Mailbag: Live-work space is much needed

I am writing in full support of the artist live-work space proposed by Louis Longi.

I am a Laguna College of Art and Design alumni of the undergrad and graduate programs and I have been showing at the Festival of Art for the past four years. I have been living and working as an artist for 12 years in Laguna Beach.

The entire time I have been here it has been a struggle to find a reasonable studio and live space. A few years ago I was forced to start a group studio in Costa Mesa due to the high rent cost and lack of space here in Laguna. I have also struggled to find suitable housing on the income of a young artist.

The city is becoming more and more unfriendly to aspiring artists. I am one of only a few fellow alumni who has been able to stick it out here. Most of my colleagues after graduation move directly out of town, even though they love it here, simply because they cannot afford it.

Louis' project is smart and a benefit to all. It will be a change to the neighborhood, and as a past resident of Sun Valley Drive, I understand the concerns the residents have expressed. But, someday that land will be developed, and this is the less of all evils to be put in that location. It is a lovely environmentally-concerned design and is the prefect representation of our city right at the gateway.

This is space that will be appealing to the next generation of Southern California painters, and keep Laguna Beach from turning into another high-end beach community only accessible to the wealthy.

Brittany Ryan

Laguna Beach


A response to live-work developer

Re: "Artists' studios fulfill city's needs," Coastline Pilot, Jan. 24.

1. First, Mr. Longi stated that "a few" of the neighbors have expressed fears about the proposed 30-unit project. I believe a much more accurate statement would be that "almost all" of the neighbors strongly oppose the project. They have expressed great concern about what its massive size will do to their neighborhood and to the canyon.

2. Mr. Longi states that he "is not a professional developer." That may be true, but he is a property owner who proposes to develop his property to provide income and profit for himself and his professional partner/investor/developer. This partner is the Dornin Investment Group, a large real estate development/investment firm.

This motive suggests proper scrutiny is needed to protect our town and the rights of the other property owners. Mr. Longi's letter seems to be designed primarily to help justify his profit motive. And it could be asked, why are only eight of the 30 units designated as "affordable" for our artists?

3. Mr. Longi states that "some of the people are concerned with additional noise and traffic" that might be generated by the project. True, some have expressed that concern, however Mr. Longi's commentary totally ignores the fact that almost all of the objections were to the relatively huge size and large appearance of his proposal.

The staking erected does not even fully show the proposed size, as probably 40% of those stakes are hidden in the mature trees, most of which would have to be removed to allow for the development. While most objections have been to size, Mr. Longi has made no concession to reduce the number of units. In fact since his first proposal, the size has been increased from eight to now 30 units.

4. Mr. Longi states that "the building will be set back 75 feet from the center of the road." That statement is misleading, since the setback from the edge of the pavement is closer to only 45 feet, and at that distance this very tall proposed structure will seem much larger than it would if more setback were possible. Unfortunately more setback is not possible as the flood control channel is immediately behind the property. I hate to think what it would be like should the road someday be widened.

5. Mr. Longi states that the Planning Commission approved this project. But he makes no mention that the vote was closely divided, split three to two.

We should listen primarily to the opinions of those who live in this town, and not so much to those from Newport Beach and elsewhere. No one has argued that Laguna Beach does not need to do all possible to help our artists. That goal is very commendable and should absolutely be pursued. Let's do everything possible for the artists, but at the same time let's do it in a manner that beautifies our town and the canyon entrance to the town.

A very big step in that direction would be to do things like placing utilities underground along the canyon road. However we should not allow projects such as this large, out of scale and unattractive contemporary for-profit proposal that does not fit in the location proposed.

I encourage all reading this to go to the location, look and investigate for themselves and then express their opinions.

Ralph Edwin Haun

Laguna Beach


There are alternatives to adding parking

The principal driver in the current Village Entrance proposal Plan D is the replacement parking stipulation dictated by the California Coastal Commission. It reads much like a rigid principle of physics such that public parking shall be conserved when planning a municipal design project. It is written that way to ensure public access to a public beach, that's what it's for.

Unlike mathematics, physics or thermodynamics the Coastal Commission allows exceptions to its own rules. Statute 30253 states that public parking may be allowed an exception if instead of parking, public transit serves the public access to the beach, or if a transport alternative to cars allows public access to the beach.

Caltrans stipulates the operation of Laguna Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway through Laguna Beach. There are also exceptions to Caltrans' rules. One exception is a Congestion Management Plan that allows municipalities like Laguna to specify its own rules as an alternative to Caltrans.

The objective of the Laguna Beach Village Entrance is beautification of the city entrance by removing the blight caused by an asphalt parking lot. The objective is lost if we merely pave another parking lot over the existing one.

We have arrived at this decision because we are not creative enough nor bold enough to challenge the existing rules. In so doing we are stuck with design practices from the 1950s' and Laguna Beach remains a parking lot.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach


Community center and buses need protecting

It's amazing what this City Council and City Hall is doing.

The council claims it is waiting for community input before voting on letting the Boys & Girls Club completely take over the meeting room at the south end of Lang Park's community building and partially take over the "gym," and yet expensive improvements have been underway for weeks. This is criminal.

Deputy City Manager Ben Siegal scheduled the Lang Park neighborhood meeting to discuss the takeover at 5:30 p.m., during the dinner hour. Deputy Director of Public Works Ken Fischer scheduled a community meeting at the community center in relation to the $50,000 transit study at 5:30 p.m. too.

Some believe the study is being done to dismantle the blue and white Main Line bus service which serves high school students, workers, seniors and others with valuable, needed routes and stops, but keeps some dedicated drivers working on split part-time shifts with no benefits. OCTA gives Laguna a million dollars-plus a year for transit.

Part of this money should go for bus service. The hotel tax, sales tax, property tax and parking revenue should go for summer and other trolley services. More than 70 seniors live in the Vista Aliso complex, some within 50 feet of the Lang Park meeting room and they were shunned at a recent meeting regarding the move-in by the club when they suggested noise could be a problem.

The 30-unit so-called artist-living apartments with parking for 47 cars in Laguna Canyon is absurd. It will sit right in one of the worst flood plains in Laguna Beach, decimate the neighborhood and as one resident told City Manager John Pietig, a heavy rain has created a flash flood in the exact area more than once.

This City Council is a disaster. I believe the residents of Laguna are poorly represented, especially by Councilman Steve Dicterow. Lagunatics are far more insightful and inventive than this council's members. It's time for a change.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


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