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Laguna study paints a portrait of a city in need of places for artists to live and work

Laguna Beach City Hall.
The Laguna Beach City Council will review a market study for creative spaces at its meeting Tuesday night.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

A market study assessing Laguna Beach’s need for spaces where artists can live and work will return to the City Council Tuesday — nearly two years after the process began.

The city hired a consultant, Artspace, in 2017 to determine the needs of Laguna’s creative sector. The firm conducted a feasibility study then that showed a proposed artist work/live space lacked financial and public support, though affordable creative space was indeed necessary.

The arts market study, which took place in 2018, found that nearly half of 366 people surveyed expressed a need for artist housing. About 34% were interested in a shared creative space, according to the arts market study, and 33% were interested in private studio space.

“Investment in artist housing would help retain and grow the local arts community,” the study concludes.


The study recommends the city encourage public and private efforts to open creative spaces, repurpose commercial buildings and storefronts for arts uses and develop an art center.

Councilman Peter Blake, a gallery owner, said he supports the idea of an artist work/live space.

“This will set a precedent for further affordable housing for our elders, our millennials and people who need a place to live in Laguna Beach,” he said, adding that he can barely afford to live in town himself.

Opening an artist work/live space has been a topic of contention in Laguna for years, as developers have battled lawsuits and local organizations have fought to preserve the land and their communities.


Proposed tattoo shop gets another hearing

In other business, the council will review the prospect of opening a tattoo parlor in South Laguna, after the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to approve a conditional use permit for the shop last month.

The review, which Councilwoman Toni Iseman requested, will be heard “de novo,” meaning the Planning Commission’s decision will not be considered.

Iseman could not be reached for immediate comment Friday.

Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson cast the dissenting vote in February because she said she didn’t think the tattoo parlor would be “right for the neighborhood.”

A few area residents wrote to the commission, expressing concern that the shop would be too close to St. Catherine of Siena Parish School at 30516 S. Coast Hwy. The staff report says the proposed location, previously occupied by Sea Interior Design, is about 400 feet away from the school.

Bare Bones Tattoo would be the first location for Zane Leibowitz, an artist who has worked in tattoo shops for half his life. He envisions opening a luxury parlor at the South Laguna site and plans to dress the part, wearing cocktail attire as he designs customers’ tattoos.

Fire Department offers strategic plan

The beginning of the year in Laguna Beach calls for strategic planning, and on Tuesday, it’s the Fire Department’s turn.

Fire Chief Michael Garcia will present to the council a three-year strategic plan that lays out goals. He will also introduce a new departmental mission statement: “To make Laguna Beach a safer community by protecting lives, property, and the environment through active prevention, public education, training, and emergency response.”


The plan is based on interviews with employees, department reports and a strategic planning workshop, according to the staff report, and will be presented to the council at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, before the regularly scheduled council meeting at 6 p.m.

The council meeting will be held in the Laguna council chambers at 505 Forest Ave.