Mailbag: Bank should follow lighting rules too

Sometime ago I attended a City Council meeting to draw attention to a lighting issue.

Laguna Beach Presbyterian Church had installed some inordinately bright light fixtures on its remodeled parking lot. The folks at the church distinguished themselves as good citizens by responding appropriately and subsequently "hooded" the lights.

It was a quintessential example of addressing the dark-sky initiative — a motion that has been loosely bandied about for years. As expected, a discussion ensued regarding action to make the dark-sky initiative a reality, and the city enacted the outdoor-lighting ordinance. It was an invigorating discussion.

But along comes Chase Bank to demonstrate how picky small-town initiatives can be ignored.

I find it appalling that with all the lip service being paid to "dark sky" that the City Council, Design Review Board and the Planning Commission could have allowed something this bright to be hidden in the paper trail shadows. Asleep at the switch? Maybe we can't turn off the switch but at least we can install a dimmer.

I haven't seen this many lumens since Wyland cast a spotlight on his whale wall. It lit up the old Hotel Laguna parking lot and most of Coast Highway. All this, by the way, was rectified quickly.

I think it's time that this council sent a message to Chase:

This city doesn't distinguish between huge corporate entities and small business. The rules are the rules. There is no favoritism. Most of all, there is no fear. This City Council is not afraid to correct the wrong.

At least, we hope so.

Bob McCord

Laguna Beach

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Who's visiting all these banks anyway?

I appreciated the column on Chase bank — a plague on our neighborhoods ("Chase away Chase, too many banks," Coastline, March 14.)

The writer didn't mention the loss of Coco's to the residents of Corona del Mar, another city overrun with banks. I don't know many people who even go to a bank anymore, so why so many new banks? I think that is a very good question.

The column put into words what I have been thinking about since ZPizza became Chase in my neighborhood.

Jackie Knauer

Laguna Beach

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Live-work enhances city's status

Laguna Beach enjoys a unique and enviable reputation around the country and, indeed, around the world.

It is known for its beauty, its beach and its history as an inspiring haven for artists. Laguna Beach is widely regarded as among the top art colonies and has been recognized as such in leading publications.

There are countless benefits to the city, its residents and visitors from the presence of the art museum, art happenings and events, galleries, and College of Art + Design in Laguna Beach.

The city can and should take steps to preserve and enhance the position of Laguna Beach as a magnet for the arts and artists to assure the continuation of those benefits. The best way to do this is to assure that artists can come to live and work in Laguna Beach.

The proposed artist live-work project represents a unique opportunity for Laguna Beach to further secure its position as a place for artists.

Laguna Beach has come a long way over the past few decades, and the cost of living in the city has increased commensurately with its reputation and quality. Assuring that affordable residences are available in an environment that fosters creativity would make it more likely that Laguna Beach would attract talented artists for its future.

Other arts-minded communities, recognizing the benefits of attracting artists, have gone to great lengths to approve and even underwrite the cost of similar projects. In this case, all the City Council needs to do is approve it.

I urge that the City Council approve the live-work project.

Jeffrey H. Beck

Corona del Mar

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Canyon is too valuable to ruin

The Laguna Canyon Foundation recently sent a letter to the City Council asking that it reconsider the Planning Commission's 3-2 vote approving the artists live-work development in Laguna Canyon.

The foundation strongly supports local artists and all that the arts have done for our community but "cannot support development of such a large size and scale in a rural Laguna Canyon neighborhood immediately adjacent to the wilderness park."

The letter goes on to say, in part:

As a community, Laguna residents spent thousands of hours and $65 million to preserve our open space hillsides. Years of effort went into preserving the canyon, and our greenbelt is one of the most special things about living here.

Unfortunately, a building of this size would irreversibly alter the character of the canyon and would degrade the ridgeline views and rural ambience that form the long-treasured gateway to our town.

