Letter: Life is Change, Growth is Optional

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I am proud to call Laguna Beach home, and grateful my wife and I can raise two young children here. There is a sense of community, pride and togetherness that is truly unique to Laguna and what makes our city someplace special. I say this as a resident, a professional and as a student.

In addition to raising a family here, I also make a living owning and operating real estate, focusing on vibrant neighborhoods and communities. I cannot think of a better example than Laguna. But that isn’t a static thing. Laguna’s charm and character is a living and breathing thing that must be nurtured if it is to continue. Impactful real estate must draw upon the strength and character of what makes that particular city, town or street corner special while also incorporating what it wants to be in the future. Meaningful real estate, whether they be homes, retail shops, offices, or parks must draw people in, create positive emotions and foster experiences we want to share—with both others as well as with the place itself.

This was further engrained upon me as a student, both studying urban planning at UC Irvine as an undergrad and as a graduate student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning. We are taught to respect and know our antecedents, those things that came before us, but also bring positive change and improve our built environment—whether through safer code, structural enhancements, thoughtful designs, more efficient utilities, sustainable materials and diversity. We cannot do that looking backward.

I was saddened to see the lawsuit brought upon the homeowners of 369 Hawthorne. By all accounts, the homeowners, the Kirbys, went through a several-years long process to do exactly what we all would like to see: a careful and thoughtful plan to protect a historic structure but make it enjoyable for decades more to come. This is an arduous process, who anyone who’s familiar with owning a home or buying a home in Laguna Beach is familiar with, projects are deliberately reviewed by the city staff, elected officials, the public and other interested parties to determine their suitability. The Laguna Beach Historic Preservation Coalition’s lawsuit, once you cut through the CEQA and other distractions, was brought about solely to prevent change. That is the death knell for any vibrant community, hanging on to the past so hard you can’t bear to welcome the future. This is a negative and corrosive mindset that is less interested in preserving anything, but more interested in stopping everything.

We should continue to hold our community to a high standard and demand any project be put to a reasonable and careful review, but welcome smart and positive change to help us continue to grow together. 

Yashaar Amin, Laguna Beach

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Yashaar Amin, I disagree with your premise, growth for a city such as Laguna Beach is not optional as you well know by the ever increasing real estate prices and increasing hordes of tourists. What is optional is what type of growth will we have. Smart development that mitigates the negative factors associated with uncontrolled growth is what many and I believe most residents want. Our situation is different than most other small cities because we are almost like an island. As to the Kirby lawsuit why don’t we all take a deep breath and see what the result of the lawsuit will be. If it is meritless then a precedent will be set to discourage new lawsuits of this type. If, however, the lawsuit is found to have merit the city government needs to make modifications to the approval process to make it lawful. If those that are concerned about historic preservation found that, in their interpretation, that the law is not being followed and just just gave up what kind of a city would we have for the succeeding generations? I don’t believe there are many in this city that do not want smart development. They want development that serves the business interests and while perhaps not enhancing our quality of life does not degrade it.

  2. This is a wonderful letter that gives me hope for the future of a town that I probably won’t be around to enjoy.

  3. This is generally a thoughtful letter Mr. Amin. I did want to offer one correction: the Coalition does not want to prevent change. It is expected that many historic resources will change over time (as I’m sure you learned in Columbia’s very fine program). It’s a question of the degree and sensitivity of changes, and whether those changes impact the significance of the historic resource. The Coalition would not object to even a sizable addition at the rear, including a garage, and the pool/spa, etc. But an appropriate addition would not demolish the one-story extension and would not wrap around the north facade of the house, aspects of the current project that two historic resource consultants objected to, including the owners’ own consultant as well as another who graduated from your program at Columbia. The specific changes that were approved have too much of an impact on the resource. I just wanted to clear that up.

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