Windows to the Sea Up for Redesign

2
818

By Andrea Adelson | LB Indy

Visitors bypass the Garden of Peace and Love beside the Mountain Street beach access stairway.
Visitors bypass the Garden of Peace and Love beside the Mountain Street beach access stairway.

Beach access points serve as more than stairways to the sand. When big surf hits and surfers charge across the waves below, stairways and landings throughout Laguna Beach turn into informal amphitheaters for admirers and prospective riders checking swell conditions.

Surf conditions matter little to others admirers, who stop no matter the season and crowd the stairways to absorb a striking sunset from these slivers of preserved open space in-between million-dollar properties.

Four of the town’s 29 beach stairways are due to be replaced and realigned and will be reviewed for the second time by the city’s Design Review Board at its next meeting, Thursday, Jan. 22. The panel put off making a decision on the upgrades after a three-hour hearing last November where residents and board members called for small changes in each of the stairway renovations proposed for the beach ends of Thalia, Oak, Mountain and Agate streets.

Construction will temporarily block access to the beach altogether from these points for several months. If the project is not underway by March, it will be postponed until September, Tom Sandefur, the project’s associate civil engineer, said in November.

The point of the project is to improve public access with stairways that are easier to reach from the street and less serpentine, says an environmental analysis of the project prepared by Hodge Associates of Palm Desert.

Peter Mann, who lives near the Agate Street access, has devised alternate plans to increase public viewing areas.
Peter Mann, who lives near the Agate Street access, has devised alternate plans to increase public viewing areas.

The revised plans posted in advance of next week’s hearing at least partly address the unusual culture of one stairway.

At the earlier hearing several people questioned why the planned revamping of the Mountain Street stairway omitted creating an entry to the Garden of Peace and Love, an informal cemetery below the street level once maintained by volunteers where remains of AIDS victims have been buried and scattered.

“I’m shocked to see the entire area improved but the Peace Garden excluded,” said resident Audrey Prosser. “It’s city property and should be maintained by the city.”

Korey Jorgensen called for including a safe entry to the garden and Gary Lefebvre called for a plaque that acknowledges the garden’s significance to the town’s gay and lesbian community.

If construction uncovered urns, the county coroner would have to inter the remains in a licensed cemetery, Standefer explained. “That’s why we are very hesitant,” he said, adding that the area “is not an official city park or garden.”

Board members Leslie Lebon and Monica Simpson called for the addition of a gate, which has since been added to the design.

But the design scheme for the Agate Street access has not changed at all, said Peter Mann, who lives nearby and told the design review panel the initial proposal actually compromises views and diminishes viewing areas. By his calculation, the current usable terrace at street level amounts to 875 square feet, while the proposed terrace shrinks that to 275 square feet. “That is a substantial loss,” he said, as is the removal of the double tiered deck at the Thalia access point.

Mann, a civil engineer, says the Agate proposal makes no effort to take full advantage of the city owned easement by pushing out viewing areas a few feet or broadening landings where surfers or paddlers carrying boards create natural choke points.

Resident Joe Essy, enjoying the late afternoon sun seated on a bench at the Mountain Street access, urged the design panel to consider the outcome of a redesigned access point at Brooks Street, location of a long-running surf contest. “They created something so practical and beautiful and didn’t disturb the nature of the area. It looks like what should have been there all along.”

 

Photos.

Peter Mann, who lives near the Agate Street access, has devised alternate plans to increase public viewing areas.

 

Visitors bypass the Garden of Peace and Love beside the Mountain Street beach access stairway.

Share this:
View Our User Comment Policy

2 COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here