I would like to speak up in defense of our town’s Design Review Board. I hear many complaints about this group in conversations, in City Council candidate forums, and I read disparaging comments in the paper. However, as a long-time resident who has attended many DRB meetings, I have great respect for the purposes of the board.
Some years ago, a friend visiting from North Carolina learned about our DRB and dismissed it as a snobby venture, trying to control the appearance of local business and homes. However, he lives in an area where there is lots of space between houses. But here in Laguna, where our neighborhoods are much more “close and cozy,” we have a much greater need to have at least some oversight in the construction and appearance of our buildings if we want to avoid looking like a hodgepodge of styles and sizes. This is not to say we must all have cookie-cutter houses; we can go to other cities for that. But it is to say that in Laguna, we have a greater need to consider the context in which we build.
I have gratefully witnessed the DRB keep applicants from building ridiculously large attempted mansions that would have been much too large for their lots or the neighborhood. I have gratefully witnessed DRB ask applicants to reduce their overzealous outside lighting, thereby protecting neighbors from light pollution and glare. I have gratefully witnessed DRB requiring more interesting materials than a vast wall of stucco that might not face the street but would indeed face many (especially downhill) neighbors.
I have also witnessed DRB taking great pains to work with, and to compromise with, applicants in an effort to arrive at a project acceptable to all, especially when neighbors close by are affected by loss of privacy or view.
No, DRB is not going please all, but I do believe that this board works very hard to the benefit of our town.
Anita Dobbs, Laguna Beach