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Commentary: Buildings recommended by the Laguna Beach Arts Commission are a poor fit for Village Entrance

Laguna Beach City Council members Steve Dicterow, left, Toni Iseman, Bob Whalen and Mayor Pro Tem Ro.
Laguna Beach City Council members Steve Dicterow, left, Toni Iseman, Bob Whalen and Rob Zur Schmiede toss a shovel full of dirt during a ground-breaking ceremony for the Village Entrance project in 2018.
(File Photo)

After years of extensive community input and planning, the celebrated Laguna Beach Village Entrance is now a reality. The result is a magnificent, tree-entwined space whose attractiveness and scale fit neatly into the site as if serving as an extension of the rugged hillside that parallels it.

Now, without any desire or commitment to solicit genuine public input, the Arts Commission is recommending that multiple, out-of-scale aluminum structures, with their circus-like color palettes, be superimposed on this bucolic setting.

There’s no escaping the fact that at 70 feet in length, 45 feet in width and 33 feet in height this proposed pavilion is, in reality, a faux building disguised as art. To suggest that it is out of character with the landscape and the recently completed Village Entrance would be a gross understatement. It is simply too massive, too costly and too controversial to blindly move forward.

Common sense suggests the project needs to be reeled in and reconsidered. The Arts Commission should start by acknowledging that the public has a right to weigh in in a meaningful, nonperfunctory way. After all, that’s how a transparent municipal government should work.


Like other structures of similar magnitude, the site should be staked so residents are afforded the opportunity to express their opinions about the project’s mass, scale, view blockage, and topographic compatibility. Because of the pavilion’s extraordinary length, girth and height, the same staking rules required of individual homeowners or commercial businesses when they wish to build or remodel should also apply to this project.

The proposed pavilion’s visual and physical impact, combined with its immense price tag, is without historic precedent and, as such, demands thorough scrutiny and comprehensive citizen review. Should the Arts Commission reject this notion and continue to stonewall public participation only to fortify its predetermined position, the public should insist that the project be put on the ballot and residents be allowed to determine its fate.

Some on the Arts Commission have suggested that those who oppose this project suffer from a paucity of “forward thinking.” I would submit that nothing could be further from the truth. The creation of Heisler Park was forward thinking; insisting on a public park at the Montage was forward thinking; saving Laguna Canyon was forward thinking. Sadly, this project does not fall into that category.

As has been stated so eloquently by so many, this million-dollar folly would be a gross mismatch and a costly mistake. It would be better to build nothing than to construct something so alien to the canyon landscape. If green-lighted as proposed, this unfortunate parody would define our town for generations.


Simply put, this out-of-scale, out-of-character, Disney-like pavilion, does not embody the welcome we should extend to visitors nor define the legacy we should leave our children.

Randy Lewis lives in Laguna Beach.

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