Town Gown Harmony



I am writing to comment on the Laguna Beach Independent story by Daniella Walsh, “Survival of the Fittest in Laguna Canyon,” (Aug. 24). As chair of the Laguna College of Art + Design’s board of trustees, I take issue with the characterization of LCAD’s recent expansion in the canyon as “not unexpectedly stir[ring] up some town and gown friction.”

In my three years on the board, and working with community leaders, I have observed LCAD’s dedication to promoting harmony in all its dealings with the city of Laguna Beach and its community members.  LCAD is a good neighbor maintaining a profile consistent with the canyon’s natural beauty and developing a “green” curriculum.  LCAD works closely with the city to minimize traffic impacts, has developed its own shuttle system, and is constantly working to maintain a low carbon footprint, as it modestly expands. The limited student housing referenced in your article is part of that responsible plan. Our partnership with our city and local businesses would be the envy of Harvard, Yale and UCLA.

LCAD’s planned expansion is modest with build-out in 10 years to be 650 students. LCAD will never be large. But its aspirations are mighty—to be the leading school of art and design in the country, comparable in its impact to the Juilliard School’s reputation in music.  We are well on are way with a rigorous foundational program in the fine arts and drawing, a model liberal arts core degree program, and path-breaking programs in visual communications, animation and game art.

It is truly unfortunate that your story is spun to suggest town-gown discord. Even worse it suggests that the arts are displacing businesses. LCAD is itself a business, and one of Laguna Beach’s largest employers. The arts greatly enrich our community—aesthetically certainly, but also financially by contributing to our city’s economic health and well-being.

I am sorry that the Sports Performance Institute must seek new quarters because of an expired lease. Perhaps your story will help them find new space.  But please know that the Laguna College of Art + Design is not the enemy. LCAD is part of the unique character, the very DNA of our city and a hope for a bright future based on excellence in the arts.


Patricia O’Brien,

Chair, LCAD Board of Trustees

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