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.