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Planners OK live-work project

Commission votes 3-2 in favor of the 30-unit facility on Laguna Canyon Road.

January 09, 2014|By Bryce Alderton

Opponents have called a proposed 30-unit artist live-work project in Laguna Canyon many things in recent months: an encroachment on a neighborhood, a development too big for the site and a money-making operation.

After Wednesday night's Planning Commission vote on the matter, an additional term can be added: approved.

Commissioners, reflecting the dynamic of a community divided on the project, voted 3 to 2 for sculptor Louis Longi's project at 20412 and 20432 Laguna Canyon Road.

Commissioners Anne Johnson, Linda Dietrich and Ken Sadler cast yes votes. Chairman Robert Zur Schmiede and Norm Grossman dissented.

Wednesday's hearing was the third for the project in the last four months and the first since November, when commissioners held off voting.

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Nearby residents turned out in droves Wednesday to speak on the project, which includes buildings of 11,000 and 7,000 square feet, that will sit near Canyon Animal Hospital, Laguna Koi Ponds and the Sun Valley residential neighborhood.

Johnson summed up the breakdown of project opponents and proponents who spoke during the meeting's public comment portion: two-thirds to one-third, respectively.

The project can be appealed to the City Council by the applicant or property owners within 300 feet of the project property within 14 calendar days from Wednesday, according to the city's municipal code.

The project jibes with the elements in the canyon, Dietrich said.

"I continue to support the project," she said. "Aesthetic is in the eye of the beholder. The architecture echoes the feel of the mountains and the canyon using materials and angles of the shed and roof lines."

Sadler, a professional engineer who drives along Laguna Canyon regularly, envisions what could be in the place where stakes currently outline the project's dimensions.

"I understand the immediate neighbors' concerns [including traffic and what happens if Laguna Canyon Creek overflowed]... but have come to the conclusion this is going to be a positive project for the future of Laguna Beach," Sadler said.

"There are some competing policies and goals [with the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan], he said. "Yes it says rural atmosphere and rustic in nature and the case could be made [the project's] design and materials are rustic. Whether it's considered rural is debatable. [It's] hard to say it is [small scale]. It is not. Does that one part of this specific plan override all the other goals and policies?

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