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Mailbag: Live-work building doesn't fit here

October 17, 2013

Excerpt from a letter to the Laguna Beach Planning Commission:

We would like to express our opposition to the proposed project at 20432 Laguna Canyon Road.

This parcel is at present a single-family home. We feel multiunit housing should be closer to Laguna College of Art and Design or in the village entrance and not in our rural neighborhood. This is not the place for a dorm or apartment building. Put it somewhere more densely populated with supporting infrastructure.

It's difficult to openly challenge the concept and benefit to the artist community. We're in favor of the live-work concept but not this density at this location. It can't be all in one place.

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This location and our neighborhood could support two or three units of artist live-work, and we feel our Specific Plan promotes the same. Our plan is a good one, and it is in jeopardy here. Thirty units would amount to a doubling of the population of our neighborhood.

Substantial financial backing shouldn't steamroll our neighborhood to alter its nature and threaten the preservation of its rural character. Our neighborhood's density shouldn't be determined by a bank loan officer. Other neighborhoods need to share the burden.

This one project threatens to single-handedly alter the goal of our Specific Plan. This is not how we defined M-1B light-industrial usages. Other developers will jump at the chance to line the canyon with high-density housing.

There is a sense of place we wish to preserve, and we ask you to be vigilant in helping us to maintain that, not the appearance of rural but an actual rural neighborhood — with horses, play structures, whimsical gardens, no streetlights, no sidewalks, low density, owner-occupied small businesses and no apartment complexes or cookie-cutter tract homes. This area was never intended to be zoned for multifamily use. The existing infrastructure won't support it.

We question how this got so far without someone, besides us, telling the developer, "Hey, this is too dense."

In essence, many artists are manufacturers with a kiln, foundry, tile cutting, curing ovens, paint and adhesives. This site is not zoned for manufacturing. Manufacturers are required to have ventilation and air filters and meet Air Quality Management District requirements as well as runoff and noise regulations.

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