I want to take a moment to acknowledge the local passing of an idealized notion of the American Main Street. I am referring to the City Council’s recent decision to permanently close Lower Forest Avenue and rebrand it as The Promenade.
The City’s temporary emergency measure for helping local restaurants during the COVID-19 outbreak by relinquishing the street and parking for outdoor dining has now been asserted as the permanent paradigm. The City consultant will hold workshops to discuss options for what replaces Lower Forest, but its days as a fully functioning thoroughfare are over.
Perhaps it will turn out to be more than an outdoor food court and street musicians, but something will be lost in the process.
The shame is that Laguna Beach is one of the few remaining towns in Orange County with a legitimate, intact, tree-lined, and recognizable Main Street serving residents, businesses, tourists, and yes, even motorists. Main Streets once were the staple of small towns, reflecting the character and values and its people and providing mobility, commerce, and community. Something has changed.
Closing Lower Forest demonstrates a different notion of Main Street that I don’t recognize.
It’s possible that out-of-town visitors have more appreciation for lower Forest Avenue and the small-town charm they can’t find where they live and recognize here. Certainly, it’s been pretty good for business.
Times change, however, and sometimes so do the attitudes and values of residents to their town. I hope more soul searching on this issue occurs in the community, and until then will lament the passing of Main Street Laguna and the inherent values and character that distinguished it from everywhere else.
Mike Phillips, Laguna BeachView Our User Comment Policy