Development approved above the Irvine Bowl

Development approved above the Irvine Bowl

Festival of Arts officials are exploring legal options to counteract a City Council decision they feel will adversely impact the Pageant of the Masters.

The council voted at the June 15 meeting to deny appeals of two projects on lots above the Festival of Arts, which were based on festival officials' concerns about noise and light spilling through tile screen into the Irvine Bowl from the decks of the proposed houses. Instead the council offered a compromise, which the festival officials considered to be a sell-out.

"We felt we were betrayed by the city of Laguna Beach," said Wayne Baglin, festival board president.

Councilwoman Verna Rollinger came up with the compromise: Install a shutter system on the lot side of the tile screens to be closed if light or sound afflicted the pageant.

The property owners agreed to install the shutters and close them if there were complaints about noise or lights. The owners also agreed to forgo use of a pedestrian gate at the bottom of one of the lots during the pageant except in an emergency.

"Who is going to enforce those?" Baglin said. "We are creating problematic issues when we should be eliminating issues that will affect neighborliness."

Baglin and a phalanx of festival officials came to the council meeting to air their concerns about the effectiveness of the screens on the Design Review Board-approved plans for a 2,865-square-foot home at 502 Olive St. and the 2,993-square-foot home at 545 Poplar St.

The board voted 3 to 2 in favor of the Olive Street project and 4 to 1 in favor of the Poplar Street proposal. The lone dissenting vote was based on potential impacts on the Irvine Bowl.

Festival officials were unanimous in their view of the proposals.

"Both light and sound can come through," Baglin said. "We don't want our audience disturbed in times of darkness and silence."

"We need to protect the festival and the property owners, who should be sound-proofed for their own protection. We don't want to bother people who live there and we don't want us to be bothered."

Property owner Mark Christie pointed out that windows emit light and when opened during warm summer nights also emit sound, and neither of these were restricted.

Steve Kawaratani, who represented the property owners at the council meeting, said the tile installation is essential to the projects to allow ventilation for the property owners using the decks, while still blocking light and sound from the Irvine Bowl.

In any case, Kawaratani said the pageant audience is unlikely to be looking back at the tile element.

"They will be looking at the stage," Kawaratani said.

Kawaratani said landscaping on the lots will block the light from the properties. The festival could also plant more trees.

However, landscaping does not block sound.

And sound was one of the primary reasons festival officials were heedful of the approved access from the patio area of the Poplar Street lot through a gate to the unimproved portion of Linden Street. The said the access violated covenants and restrictions placed on the lots.

"The city has placed serious restrictions on the lots in recognition of the importance of the pageant," Baglin said. "They are rather black and white."

That would depend on how they are interpreted.

Festival officials thought the restriction applied to vehicular and pedestrian access from Linden Street. However, a limitation on pedestrian access was not spelled out in the restriction and staff felt it was never intended.

"We do not want to hurt the festival," Kawaratani said. "But the gate at the bottom [of the lot] is essential for safety. A neighbor has the same gate."

The gate could be used as a secondary exit point in the case of a disaster, Kawaratani said.

Festival board member Anita Mangels was visibly upset by what she considered an about-face by the city.

"Anita is even more invested in this than I am," Baglin said. "She was a negotiator with Fred Sattler when the covenants and restrictions were adopted."

Fragile was a word heard often in the festival's argument that the tile installation did not provide an adequate barrier to protect the pageant from outside noise and light.

"This is about a 77-year-old institution that is

very fragile," Mangels


This probably is not the last time the festival officials will appear before the council on development on the hillside above the grounds.

Four more lots on Olive Street are empty.

The city has included a copy of the covenants and restrictions in the real property reports on the two

approved projects and

the vacant lots because of their proximity to Irvine Bowl Park, which

includes all of the festival grounds.

Caveat Emptor.

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