Letter: Requiem for Laguna’s Main Street

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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 Beach

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your letter. I agree with your position on the loss of lower Forest as well as the many mature trees there that have provided shade for so many shoppers and visitors over the years. After its passing, Seal Beach and San Clemente will be the only seaside towns in Orange County with traditional recognizable main streets.

  2. Main Street Laguna was essentially a parking lot. The only way to enjoy the shade was to sit in your car. My guess is that the air quality along Main Street Laguna is much improved without automobile exhausts. A win for health and residents to enjoy their town. You know what towns across the country have, a place to gather and enjoy speaking with neighbors, the proverbial Town Square.

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