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Laguna Beach moves forward on plan to fill artist housing need

Laguna Beach moves forward on plan to fill artist housing need
Artist Gavin Heath demonstrates the art of glass blowing at his Laguna Canyon studio in this file photo. Laguna Beach has a need for 58 new units of artist live/work housing, according to a new study. (File Photo)

The Laguna Beach City Council took a preliminary step Tuesday night in acting on a local survey indicating a deep need for affordable creative spaces.

Artspace, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that consults on artist work/live spaces, presented the council with the survey results.

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About half of the 366 people who responded to the survey were interested in artist housing, said Teri Deaver, vice president of consulting and strategic partnerships for Artspace. Of those, 58% currently live in Laguna Beach, she added.

“Those who have left would love to return if they could afford space,” Deaver said.

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The study indicated a need for 58 new units of artist live/work housing in a variety of styles, including single-family homes, multi-family projects and above storefronts. At least half the units would need to cost $1,200 a month or less, according to the survey.

The council approved the results of the study and directed the city manager to start on the study’s action plan — sharing the results with local developers, adopting an amnesty program to let artists in non-permitted spaces stay while the spaces are adapted to work/live codes, develop a concept for a multi-use art space and help developers who are interested in offering affordable creative spaces.

Local artist Kathy Jones said she was “delighted” that several ideas from the study promote retaining local artists.

“I am ... a believer in our eclectic, interesting, odd, keep-Laguna-weird community,” Jones said. “Those of us who are artists are really part of the weird factor.”

Mayor Bob Whalen pointed out that increased funding for affordable housing is expected to be funneled to the city from Sacramento, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has made new affordable units a priority of his administration.

“I don’t know how much of that is directed at the arts, but I presume we’ll try to keep our finger on that and try to look for opportunities there,” Whalen said.

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved several temporary art installations around the city, including downtown, Heisler Park, the City Hall lawn and the Village Entrance project.

Heritage Committee appointment

In other business Tuesday, the council chose resident Doug Cortez to serve on the Heritage Committee, which oversees implementation of the city’s historic preservation ordinance.

He was selected from among three applicants on a 4-1 vote, with Iseman voting for Trudy Josephson.

Cortez, who has owned historical homes in Laguna Beach and Palm Springs, previously served on Laguna’s View Restoration Committee.

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