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Laguna’s Design Review Board Protects a Neighborhood

Laguna Beach, CA – November 8, 2008 – Thursday night the Laguna Beach Design Review Board unanimously rejected a new home proposal that would have negatively impacted the historic charm of a small South Laguna neighborhood. Nestled below Hobo Aliso Ridge and above the Montage Resort, the neighborhood consists of 80 homes that were built in the 1950s. Built by the same developer, the homes are similar in one-story architecture, square footage, and were built on a hillside that gently slopes down towards the sea. With preservation in mind, the builders created CC&Rs; that provide protection for privacy, views and neighborhood compatibility. In 50 years only 18 of the 80 homes have changed significantly with the average square footage remaining in the 1500 square foot range. 


About ten years ago, neighbors formed the Hobo Aliso Neighborhood Association in an attempt to preserve the neighborhood’s historic character and charm as well as its natural resources. Unfortunately, a few proposals, though bitterly fought, dragged out in hearings and were eventually approved under previous DRB protocols. Those days are hopefully gone. When the project’s architect referred to a particular home as precedence, Board member Ilse Lenschow stated, “Yes, that home was approved but I know several people on that Board that wishes now it hadn’t been.”



The project in question would have allowed a Spanish/Mediterranean style home that, according to Board members, was massive in appearance, loomed over the neighbors on either side, and was not compatible at all with the neighborhood. Despite not having significant view issues involved, Ms. Lenschow commented, “If built as designed, the neighbors would still have to look at (this building) forever.” The Board voted not to allow a third hearing and rejected the proposal entirely.


With this decision, the neighborhood is breathing a little easier and taking new stock in the current DRB as led By Caren Liuzzi. According to Armando Baez, a resident who led the effort to have this proposal rejected, “We are at a critical time in our neighborhood’s evolution. Without the Design Review Board to protect us our neighborhood would change forever. The views and privacy that we cherish would be replaced by the two and three story mansions going up all over in Laguna. We finally have a DRB that acknowledges our CC&Rs;, and protects our neighborhood character by demanding sensitive, compatible project proposals.”