Commentary: Artist's studios fulfill city's needs

I am writing to dispel the fears that a few of the neighbors have about the proposed artist live-work complex in Laguna Canyon.

First, I am not a professional developer. I am a local artist who has lived in Laguna Beach for 16 years — 10 of those years on Laguna Canyon Road.

Laguna is known for its culture of art, which is why many artists, including me, choose to live here. Unfortunately, most artists can't afford the rent.

This artist work-live project is designed to encourage young artists to stay in the community, to plant their roots here for continued growth in the arts. The city has zoned the area along Laguna Canyon Road as light industrial.

Many artists living in town have to use their garages as studios and are not permitted to use industrial tools. They need to rent space elsewhere to be able to use tools and have space to create. But often they can't afford to rent both a house and a studio, so they have to leave the city.

This project will provide affordable space where artists can work and live in a shared communal space with shared equipment, all in keeping with the city codes.

Laguna Beach has carefully developed these areas of light industrial zones to be considerate of surrounding neighborhoods. The Planning Commission approved this project Jan. 8, deeming it compatible with the surrounding businesses and the Sun Valley neighborhood. All properties bordering our project are commercial, with the exception of one resident, who is a proponent.

Some of the people living in the Sun Valley neighborhood are fearful of this project because they are concerned about noise and traffic. These concerns are unfounded, as shown by noise and traffic reports. The acoustic impact report shows that the ambient noise from Laguna Canyon Road will actually be reduced by 40% because the buildings will act as a buffer.

The traffic studies show there will not be a significant increase in vehicle activity because the artists do not have to commute to and from work. The project will have two entrances so that if one is missed, the other can be used. This design will mitigate the need to go into the neighborhood as a turnaround point. Ample parking, within code, will be provided beneath a flood-controlled structure below the residences.

Our buildings are not in the residential area in question and have been carefully designed to reflect the rural area by using reclaimed wood and a pitched roof line to mimic the canyon ridgeline. Ten 80-foot-tall old-growth trees will remain, and many large native trees will be planted to shield the building from the road.

The building will be set back 75 feet from the center line of Laguna Canyon Road and have many terraced facades to break up the appearance of mass and scale. We have also eliminated from the plans several units on the top floor to break up the repetitiveness of the roof line.

Please don't let the rhetoric of a few residents scare the rest of our community into voting away our cultural heritage. This project does fit the canyon and our city's general plan. It scares me more that someone is encouraging the flight of artists out of Laguna.

Please take a moment to research all sides as I did when designing this project. The city needs this project for its future.

LOUIS LONGI is a Laguna Beach resident, a sculptor and the developer of the live-work project planned for Laguna Canyon Road.

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