The future of the historic sewer digester tower will be under discussion at the village entrance workshop on July 16. The restoration and reuse of the tower and the building attached to it (which now houses Police Department records) have been part of the village entrance project from the beginning, but the current concept entertains the possibility of transferring most of the money to the re-landscaping of the Laguna Canyon Road median instead. The Council has left the decision to the public, so far, but several councilmembers have expressed a lack of interest in the building. This means that public input will be critical if this historic building is to be saved.
Here are some of the reasons that it should be restored:
It’s recognized by historians as architecturally unique.
It’s on the city’s Historic Register and has been judged eligible for the national and state registers of historic places.
It’s a reminder of the boldness of our earliest city leaders, who in the midst of the Great Depression saw the critical need of a beach community for a comprehensive sewage treatment system, passed a bond issue totaling $180,000 (at a time when the federal minimum wage was $1.10 an hour for skilled labor and 200 Lagunans of a voting population of around 700 were unemployed), and vigorously pursued newly available federal funding from the Public Works Administration when the bonds went unsold.
Its architectural style reflects the aesthetic sensibility of Lagunans from the very beginning. The community needed a sewage treatment plant, but it had to be beautiful.
It survived the demolition of the rest of the sewage treatment plant in 1989 at the insistence of the community. Its deteriorating condition today has everything to do with a lack of maintenance over the past 25 years. Repairs and cleanup will extend its useful life, if only for its current purpose.
The money to pay for restoring it is included in the project budget, while funding for re-landscaping the road median is part of the city’s near-term capital-improvements budget. We can do both, and until very recently that was the plan.
Residents who want to see this landmark restored should plan to attend the workshop at 6 p.m. on July 16 in the Council Chambers and raise their hands.
Barbara Metzger, Laguna Beach