Mailbag: Live-work building doesn't fit here

Excerpt from a letter to the Laguna Beach Planning Commission:

We would like to express our opposition to the proposed project at 20432 Laguna Canyon Road.

This parcel is at present a single-family home. We feel multiunit housing should be closer to Laguna College of Art and Design or in the village entrance and not in our rural neighborhood. This is not the place for a dorm or apartment building. Put it somewhere more densely populated with supporting infrastructure.

It's difficult to openly challenge the concept and benefit to the artist community. We're in favor of the live-work concept but not this density at this location. It can't be all in one place.

This location and our neighborhood could support two or three units of artist live-work, and we feel our Specific Plan promotes the same. Our plan is a good one, and it is in jeopardy here. Thirty units would amount to a doubling of the population of our neighborhood.

Substantial financial backing shouldn't steamroll our neighborhood to alter its nature and threaten the preservation of its rural character. Our neighborhood's density shouldn't be determined by a bank loan officer. Other neighborhoods need to share the burden.

This one project threatens to single-handedly alter the goal of our Specific Plan. This is not how we defined M-1B light-industrial usages. Other developers will jump at the chance to line the canyon with high-density housing.

There is a sense of place we wish to preserve, and we ask you to be vigilant in helping us to maintain that, not the appearance of rural but an actual rural neighborhood — with horses, play structures, whimsical gardens, no streetlights, no sidewalks, low density, owner-occupied small businesses and no apartment complexes or cookie-cutter tract homes. This area was never intended to be zoned for multifamily use. The existing infrastructure won't support it.

We question how this got so far without someone, besides us, telling the developer, "Hey, this is too dense."

In essence, many artists are manufacturers with a kiln, foundry, tile cutting, curing ovens, paint and adhesives. This site is not zoned for manufacturing. Manufacturers are required to have ventilation and air filters and meet Air Quality Management District requirements as well as runoff and noise regulations.

We suggest supporting existing artist districts instead of trying to create a new one. Traditional artist studio neighborhoods have developed among warehouse districts and lofts, organically, in urban cores, with services — not in new developments in rural residential neighborhoods.

In fact it looks more like student housing under the guise of an artist live-work label. We don't even have sidewalks, a local playground, park or store. The local bus doesn't even serve our neighborhood.

The developer says he's done traffic studies, but you can't tell us 30-plus more residents won't have an impact on traffic in the area, let alone the entire stretch of Laguna Canyon Road.

There are 45 parking spaces in the project. Those 45 cars are going to take their owners on multiple trips to all the multiple locations people go in their cars. When kids set up a lemonade stand here, it backed traffic up almost all the way into town.

Other impacts would include more trash trucks, noise, light and air pollution. Why does our neighborhood have to carry the unbalanced load of affordable or student housing for Laguna Beach?

We wish to defend our right to quiet enjoyment of our homes and property, and from the noise of radios, tools, lighting, smoke and air pollution, dog waste not properly disposed of and discarded cigarettes.

To shoehorn this into our neighborhood is misguided and rewards one developer and tenants who aren't even here yet, at the expense of the people who are here and have been for decades — and have expectations of a future unencumbered by reckless zoning changes.

These are our homes. This is where we come at the end of the day and weekend, to relax, kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet. This turns it into a densely populated factory row. What the artist has done with a half dozen artists now is great. It's a home now. Not an apartment complex.

Our neighborhood is made up of, among others, a jeweler, film producer, refinery employee, sales agent, retired park ranger, pottery artist, painter, musician, gardening service, kennel, pet store, veterinarian and landscaper. These are the diverse uses that make up our neighborhood.

We speak for our existing community. And we'd like the concept if it were three units, not 30. Please make that decision and inform the developer so we can begin planning for a three-unit artist live-work project on this site.

The Laguna Canyon Property Owners Assn.,

John Albritton, president; Ken Lauer, treasurer; John Hamil, vice president; Paulette Cullen, secretary. The letter was signed by James and Barbara Kerr; L. Lynn Minich; Dan and VedaThomas; Susan Hamil; Corbin Hamil; Scott Levitta; Barbara Shannon; Tom Shannon; Elizabeth Harding; Mark Marmes; Lorraine Hollingsworth; Justice and Clementine Roven — all Sun Valley Drive and Laguna Canyon Road residents.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World