Sounding off -- Bruce E. Hampton

Love it or not, Laguna needs to be left alone.

The latest edition of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot posed two

questions that, in my mind, are intrinsically intertwined: What is the

richest part of Laguna's heritage?

Have I been bothered by noise or parking from the Festival of Arts?

There will no doubt be many personal answers to the first: The

intimate coves and sandy beaches. The quaint cottages and village

atmosphere. The special blend of traditional and modern architecture. The

broad diversity of thought and lifestyle represented by the many people

who chose Laguna as a home.

All are important, all true, however, the basic and historic fabric of

Laguna, indeed its identity, is found in the arts.

Remove the arts -- the museum, the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the

Masters, the Sawdust Festival, the Art-A-Fair, the commercial and artist

galleries, the Playhouse, No Square Players, Laguna High musical and

dance productions -- and you have just another beach town with nothing to

draw the inevitable tourist but the beaches, bars, restaurants and

T-shirt shops.

Look both up and down our coast and you can see the results in many

other desirable towns that were once quaint, quiet and secluded beachside

communities.

That brings me to the second but loaded question. As written the

question singles out one arts activity in the community, the Festival of

Arts and Pageant of the Masters, and seems intent on drawing negative

reaction.

Have I been bothered by noise or parking from the Festival of Arts? If

one lives in or around the village, as we do in a home that has been in

our family since its original construction in 1936, you have indeed been

bothered by noise and parking.

Our answer then is a qualified yes; but was it from the Festival of

Arts?

In our case it is hard to say. It could be from any of the art venues;

the Festival, the Pageant, Sawdust, Art-A-Fair, the museum, the Playhouse

or a Laguna High stage production. It could be from use of the Veterans

Memorial Community Center (Veterans Hall), local church events, wedding

parties using any number of specialty facilities or even high school

sporting events.

It could be people in town to simply enjoy the beaches, shop, dine or

listen to music. It could be people here to drink and party. In a high

percentage of cases it is the employees of the many businesses in the

Village that thrive because of tourism, some of whom are Laguna

residents.

We are affected by tourism for the same reasons we all live here;

people want to be in Laguna. Tourism will not go away. If one venue or

attraction leaves, another will fill its void.

It is a simple economic fact. Kill the arts and we will have more

restaurants, bars and curio shops. It is a matter of parking supply and

demand. All that is available will be filled for some tourism-based use.

As a resident, which would you rather have? Personally I prefer the

arts and art patrons. Don't misunderstand; we appreciate the good

restaurants and shops, frequenting many, and spend as much personal money

in town as possible in gift stores, the nursery, pottery shops, etc. to

support our community.

But I have quite enough drunks, happy and otherwise, returning to

their cars in my neighborhood at 2:30 in the morning. Few of them are

here to enjoy the art venues and such activity has become a year-round

phenomenon. I really do not want more.

Beyond the nuisance, and more to the genesis of the issue, is where do

I want to live? In a town that supports and is influenced by, indeed

imbued in the arts?

Or in just another beach town with candied apples, food wrappers and

bars? For me that answer is simple. Now as to some other annoyances: if

only I could quiet down those sea lions at night from seal rock; the

excessive laughter from people enjoying main beach; the noise from kid's

soccer games or softball; and those bands Friday nights from Laguna High

during football game.

We live in a virtual paradise. Many of us do indeed put up with

serious annoyances. But take care in the cure. We could lose Laguna and

its charm. We could become just another plastic community drowning in

sameness like some other towns that we chose not to live in.

* BRUCE E. HAMPTON is a Laguna Beach resident.

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