Judging by this week’s Planning Commission meeting, it is clear that
the issue -- problem, some would argue -- of “mansionization” is not
going away any time soon.
Already a major part of the Vision Laguna discussion, the trend toward
large, multilevel homes sped up dramatically during the city’s rebuilding
following the 1993 fires.
And it has unquestionably altered the landscape of the city. Views are
cut off. The hillsides are marked by one giant home after another. Small
cottages are dwarfed throughout Laguna.
Given the small-town, community spirit of the city -- the one that
spawned the prep mascot the Artists, the one that embraces the Sawdust
Festival, the one that births a host of local charitable organizations --
it is not surprising that this growth has caused a clash of cultures
between builders and homeowners who want to get all they can out of a
piece of land and those who want to maintain Laguna’s beach-cottage
It should also be no surprise that a solution won’t be easy to find.
Already, months have gone into researching the issue and putting
together proposals to make the city’s design review process simpler and
easier to understand. And good ideas have resulted, including increasing
housing setbacks for taller construction and adding detailed computer
models to the required design paperwork that has to be submitted to the
But given the vehemence of the emotions on all sides of this issue, it
seems unlikely that simple changes to city procedures will calm the
community. Questions concerning how to balance property rights with
community responsibility will dominate the coming discussion. Whether the
discussion is coming too late may be another question that, eventually,
will have to be answered.
With so much at stake, we fear the discussion could become nasty,
divisive and unproductive.
And so, at this still relatively early stage, we urge everyone
involved to pledge to rise above petty bickering and work in the best
interest of this diverse, irascible community. Handling mansionization
will be hard enough with the job being made unnecessarily tougher.