This is a banner weekend for Laguna Beach, with the reopening of Flamingo Road and the dedication of a newly restored Bluebird Canyon neighborhood.
Laguna Beach has a charmed history, and residents often comment about how lucky they are to live here, and luck was certainly with the community on June 1, 2005 when the earth moved in Bluebird Canyon. No one was seriously hurt, but a lot of lives were ripped apart, just like the dozen homes that fell down the canyon like so many TinkerToys in a sandbox.
The city’s experience with disasters and the ability of public safety workers and city officials alike to move swiftly and surely in response to the unthinkable is responsible for the fact that no one was badly injured. The worst injury turned out to be when someone stepped onto a cactus while running down the hill.
After the landslide, the community banded together to make sure no need went unmet for those who had lost their homes permanently or temporarily.
Families with school-age children were given shelter within the school district so their educations would continue; donations were solicited through a unique Adopt-a- Landslide-Family program, and money was dispensed with care and tact to those who needed emergency help.
With the human side of the equation taken care of, city officials turned to restoration efforts in the canyon, a daunting task since federal funds were at first denied.
The struggle to remake the canyon soon morphed into a political one, with local elected officials knocking on doors in Washington, D.C., to seek much-needed financial aid for the canyon, and then turning to city voters to beef up city coffers with a modest sales tax hike.
It’s taken two and a half years of careful work in the huge sandbox that is the project site, with thousands of cubic yards of soil moved around to recontour the area and give it maximum stability.
The cost to date is $35 million, but the city’s early promise to homeowners that they would be given back “buildable lots” is coming to fruition.
Those who rebuild have another road ahead of them but there is light at the end of the tunnel at last. Those who have moved on to new locations will have prime lots to sell.
The first home to be rebuilt went to Design Review this week, with more to follow.
We congratulate and commend all those who had a hand in seeing the city through this very difficult process.