Opinion: Village Matters

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Still In Love With You

ann christoph

“I can’t help It if I’m still in love with you.” The strains of the South Laguna Garden Band singing the Hank Williams classic soared over Bluebird Park on Sunday. The first gathering since the President said we no longer have to mask up if we’re vaccinated, and the first concert at Bluebird Park since the shutdown. Tears started to come and we had to dance. We saw our old friends. We saw in person for the first time people we had only met on Zoom. We felt more deeply than ever before how much we are in love with our community and the Laguna way of life.

Village Laguna was celebrating its 50-year anniversary with a tree give-away, cupcakes, homemade kumquat preserves, and picnics. Simple and relaxing. This was community togetherness at its best.

Arnold Hano, the founder of Village Laguna, apparently at age 49 since he’s 99 now, was the honored attendee, giving a speech from his wheelchair. “I bless this organization that continues on doing the work that has to be done, taking it on the chin when it has to take it on the chin, and just keeps right on rolling and you are all to be congratulated and I thank you all.”  I went over to say hello when the band was in the midst of another dance-worthy number, “I wish I could dance with you, Arnold.”  Surprisingly he asked for help moving the foot-rests of his chair, got up and we danced! He got safely back, foot-rests in place, smiles all around.

Ruben Flores donated coast live oak and toyon trees and grateful Lagunans came to pick up their reserved trees. We can envision them being planted all over town, in their expertly dug planting holes. See villagelaguna.org for video instructions starring Mike Evans of Tree of Life Nursery.

Meantime kids were enjoying the rest of the park, on the slides, climbers and rocket, playing catch, other ways to love a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the park.

Guests listened to the South Laguna Garden Band during Village Laguna’s 50th-anniversary celebration on May 16 at Bluebird Canyon Park. Photo courtesy of Ann Christoph

These experiences are the reasons we’re passionate about our town. Why we’re willing to read and analyze documents, stay up late listening to prolonged meetings, just to speak up for two or three minutes. We’re always trying to share the feelings of affection for our community like those we had at the event on Sunday, and apply those to the issue at hand. What does it mean to “preserve and enhance the village character”? That has so many components.

What changes will enhance? Which changes will detract? Maybe the demolition of just one historic property, the construction of only a couple of overwhelmingly large buildings in a neighborhood of cottages won’t matter too much? What changes to the downtown will keep it the Laguna we love, but better? Which ones will push it over the line making it unrecognizable as being Laguna? Are there new ways to foster community? Like parks, community gardens, community centers? How do we continue to feel our town is still the one we loved at first sight? A town where many happy memories were made over the years and will continue to be made.

Village Laguna’s charge is to consider all that and to try for the best balance. If we find it, at the next anniversary we’ll sing again, “still in love with you” to our town.

Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor.

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