Opinion: Does the Wet Suit You


Don’t Know What Youve Got Till It’s Gone

By J.J. Gasparotti

Does The Wet Suit You recently commissioned a village economist to study Lagunas commercial landscape. A review of city business license records and a physical inspection of every commercial property in town revealed some interesting facts. The results were not what one would expect from listening to the rumors on the street. While tabulations arent complete, some early patterns are emerging. 

Test your assumptions with this question. What industry holds the most business licenses in Laguna Beach? There’s hundreds of them licensed in town. Lagunas number one business is construction. Despite being a no growth village, construction workers are making noise everywhere.

The study also revealed the canard that Lagunas commercial environment is vacant, derelict, and blighted simply isn’t true. Independent owner-operators occupy most of Lagunas shops. They fill the small commercial properties distributed all over town.  These small shops provide an affordable and intimate venue for the businesses occupying them. Often times there are apartments located upstairs or in back of these small shops.

The study showed Lagunas small locations aren’t vacant. These spaces dont have the heavy rent burden of Lagunas larger commercial buildings and venues.

Most of Lagunas vacant commercial property is downtown. The spaces are larger with higher rent rates. They also require a complex conditional use permit process rather than a simple business license to open the doors.

Occupied by stable, long-standing businesses is the general rule for Lagunas commercial properties. These small businesses often fill unique retail niches that are supported by a combination of tourist and local clientele.

Real blight can be found in Forest Lane behind the upscale restaurants on lower Forest Avenue.  Its pretty disgusting. This filthy mess could be quickly cleaned up if the city would diligently enforce its existing laws regulating the storage of garbage, grease, and rubbish.

Small scale, pedestrian accessible, and imbued with the patina of age most accurately  describes the physical condition of Lagunas commercial landscape. The clear unifying theme for the majority of Laguna commercial properties is they are small structures without onsite surface parking. This absence of asphalt parking lots fronting Lagunas shops is the visible factor that makes Laguna invitingly different from neighboring cities. 

In 2019,  Santa Clara adopted a specific plan intended to transform its El Camino Real, now lined with automobile oriented strip malls, into a tree lined, pedestrian-transit corridor, with a mix of residential and retail uses. Laguna already has that today.

J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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  1. You know where to find prime Laguna Real Estate hidden downtown? Already finished in paving stones and a half-city block long it’s the Forest Alley – used for garbage pick-up and a car nursery. Laguna spent $12 million for a parking lot residents may not park in, how about spending one million for a pedestrian zone presently hidden in plain sight? After all, we are spending 1-10 million for Downtown Action Plan where Forest Avenue remains a parking lot. Do liquor licenses rank second-place? Then DUI Attorneys must rank third.


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