Refining Development in Laguna Canyon



Concern over the direction of development along Laguna Canyon Road has gained momentum in recent months since local sculptor Louis Longi’s artist’s work/live project put a spotlight on apparent inconsistencies in the city’s zoning along the highway.

“We’ve heard it….canyon, canyon, canyon. Sooner or later we need to address canyon plans and the annexation specific plan,” realtor and former planning commission member Bob Chapman said at a joint meeting between city planners and elected officials five weeks ago.

That time has come. Council member Steve Dicterow called for a canyon zoning discussion, scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting, May 6.

Longi’s project, approved locally last month, threw into relief contradictory development policies along the road. The Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan, which was adopted in 1991 after the area was annexed in 1989, calls for retaining the natural setting and rural atmosphere and encourages small, rural scale development.

Yet Longi’s project also falls within a light industrial zone in the canyon with development standards that seem to allow its size and use, contradicting the specific plan.

Many people want to see this kind of discrepancy sorted out before the city approves any more projects.

At the April 1 hearing over the Longi project, Linda Morgenlander, of Acme Architecture, insisted that “piecemeal approval of projects is not the way to do this” in light of what she described as a “planning crisis that needs to be addressed.”

Indeed, two subsequent proposals in Laguna Canyon in recent months illustrate her point – a 97,025 square-foot storage facility at Big Bend, and a 40-unit permanent housing facility for the mentally disabled homeless next to the dog park.

Both served to amp up pressure for a cohesive development plan for the whole canyon to iron out zoning inconsistencies and establish a vision for the entry into town.

John Hamil, vice president of the Laguna Canyon Property Owners Association, which vociferously opposed Longi’s project as inconsistent with the local plan, said that his group found common ground with residents from Castle Rock, Racquel Road, Stan Oaks Lane and Canyon Acres in their concern about pending development, and they established a new coalition, Canyon Alliance Neighborhoods Defense Organization, or CAN DO.

The coalition has yet to take a position on the housing proposal, but would like a development moratorium to halt piecemeal development until a comprehensive plan is put into play, Hamil said.



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