The Planning Commission is asking local artists to help them determine what they want for live-work space through an online questionnaire.
Artists can anonymously tell commissioners how big a space they would want, how they would like it divided and if they would like to be in Laguna Canyon.
"We are concerned with keeping our emerging artists in town and what appears to be the lack of affordable work space," Commissioner Anne Johnson said. "We are asking them to choose which is most important to them: Live/Work, where living space would the primary focus of the unit; Work/Live, where work space would be the primary focus; or just work space."
Johnson and Commissioner Linda Dietrich were appointed as a Planning Commission subcommittee about five years ago to work on upgrading the artists live-work ordinance.
"But they kept running into questions and that has led to the questionnaire," Commissioner Norm Grossman said.
The questionnaire also asks respondents to describe their work, the size of their current work and living spaces, and how many people are living in the household.
However, affordability is a major concern of the subcommittee.
"Some of the projects we have seen would price all but our most successful artists out of the market," Johnson said.
One proposal would have priced condominiums at $700,000, Johnson said. Rental live-work projects, such as the one proposed by sculptor and canyon property owner Louis Longi are considered to be more affordable for the artists.
Based on anecdotal information, Johnson said some commissioners have heard the most pressing need is for work space.
"And when we take a look at what is going on in the canyon, that appears to be the direction in which we are headed," Johnson said.
She cited the old Girls Club in the canyon, which has been developed as studios that do not include living space.
The subcommittee has primarily focused on the canyon, although a moratorium on artists live/work projects — approved by the City Council at the request of the commission while they study the issues — does not exclude other areas in town.
"I heard the city codes make it difficult to build live-work in the canyon; we should consider other areas — maybe the north end of Ocean Avenue," Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said at the Feb. 15 meeting at which the moratorium was approved. "I understand that several people are interested in building these units. I don't want to discourage them."
The council encouraged the commission to complete its study within a year.
Arts commissioners were not consulted about the questions posed to artists, Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl said.
"This is purely a Planning Commission project," she said.
The survey can be taken at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LNK5CY7.