Judge rejects CEQA claims against Laguna Beach, historic homeowners

Laguna Beach residents Ian Kirby, Cherlin Kirby and their two daughters are the owners of an embattled project at 369 Hawthorne Road. Courtesy of Cherlin Kirby

An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled against an environmental lawsuit filed by historic preservationists seeking to block a city-approved remodel of a historic Laguna Beach house.

Judge Randall Sherman held in favor of the City and Ian and Cherlin Kirby, owners of 369 Hawthorne Road, according to a judgment signed on July 22. Sherman awarded Laguna Beach and the Kirbys recovery of costs “to the extent permitted by law” that were incurred in fighting off the lawsuit, pending the required court filings.

“We’re excited to start doing the work to get out family in the house,” Ian Kirby said Monday. “We really do believe in preservation and really are excited that we can continue to honor Laguna’s history. We’re striking a balance with livability and historic preservation.”

The Kirbys have pursued an addition to their two-story 1925 Colonial Revival house for over five years. In February 2021, two historic preservation groups filed a complaint, claiming city officials failed to follow the California Environmental Quality Act when they approved the remodel.

The Kirbys planned a 1,020-square-foot addition to the home’s first and second stories, an attached garage, and an elevated deck with a pool and spa. They knew the home was listed on Laguna Beach’s Historic Registry and still wanted to restore it, partly because Cherlin Kirby grew up next door while attending Thurston Middle School and was friendly with the original owners, she said.

Decades of deferred maintenance has left the home’s foundation rotting, roof leaks, without installation, and vulnerable to earthquakes and fires. The couple lives in a condo next door to the historic property with their two daughters.

The Historic Architecture Alliance and the Laguna Beach Historic Preservation Coalition were named as the case’s petitioners. The Coalition has also sued Laguna Beach and the California Coastal Commission over both agencies’ approval of the updated historic preservation ordinance. After a lengthy review process, the state panel certified the local coastal program for Laguna Beach’s historic preservation ordinance on July 13, allowing the new city law to take effect, City Manager Shohreh Dupuis said.

Ann Christoph, Johanna Felder, Barbara Metzger, and Verna Rollinger told the Independent that they’re members of the Historic Preservation Coalition. Rollinger died in May but the three other women are board members of Village Laguna, which fiercely opposed the revised historical preservation ordinance.

Village Laguna was not a party to the lawsuit concerning the Hawthorne Road home, according to court records.

Petitioner attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley had asked a judge to enjoin city officials, the Kirbys, and their agents from all construction and pre-construction for the planned addition while the petition is pending.

Brandt-Hawley didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Cathy Jurca, a spokesperson for the Historic Preservation Coalition, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

This story is developing and will be updated as necessary.

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  1. It will interesting to see how the Kirby’s collect from the shell organization the “Village Laguna” collaborators created to abuse and intimidate the Kirby’s.
    This is the kind of legal terrorism being employed by individuals and organization though out Laguna Beach to advance ideologies and agendas.
    Our Schools, businesses and private property rights are constantly under assault by individuals and organizations (Public and Private) who have their own personal agendas.
    The legal system is wielded like an battle axe to intimidate, abuse or financially harm any non-compiler.
    I hope and pray the “INDIVIDUALS” and/or “ORGANIZATIONS” that choose this illegal path will be held accountable and pay a stiff price for the abuses they have inflicted on this family.
    Congratulations to the Kirby’s for fighting the fight and NOT backing down.
    Maybe this will give others the courage to stand-up and fight or give pause to the people who employ these lowlife tactics.

  2. Laguna Beach is controlled by a cabal of leftist hippies that use environmental regulations to steal residents’ property rights. Village Laguna is the most prominent of these groups.


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