Artists live/work moratorium extended

The City Council on Feb. 15 tacked on four and a half months to the six-month moratorium on applications for new artist live/work projects, at the request of the Planning Commission.

City planners will have until the first of next year to work on the zoning ordinance related to artists' joint living and working projects, if needed.

The commission also may be granted an additional year to resolve some issues that have so far stymied them, although the council would like to see an ordinance on their agenda much sooner.

"I hope they accomplish this in six months," Councilman Kelly Boyd said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said she doesn't want to see the moratorium go the maximum time.

"I understand there are several people interested in building these units, and I don't want to discourage them," Pearson said.

Community Development Director John Montgomery told the council the commissioners are wrestling with three main issues, starting with location — where the projects can be built.

There is a conflict between residential and work uses, he said.

"I have heard the code makes it difficult to build live/work projects in the canyon," Pearson on said. "We should consider other areas, maybe the north end of Ocean Avenue."

Montgomery said commissioners want to survey local artists to determine what they think they need in living and working space.

"I suggest a half-day workshop to poll artists on what they need," said Sally Wilde, a Laguna Beach artist for 42 years.

A corollary to that, although not raised at the council meeting, is who would qualify for the live/work units.

Commissioner Linda Dietrich pointed out at a previous meeting that writers don't need the same kind of space that sculptors do.

The commission's third concern is the inclusion of a low-income units, which for-sale developments allow, but rental developments do not, Montgomery said.

"Rentals are the only thing that pencil out," Pearson said.

Wilde said artists can't afford to buy units that sell for $300,000.

"We can't turn into a place with imported artists, instead of locals," said Wilde, who supported the moratorium and the extension.

Artist Louis Longi, who is proposing artist live/work rental project on property in Laguna Canyon that was excluded from the moratorium, said the time-out will set higher standards for the developers.

The interim ordinance now in place extended the original 45-day emergency moratorium approved Jan. 4 to Aug. 18. The latest extension moves the end date to Jan. 4, 2012.

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