Letter: Gasparotti Mistaken about Design Review

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I am usually a fan of J.J. Gasparotti, but his column last week saying that the Design Review Board is just fine is blatantly biased and misinformed. I was told he used to be on the DRB—that would explain his myopic, sycophant view of their operation. I say operation because they slice and dice you according to their whim, not rules, according to their subjective tastes, not objective metrics.

I went through DRB when building my house. We were told that to get a house built in Laguna you had to hire a local architect. Is that sick or what? Then every one of our downhill neighbors objected to our building on our empty lot that would in no way affect their views—they can’t see my house as the view is in front of them, not behind. We had to listen and spend thousands more dollars to accommodate their wishes. Then the DRB, particularly one person, weighed in. I was told by my consultant I couldn’t have two sinks in the kitchen because it “reeked of excess” and would never pass DRB in an era of punishing people building big houses. Never mind that it is the smallest house on my block. I was told I had to put stone on the outside to blend in with the hillside—the only beings who see the stone are the deer because my house faces a canyon that can never be built upon. Thousands more dollars. I was told we couldn’t put balconies on our house because “in my experience no one uses balconies” from the same DRB member. At a meeting that I attended, this same DRB member told the applicant to change the style of the wrought iron fence because “I find it too fussy.” Subjective to the max. Where is their degree in architecture? We paid $14,000 to a “consultant” (former DRB member) to take them all to lunch to get my house approved. Without it, we couldn’t get it approved. This isn’t sick?

We finally built our house, the house they wanted us to have, not the house we wanted. I am one of thousands who have heard similar subjective objections. J.J., is this really the way it should be? Let Peter Blake shake it up—they have “denigrated and demonized” us to death.

Michèle Monda, Laguna Beach

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