Neighborhood Compatibility Dispute Reveals Deeper Problem



I was rendered speechless by Commissioner Linda Dietrich’s derogatory, prejudicial, scathing, and entirely inappropriate comments during (a July 9) Planning Commission discussion of a conditional use and development permits for a two-unit artist live work project at 2000 Laguna Canyon Road.

Commissioner Dietrich:  “As far as neighborhood compatible I, I disagree with, with, um – my commissioners – or with my fellow commissioners on that, because I think – especially in this part of the Canyon – being compatible with the neighborhood means shoddy workmanship, falling down houses, and, and we’re not living in make-believe land um–I think that [interrupted by outcries from Canyon homeowners] “Excuse!  I’m not talking Castle Rock Road.  We’re talking – Excuse me! – we’re talking M1A on the street.  I think Castle Rock Road is wonderful but that’s a different zone.  We’re talking about M1A.”

Commissioner Dietrich’s gross overgeneralization is simplistic and it’s wrong.

Castle Rock Road directly borders two of the proposed project’s boundaries. It is specious of Commissioner Dietrich to assert that compatibility requirements of the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan do not apply. Castle Rock is the neighborhood of the proposed project.

Commissioner Dietrich’s position that the M1A zone trumps all – in blind disregard of the proximity of the residential neighborhood – points to the sort of peril that a community incurs when personal prejudice is invested with the prerogatives of power.

Is this the kind of arrogantly dismissive disrespect the citizens of Laguna Beach deserve?

Last week, the California Coastal Commission upheld an appeal against another controversial project proposed for Laguna. In a unanimous 12-0 vote, the Coastal Commission found sufficient grounds to call for a full new hearing. A staff report described the issues at stake as potentially “precedential” and of “statewide import.”  Those issues go to suspected inattention or, even abuses of its authority by The Laguna Beach Planning Commission, the very body entrusted with the protection of our precious and unique coastal homeland.

Either Lagunans will redress “the insolence of office” that has so egregiously jeopardized the integrity of Laguna Beach, our autonomy to implement its local coastal plan, and our custodianship of our still wonderful environs, or others will do it for us.

Michael Fowlkes, Laguna Beach

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