Will the Real Cottage Killer Please Stand Up?




This letter responds to Richard Picheny’s personal attack on me in a recent newspaper article regarding the demolition of old structures.


Mr. Picheny indicated that I do nothing as a councilmember to protect old cottages.  His statement is simply untrue.  Here is one example:  several years ago, when I was involved with fundraising for our Community/Senior Center, the city had purchased parcels on Third Street where four old structures were located to be used for the center.  A couple of these structures had been made available by the city to the 2005 landslide victims to live in at no-cost while they were trying to re-build their lives and their homes, so I had been inside them visiting those folks.  While they were extremely run down, some had value, in my mind.

With the assistance of some very generous Lagunans, I helped to re-locate some of the victims in those structures to other housing; the Third Street structures became empty.  As progress was made on the Community/Senior Center, a decision had to be made as to whether to move and store the Third Street structures or demolish them.  I voted with others on council to move and store them, clearing the way for the center.

The structures were moved to Laguna Canyon Road at Big Bend.  I then approached another generous Lagunan that I knew owned a property zoned for multi-unit structures that could accommodate all four units to see if she would consider taking all of them – moving them and rehabilitating them at her cost, thereby restoring them to their original glory and keeping them in our community.  She agreed to take the project on and to make the financial commitment.  A generous architect designed, pro-bono, a concept plan that would work, which would have resulted in a quaint enclave of tiny cottages that would be high-quality and affordable.

To my great disappointment, some of Picheny’s friends fought this proposal and, therefore, it was dropped.   Later, one cottage was taken and moved by a Fullerton resident; the other three sat in the canyon for three years and disintegrated in front of our eyes (not to mention that they also became a scary fire hazard).  Ultimately, a majority of the City Council concluded that no one was going to invest in these dilapidated, unsafe structures and that it was time to have them demolished.  I, personally, was disgusted that some of those very same folks who accuse me of not saving cottages were the ones who prevented my trying to do just that with the structures that sat in the canyon and rotted.

As a concluding statement, I’d like to say this:  just because a structure is old does not mean it is historically significant or has value to investors.  If groups such as some of Picheny’s friends in Village Laguna and the South Laguna Civic Association feel that a structure should be “saved” (even though, in many cases, it either does not have a highly rated historic designation and/or has not been maintained in its original form), then I would suggest that those who want to save it raise the funds to (a)buy it from a property owner and restore it – and, if necessary, (b) pay to move it and (c) find another location for it.


Elizabeth Pearson, City Council member

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  1. To give an idea of the perspective I’m coming from, I was born at south coast med. center, graduated from the high school, and look forward to moving home after getting my JD and MBA at Northeastern in Boston. I would like to move home to Laguna Beach, rather than a Laguna that I should probably just start referring to as “Newport”.

    You say that several years ago, you were unsuccessful in saving a group of older structures, and your future advice is for a given association to do it on their own if they want the old structures saved.

    This letter to the editor is not sending the message that you protect old structures. In fact, it sends the message that people who want to protect the old structures in town should do it on their own dime, because the city doesn’t have an interest in it.

    DOES the city have an interest in protecting old structures, and the quaint style of Laguna Beach? Is that really only when there’s a healthy return on the project?


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