Laguna Canyon is a special place. So special, in fact, that when it was annexed into the city in 1988, a specific plan was formed to make sure that the unique resources and aesthetics of the canyon were preserved. That plan requires all development in Laguna Canyon to be small scale and rural and also consistent with surrounding land use.

Simply put, a 36-foot, 37,000-square-foot, 30-unit apartment building (of which eight units are proposed to be affordable) cannot be classified as small-scale, rural in nature or consistent with surrounding land use.

By approving this project, and thus disregarding the Laguna Canyon Annexation Specific Plan, the city would set a precedent for the large-scale urbanization of Laguna Canyon.

Hallie Jones

Executive director, Laguna Canyon Foundation

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Council should visit neighborhood

The Laguna Canyon Property Owners Association recently sent an open invitation to the Laguna Beach City Council to walk through our unique Laguna Canyon neighborhood before voting Tuesday on the artist live-work project.

Here are excerpts from the letter:

We are in favor of artist work-live uses in our neighborhood. We are opposed to the use of the artist work-live concept we've always supported being co-opted and used to promote a 30-unit apartment building and industrial work space.

This project and a proposed homeless shelter expansion, a proposed self-storage facility and the proposed parking garage for the Laguna College of Art and Design will have a reasonably foreseeable cumulative effect on the surrounding area.

To the council and developer we say, meet us half way. Take one floor off of the height of the proposed live-work project and cut the size in half.

This project would better fit inside the triangle of the Laguna College of Art and Design, Sawdust and Festival of Arts area. Even there it might be too big. But at least there the first apartment structure ever in Laguna Canyon would be close to town, within walking distance of stores and other services.

The proposed location is now a residence in a row of residences. It was not that long ago that one of those residences was converted to the Laguna Koi Ponds. That is our expectation for how development should proceed.

We want the same attention given to our concerns as was given to any of a number of other over-sized projects. And this project is truly oversized. This project is 36,000 square feet.

We want the council to understand our neighborhood, to walk our streets, look at the views we appreciate. Walk across our two bridges. Walk along Laguna Canyon Road from our South bridge to Philips Road and see that it's all houses and an animal hospital. If possible, walk at sunset and hear the native Pacific tree frogs in the creek.

Take note of the traffic patterns from Laguna Canyon Road into and out of Sun Valley Drive and imagine this same turn with 47 private vehicles and countless commercial vehicles accessing the project.

We can't just say we're a village. We have to act like it too.

John Albritton

John Hamil

Ken Lauer

Paulette Cullen

Laguna Canyon Property Owners Association officers

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City must be strong in preserving views

What am I missing?

I recently moved to Laguna Beach and admit to having no sonority in the adversarial subject of the view ordinance. However, in my current residence, it's clear (no pun intended) that our ocean view is significantly impaired by very tall growth.

What I'm missing is the benefit owners enjoy in their obstinate retention of trees — including bamboo — that are 40-, 50- and 60-feet tall and growing. Palm trees excepted, what is gained by growth well above the house height, specifically when it hurts others?

It certainly can't be privacy or additional shade. Granted, years and decades of neglect make lowering vegetation a formidable task. Bamboo can approach heights of 100 feet, standing tall in clusters virtually forever, for what purpose?

What is it that inhibits the owner's consideration of neighbors? I'm reluctant to believe it's arrogance or, as some suggest, wealth — somehow inferring that as being causal to the disregard of others. More likely, it borders on apathy, the result of prolonged procrastination.

Whatever the reason, the issue begs for resolution. One objective comment that I've read seems to ring true: If city government has the authority to control the myriad things we know it does, why on earth is it being so timid in addressing this issue?

Mike Gamerl

Laguna Beach

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Great guest at community garden

Kudos to Silia Hatzi and her recent "Scentsational" garden talk.

It was very educational, and I learned about all sorts of wonderful scented plants and flowers. I loved the seed packets souvenirs.

I encourage all of Laguna to stop by the South Laguna Community Garden at Virginia Way and Eagle Rock Way. It's "scentsational."

Suzi Scallon

Laguna Beach

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