Letter: Regarding Hawthorne Road Lawsuit

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Village Laguna has been accused of bringing a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit against a project at 369 Hawthorne, a locally designated historic resource owned by the Kirby family. This accusation is false; we have no involvement in that suit.

Village Laguna is, however, like Laguna Neighbors, very frustrated with how the City has been handling historic preservation. 

Here is a quote from our letter to the Council on Nov. 27, 2020 about 369 Hawthorne.

“The Council has repeatedly discussed improving our historic preservation practices, doing a better job of informing the public, and providing the services of qualified historic preservation staff. Instead the Council has gone down the path of degrading the ordinance, thinking that will satisfy the complaints. This project is an example of an incomplete and undoubtedly confusing process for the applicants.   

When we have the will to do historic preservation properly and make it clear to the public and applicants, the process will go more smoothly and the results will be a benefit to all.”

Village Laguna participated in all of the historic preservation meetings since 2014, always urging the city to develop a clear process for applicants and to properly address the role of CEQA. Instead the Council refused to do that, thwarted the work of the Historic Preservation Ordinance Task Force, and adopted an ordinance that itself violates CEQA, which is now under litigation.  Village Laguna supports that litigation. The Council has refused to hire a historic preservation specialist and has yet to produce a package for the public explaining how the program works and what an applicant must do to comply with CEQA. No wonder cases like the Kirbys’ continue to frustrate all concerned.

Now, because of a condition of approval requiring applicants to indemnify the City against any legal action related to their permit, the Kirbys are saddled with the legal costs of defending the CEQA lawsuit against the City. All this could have been prevented had the City understood and accepted its obligations under CEQA and handled the case properly. 

Anne Caenn

President, Village Laguna

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