been completely boarded up for the last 35 to 40 years. The structure was, in fact, completely boarded up in 1981, six years before South Laguna was annexed, when it and 57 other structures in South Laguna were included on the Historical Structure Inventory list. At the time, this list was compiled without the permission of structure owners. Very few were ever fully aware of the list.


City records show that 10 property owners requested removal from the list in 1982 (Ex #1). City records also show a complaint to the County of Orange by an immediate neighbor to the subject structure concerning its derelict and deteriorating boarded up condition. The handwritten note from the county inspector says “structure occupied by a dog that is let out by the owner twice a day.” The actual owner lived elsewhere.(Ex #2,#3)

The process to acquire the necessary demolition permit started with the Heritage Committee. During the first hearing, member Bonnie Hano requested a peer review of the status of the “dog house”, at a cost of $2,000 to city taxpayers (invoice on file) to compare with the SCWD review. At the second Heritage Committee meeting, at which I testified, the committee did not even discuss the results of the reports that supported demolition. The committee ignored the facts that not only the two reports supported demolition, they also ignored that the structure did not qualify for preservation under any federal, state, county, or city guidelines.


The committee spent a great deal of time trying to find out what was to become of the subject property once the engineering project was complete five or six years from now. Its purview is the permit for demolition, not disposition of the property. The committee voted 9-0 to preserve a major portion of the “dog house” in a non-binding recommendation to the Design Review Board because it is “old”.

At the DRB hearing, at which I testified, the four members present voted to require preservation of the large portion of the “dog house” as recommended by the HC. Members of the DRB expressed unqualified opinions that the SCWD did not “really” need all of the area in question to accomplish the project and also their reluctance to overturn the “hard work” of the HC. DBR members spent most of their time trying to micromanage the project and find out what the disposition of the property will be when the project is complete in five or six years from now.

So, now the issue is in your hands. The “dog house” does not qualify for any preservation. The space is needed and is critical to the safe operation of the engineering project.

The arguments that the “dog house ” is part of the heart and soul of South Laguna and that we are losing our “c” rated structures are hollow. South Laguna has hundreds of occupied, well cared for and loved homes. On the map included with this letter (exhibit #4), I have shown the area of South Laguna bounded by Eagle Rock, Coast Highway, Fourth and Scenic. Fourteen structures are shown in yellow as being on the heritage “list”.  I have taken the liberty to add 49 other structures that would fully qualify for “c” rating shown in blue.

I would respectfully request that the City Council overturn the DRB decision and allow SCWD to demolish the “dog house” and proceed in the process of implementing this extremely important infrastructure project.


Tom Slattery is a South Laguna resident.

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