Letter: Developers with a Vision for Laguna

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As I read Skip Hellewell’s Nov. 1 Finding Meaning column in which he pays tribute to Howard G. Heisler on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his death, thoughts of Mo Honarkar crept into my head.

Hellewell wrote that The Laguna Company—comprised of Heisler, L.C. McKnight and Ferdinand William Thum—purchased the land north of Broadway for development. At the time, Hellewell wrote that 11 families farmed and fished in the area, which was part of Irvine Ranch until 1905.

The Laguna Company filed a development plan in 1906, 21 years before Laguna Beach was incorporated as a city, to create a community they named Laguna Cliffs. To encourage building, Heisler offered $100 for the first completed home.

Today, a local who owns something called the Laguna Beach Company is proposing to breathe new life into our city’s core and bring some much-needed amenities to town. Reopen the shuttered Hotel Laguna, create a significant amount of parking under a proposed new hotel in North Laguna, and build affordable housing in the canyon.

Heisler sold a lot at half price to the Laguna Beach Art Association for the building of a museum and dedicated 18 acres for Heisler Park. Not a huge sacrifice when you own lots of land, but definitely a contribution to the community.

Already, Honarkar has upgraded the underused Festival Center, renaming it The Hive, which now offers new restaurants and expanded LCAD gallery space. The Royal Hawaiian is back, and Tivoli Terrace on the FOA grounds has gotten a much needed renovation. These are just a few improvements Honarkar’s companies have brought to the community.

So why does Honarkar get so much push back when Heisler is praised for his “contributions” to Laguna Beach? Both are/were developers with a vision. Both loved/love Laguna Beach. Neither had/has a vision for high-rises on the sand.

I think we should all welcome Honarkar’s proposed contributions—unless we like looking at the empty Hotel Laguna, the closed Johnny Rockets and the vacant Tommy Bahama.

Let us keep in mind Honarkar’s projects will go through the same Planning Commission and design review process as all other projects proposed for our town. And let’s keep in mind that his projects, and ideas, can be good for Laguna.

Charlie Craig, Laguna Beach


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