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Long-contested Laguna artist work/live project may clear last permit hurdle

Sculptor Louis Longi talks about how his artist live-work project would actually improve the creek b
Sculptor Louis Longi, pictured in 2014, says he hopes to break ground this summer on his planned artist work/live project in Laguna Canyon.
(File Photo)

One more step remains in a local artist’s years-long battle to build an artist work/live space in Laguna Canyon, and it’s up to the Laguna Beach City Council.

The council Tuesday is expected to uphold an April 3 decision by the Planning Commission that would allow sculptor Louis Longi to build his project — an artists’ community of two two-story buildings with 28 housing units, six art studios and gallery space.

Controversial artist work/live project inches forward in Laguna Beach after Planning Commission keeps city permit alive »

Friends of the Canyon, a local group opposed to large-scale development in Laguna Canyon, appealed the Planning Commission’s decision to the council.

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Longi said in an interview Friday that the project is moving forward and he hopes to break ground this summer.

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve been saying I’m going to build next year, next year, next year,” Longi said. “Now I’m talking about breaking ground next month, next month, next month. … That feels good.”

The municipal code allows two years after a city permit’s effective date to begin construction on a project. The Planning Commission can approve a two-year extension and then a one-year extension after that, for a total of five years before the permit runs out.

Longi’s permit was approved in 2014 and the city granted two extensions that expired in April this year. Longi had requested the extensions while his project was tied up in battles with Friends of the Canyon at two Coastal Commission hearings and in multiple lawsuits.

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Longi’s lawyer Jeffrey Harlan argued — and the Planning Commission agreed — that the permit should have been effective once the California Coastal Commission approved a coastal development permit on Aug. 9, 2017. A developer can’t begin the building process without all permits in hand, so the city and coastal development permits should have the same effective date, Harlan said.

If Longi’s city permit took effect at the time of the coastal development permit, it would still be within its initial two-year period.

Friends of the Canyon lawyer Julie Hamilton said at the Planning Commission’s April meeting that Longi was at fault for the years of delays by not following proper procedures. She said the time limit on city permits is necessary because changes to a project can alter the original intent of a permit. She said Longi’s project has changed enough in the past five years that the city’s permit should no longer apply.

The City Council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave.

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