Mailbag: Think big with Village Entrance, think arboretum

As a long time resident of Laguna Beach I think the concern over the Village Entrance design is valid.

Our town is made of legacies. We have Main Beach, the Laguna greenbelt, festivals and much more. What we do not have, unlike other great towns, is an arboretum to display our special world.

The Village Entrance space is invaluable. Let's put a long-lasting invaluable arboretum there where it should be. It can totally incorporate anything we need — recreation, art displays, cleansing flora, public events, parking and farmers markets.

Why are we thinking so small? Our downtown is a celebration of life — it needs a landmark signature.

Van Stephens

Laguna Beach

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Take good ideas from people who know

Why did the city obtain the $2,400 appraisal in 2011 when it was thinking about buying the property at 725 Laguna Canyon Road but not when the decision was made recently to buy it for $5.3 million?

Why is the city proposing to buy property for such a radically inflated sum? Being aware of its history and geologic slide issues, I would be inclined to give it less value.

The benefit of increasing public lands is the ability to enable planning, and to revitalize and link our downtown to a viable water source in the canyon.

At preliminary meetings, many talked about early recollections of the intoxicating scent of the orange trees wafting southward from what are now the 405 and 73 freeways and the gently winding road, lined by eucalyptus and 100-year-old oaks, that meandered to Laguna Beach.

People remembered the reflections of the hills in the natural lakes and the thrill of sighting coyotes, bobcats, deer, hawks and vultures as the canyon naturally progressed toward the village. While we cannot replace what was taken, we can, with thoughtful intent and diligence, re-establish some of the canyon's precious identity.

What is incompatible with its narrow and periodically treacherous concourse are buildings — especially those that are out of scale and character or situated in the flood path. Those that were demolished by a flood should never be rebuilt.

Structures should be reserved for up-slope areas. Daylighting the stream and allowing its nutrient-rich habits to have unimpeded flow wherever possible should be encouraged. This can be highlighted by a meandering path, a walkway to be used to enjoy and appreciate the natural beauty of the canyon.

A long-time canyon resident suggested safely separating bicycles without increasing road width by using the well-worn cow trail along the west side of the road. It is mostly raised above the road. This could be established near the Festival of Arts and continued to Lake Forest Drive.

The idea of the meandering path should be credited to Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, leading pioneers of the eco-art movement.

I have long hoped to interest the Laguna Beach City Council in such a meandering path between the lakes and the ocean. Sadly, other choices prevailed and Laguna's beautiful scenic road gave way to a multilevel divided highway, where serious accidents are still the norm. We lost ancient trees and wildlife habitats to more pavement, impermeable surfaces that conspire with torrential downpours to undermine any and all building in its path.

We are running backward. The 19th-century concept of manifest destiny by businesses cannot apply when we are looking toward a future of unmanned mobility, mass and sustainable transit with limited natural resources for a greater human population. The Chamber of Commerce should be working toward these goals, encouraging vitality rather than congestion.

Such space can be designed flexibly. There could be parking if and when needed, park-like pockets and a meandering path through shopping areas, all melding into the canyon and highlighting open space. By restoring the natural pathway of the stream, outlining and infilling with native plants and trees, and yes, even eucalyptus, the entry to Laguna via our magnificent canyon will charm those tomorrow as it did when I and so many others found this beautiful place.

I hope a park and path are not seen as mutually exclusive. That a pathway can be park-like is really what has been proposed, not a park for slides and ballgames or lunching on a lawn. Rather, good landscaping encompassing a connection with the natural larger space, a way of recreating ourselves even during the busy day.

Most, I feel, are separating the ideas of park and path, but this need not be. We have affordable and insightful talent in our backyard. Let's manage our budget and have input from others — even notable consultants in land use and landscape planning — but let's also be inclusive of those who live and know this area best.

Leah Vasquez

Laguna Beach

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