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Destruction and renewal on Skyline Drive

Focus turns to rebuilding after fire.

October 24, 2013|By Bryce Alderton
  • Local architect Morris Skenderian stands on one of the last properties that remain undeveloped and a reminder of the 1993 firestorm. Skenderian helped many people design new homes after the 1993 Laguna Beach fire.
Local architect Morris Skenderian stands on one of the… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

The 1993 Laguna Beach fire disintegrated Ken Frank's silverware and bowling ball and his sons lost their baseball card collections, trophies and gloves.

"[I lost] everything personal, but financially it turned out to be a windfall for me," said Frank, Laguna Beach's former city manager, who lost his Mystic Hills home in the firestorm that began Oct. 27 on unincorporated county land before moving west into areas such as Emerald Bay and Three Arch Bay.

Frank, now retired, was one of hundreds of residents whose houses burned to the ground.

"My situation was different," Frank said, acknowledging that he lost valuables but adding that his loss wasn't as devastating as others'. "I had recently gotten divorced, and my wife took more expensive items and left me with old furniture."

Frank, who had a son in high school then, stayed with a friend for a week before moving into an apartment on Cliff Drive.

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He also had a job, which helped him focus on other priorities and not dwell on the fire's effects.

"I had to get on with life, so that was probably good," Frank said. "I had a lot of friends who helped. They put me up for a week, bought furniture [for me]."

Multiple agencies cooperated to help displaced residents navigate the rebuilding process.

Frank had fire insurance and hired Morris Skenderian, a private architect in town, to design plans for his new Skyline Drive house.

Skenderian worked with several insurance companies and subcontractors to tally up clients' replacement costs for personal belongings.

"I was getting so many calls from people who were frantic, didn't know what to do," said Skenderian, who has conducted business in Laguna since 1972. "I had 50 people show up in my office a few days after the fire. We had an informal conversation about what it's like to lose your house and the devastation of the mementos and how tough that is.

"It was an opportunity to get to know who these people are and to understand what their loss was like. Ninety percent of them had never built a house before, nor had they known how they would recover damages from the insurance company.

"You have counseling sessions with husbands and wives, trying to make decisions they never had to make in their lives."

The claims process went relatively smoothly, and was more streamlined than in prior years, Skenderian said.

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