Mailbag: Critic's review missed careful crafting

Re: "The first 3,999 miles are the best," Coastline Pilot, Nov. 1.

Far from being a "fizzled finale," the last line of "4000 Miles" provides perfect resolution.

Because the audience has been caught up in the plot, we don't realize that what we've been watching is a carefully crafted portrait of Vera. Her blunt but honest comment about her neighbor describes Vera herself and her impact on her "stone" of a grandson.

"She was a pain in the ass, but she could make things grow." What ending could be more simple or powerful?

I hope your readers don't stay away from this fine South Coast Repertory production, and I hope you'll see it again.

Nancy Grant

Laguna Beach

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Live-work project doesn't live up to promises

While almost every Laguna resident supports the concept of "artist work-live" projects, very few support the massive and architecturally inappropriate project being considered for 20412 Laguna Canyon Road.

It is important to review the history of Laguna Canyon as set forth in the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan. This is particularly important considering the facts that led to this annexation. The residents of this area did not want to be annexed by the Laguna Beach but were enticed by sewer hookup and the opportunity to write our own specific plan, which we were assured would offer us protection from this sort of interference by the city.

The specific plan anticipates and unambiguously precludes this type of development. Hopefully, this will not be a classic "bait and switch" maneuver. Our neighborhood has already been impacted by the traffic and parking associated with the Canyon Club as well as the problems associated with individuals drawn to our neighborhood by the homeless shelter.

The addition of this massive "modern" building with its 36-foot height, potential traffic, and parking problems created by occupants, employees, customers and events, will forever change the character of our small canyon community as well as the rural atmosphere of the entrance to our city, Laguna Canyon.

It is our opinion that this project fails to satisfy three of the 10 policies listed in the Specific Plan:

"Ensure…land uses…have a rural character."

Although the applicant has made a legitimate effort, the architecture of this building does not, in our opinion, have rural character.

"Require the preservation of ridgelines."

It is our opinion that a building with such great mass and height blocking visibility of the hillsides and ridgelines undermines the road's candidacy for designation as a rural scenic highway

"Require that any development be of small scale in order to maintain the rural character of the Canyon."

We know of no one who thinks the proposed structure has "small scale."

It is also our opinion that this project fails to satisfy the "specific findings required for conditional use permits:"

"The proposed use is compatible with surrounding land uses."

The size, mass and design of this project is inconsistent with all surrounding structures and fails to maintain the rural small-scale development described in and required by the Specific Plan.

"The proposed use is compatible with and does not detract from the rural atmosphere of the Laguna Annexation Area."

See above.

"The proposed use is not in conflict with the designation of Laguna Canyon Road as a scenic highway."

The size, mass and height of the project interrupts the continuity of the ridgeline and visibility of the hillsides on the eastern side of Laguna Canyon Road when viewed from the northbound lane of the highway.

"The proposed use does not create a density which would compromise the environmental sensitivity of the area."

The addition of 30-plus occupants plus their employees, visitors and customers approximately doubles the size of the Sun Valley neighborhood.

"The proposed use will not result in a substantial increase in traffic congestion or adversely impact vehicular traffic patterns."

Vehicles entering and leaving the proposed structure increase the traffic on Laguna Canyon Road and obstruct visibility of oncoming traffic when trying to enter the highway from Sun Valley Drive.

Additionally, we are concerned that there has been so little discussion of the risks attendant to cars parked in the flood plain. There needs to be a recommendation, if not requirement, that all cars be removed from the property before the water reaches flood height. Where are these cars to be located?

It was our understanding that the original artist live-work ordinance was intended to encourage local resident artists to remain in our city. After discussing the recently revised artist live-work ordinance with city staff, we were surprised and dismayed to find that they interpret the definition of artist to include art students as potential occupants of the proposed structure.

If this is also the Planning Commission's interpretation, we would like to know what percentage of the structure will be for resident artists, as was originally intended, and what percentage will be occupied by students.

We are disturbed by this exploitation of the ordinance's original intent. The transient nature of the students' occupancy, the potential increase in the number of day trips, visitation, noise attendant to student occupancy and the reduction in the number of long-term local artist occupants is of great concern to our neighborhood.

Lastly, we are concerned about future canyon development that will be encouraged by approval of an apartment building or dormitory at this location.

John A. Hamil

DVM

Vice-president of the Laguna Canyon Property Owners Assn.

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Support Laguna Canyon neighborhood at planning meeting

Please come to the Planning Commission meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 and express your views about the planned 30-unit apartment-style housing project that looks like a dormitory right in the middle of our rural, primarily residential, neighborhood.

In order to approve this project, you have to believe it's not too big, also that it won't increase traffic. To put this into perspective, the Village Entrance creates a net increase of 200 parking places. This project has 45. There are 30 along a quarter-mile stretch of Laguna Canyon Road at the Bark Park. This project will double the size of our neighborhood with all of the impacts that increase will create.

This is the canyon of Laguna we worked so hard to preserve, not the canyons of Wall Street where the incentives of overdevelopment and profit could override our desire for the preservation of our unique balance of residents who live here and some small home-based businesses.

Someone at the last meeting said the canyon stopped being rural some time ago. I disagree. Someone asked, how do you define rural? My definition says this project is decidedly urban, not rural.

Please help us bring some common sense to the size of this project by coming to the meeting and telling what you think of a 30-unit housing complex in Laguna Canyon. Thanks, and I hope to see you there.

John Albritton

President of the Laguna Canyon Property Owners Assn.

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Village Entrance decision is already made

The upcoming Nov. 12 public hearing for the Village Entrance has all the markings of a kangaroo court. According to Wikipedia, this is "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted." In other words, the outcome can be predicted before the proceedings.

Recalling that we are not dealing with grown-ups, how much more testimony needs to be given by the public at this kangaroo hearing? Over the past four months, more than 100 residents and voters have given testimony during the City Council's public comment period.

They have offered a plethora of ideas, financial considerations, alternatives and a general dislike for blowing $65 million. And a few, like the gang of 23 property developers, hugely favor the idea.

Why don't we just replay videos from past City Council meeting to save a lot of time at the kangaroo hearing? Or, how about if we all just did a reading from the more than $1 million of reports the city has commissioned — and shelved — on the topic of parking solutions over the past 30 years?

Is this too complicated for the three autocrats who have forgotten about being fiscally responsible to the public? Does anyone on the council read anything besides non-factual information published by the city staff supporting their current spending spree?

As Arno Hano stated at a past City Council meeting, "It's over…The project is dead." Amen. Let Laguna vote on this sucker and get it over with. Let's finish Arno's prophecy by letting Laguna vote on this project.

Victor Opincar

Laguna Beach

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