Mailbag: Flood plain is no place for project

I have lived in Laguna Beach for nearly 72 years, 64 of them on Sun Valley Drive. Flash floods in the Sun Valley Drive area are unpredictable. And when they come, everything on the ground is swept away.

Picture dozens of cars, trucks, bicycles and scooters being swept into the pillars of the proposed live-work structures on Laguna Canyon Road, damming the rushing water, which can travel 15 miles an hour. Then picture these vehicles being swept into the deeper channel under bridges, blocking and damming the oncoming flood, causing serious damage to upstream homes and small businesses.

Some developers are not truly concerned with what happens after their projects are completed. Where is the concern for the home and business owners and the cottage industries established in our Sun Valley Drive community? Who cares about the dangers involved in putting unsuspecting people in a flash flood zone?

Here's a thought: If the Laguna Beach City Council and the Planning Commission are so desperate to develop a 30-unit live-work complex, a better alternative might be the unused property at the Big Bend, on the northeast side, out of the flash flood zone. Or next to the Art-A-Fair, within walking distance of downtown Laguna, no cars needed. It would be an art show of its own.

It seems the city government is ready to force a dangerously placed, nonconforming project in our Sun Valley Drive community without true concern for the well-being of all concerned.

Are the Laguna Beach council members and the planning commissioners willing to take personal responsibility for flood damage and possible loss of human life by allowing a dormitory-hotel under the guise of art-live studios?

Loraine Hollingsworth

Laguna Beach


Live-work project meets necessary criteria

I'm writing in regard to John Hamil's recent commentary, "Live-work disruption: Will city keep its promises?" Coastline Pilot, Feb. 14. He wrote in response to my commentary regarding the live-work project we have designed for local artist Louis Longi in Laguna Canyon.

In his commentary, Hamil refutes my assertion that this project conforms to all of the applicable standards of the Laguna Canyon annexation plan. It should be noted that the requirements set forth in this reference document are both of an objective and subjective nature.

Before appearing before the Planning Commission, our project went though a lengthy zoning plan check process, where it was confirmed by planning staff that our proposal met all of the objective criteria of the applicable documents related to this development. In effect, no variances are required with this proposal.

Objective standards such as parking, building height, conformance to setbacks, biology, traffic, water quality management have all been met. As with all developmental documents, some criteria is also highly subjective and open to interpretation.

This is why in a democratic society we have planning commissions, design review boards and city councils. These commissions often interpret the subjective aspects of the applicable codes with respect to intent and site specificity.

In this case, the Planning Commission voted 3 to 2 to approve our project on Jan. 8. Implicit in this approval is that the five specific findings required by the annexation plan for the conditional use permit, which Hamil references, have been met.

Therefore, while I respect Hamil's right to express his opinion, his simply stating that we have not met this criteria is solely an expression of his viewpoint. As we have seen, it was not shared by the majority of the Planning Commission.

Even the dissenting Planning Commission members, Rob Zur Schmiede and Norm Grossman, clearly struggled with the position they took on this project.

All things considered, this is a positive development for a community that cherishes its reputation for being friendly to the arts.

Please attend the City Council hearing on this project on March 18 and let your voice be heard. If you can't attend, please write an email to the council members expressing your opinion. If you need more information, please contact me, or one of our team members and we would be happy to meet with you.

Horst Noppenberger

Architect, former Design Review Board chair, LCAD trustee

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