While almost every Laguna resident supports the concept of artists’ work/live projects, very few support the massive and architecturally inappropriate project being considered for 20412 Laguna Canyon Road.
It is important to review the history of Laguna Canyon as set forth in the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan. This is particularly important considering the facts that led to this annexation. The residents of this area did not want to be annexed by the city of Laguna Beach but were enticed by sewer hookup and the opportunity to write our own specific plan, which we were assured would offer us protection from this sort of interference by the city. The specific plan anticipates and unambiguously precludes this type of development.
Hopefully, this will not be a classic “bait and switch” maneuver. Our neighborhood has already been impacted by the traffic and parking associated with the Canyon Club as well as the problems associated with individuals drawn to our neighborhood by the homeless shelter. The addition of this massive “modern” building with its 36-foot height, potential traffic and parking problems created by occupants, employees, customers and events will forever change the character of our small canyon community as well as the rural atmosphere of the entrance to our city, Laguna Canyon.
It is our opinion that this project fails to satisfy three of the 10 policies listed in the Specific Plan: ensure…land uses…have a rural character, require the preservation of ridgelines, require that any development be of small scale in order to maintain the rural character of the Canyon, the proposed use is compatible with surrounding land uses, the proposed use is compatible with and does not detract from the rural atmosphere of the Laguna Annexation Area, the proposed use does not create a density which would compromise the environmental sensitivity of the area, the proposed use will not result in a substantial increase in traffic congestion or adversely impact vehicular traffic patterns.
Additionally, we are concerned with the lack of discussion of risks attendant to cars parked in the flood plain. There needs to be a recommendation if not a requirement that all cars be removed from the property before the water reaches flood height.
It was our understanding that the original artist’s live/work ordinance was intended to encourage local resident artists to remain in our city. We were surprised and dismayed to find staff interprets the definition to include art students as potential occupants. What percentage of the structure will be for resident artists as was originally intended? We are disturbed by this exploitation of the ordinance’s original intent.
Lastly, we are concerned that future canyon development that will be encouraged by approval of an apartment building/dormitory at this location.
John A. Hamil, Laguna Beach
The author is vice-president of the Laguna Canyon Property Owners Association.