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Commentary: Help keep Laguna Canyon rural

January 02, 2014|By John Albritton

2013 is behind us. Memories of a city that prevented the overdevelopment of Laguna Canyon by the Irvine Co. are an even more distant memory.

But look out in 2014. The Laguna Beach Planning Department appears to be on the verge of approving the first of what could be several apartment/dormitory style multi-unit housing developments out here.

First up is the 30 unit artist live-work or work-live project next to the Laguna Koi Ponds — a good example of the small-scale rural feel projects of the past where a house was converted to a business.

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This 30-unit development will tear down the existing home and replace it with a massive structure with 47 parking places. The homeowner, who paid the going rate for two lots, has teamed up with an investor/developer group to foster this project which goes against everything we intended in our Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan — a plan the city promised to uphold and enforce.

The city even created and approved a new ordinance last year that seems specifically designed to circumnavigate and dismantle our 25-year-old specific plan. After hearings at City Hall and meetings we've had with the developer the plan is back up for approval with no concessions or compromise to our requests to make it smaller and downsize the proposal.

The Planning Department is acting as if this project will have no impact. We feel it should require an environmental impact report.

1. The project is alongside a natural earthen channel riparian habitat creek.

2. The 47 cars and trucks will forever change the traffic patterns on Laguna Canyon Road for the worse.

3. Our specific plan is being ignored.

4. The project is in a zone that is unsafe for multiple reasons: flood hazard, potential earthquake hazard and fire and landslides have impacted this area.

5. The project's residents will be exposed to traffic noise and air pollution from Laguna Canyon Road.

This project will be not be a warm and fuzzy artist community. It is an income-property proposal.

And our Laguna Canyon Property Owners Assn. officers are unanimously opposed to it as are a vast majority of the property owners and residents — owners and renters alike — of our neighborhood community.

Next up is the proposal for a 40-unit apartment for the homeless next to Bark Park.

Other nearby property owners are ready to follow with their proposals.

If you want to stop the first steps toward a widened Laguna Canyon Road (also proposed) lined with apartment buildings, please come voice your opinion at the Planning Commission meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers.

Please help us to save Laguna Canyon and keep Laguna Canyon rural.

JOHN ALBRITTON is the Laguna Canyon Property Owners Assn. president and Laguna Beach resident.

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