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Sculptor says his live-work project would benefit environment

The 30-unit development would include a way to capture storm runoff, maintains Louis Longi. Plans have been appealed to the City Council.

February 20, 2014|By Bryce Alderton
  • A portion of the Laguna Canyon creek behind sculptor Louis Longi's property where he wants to develop an artist live-work project.
A portion of the Laguna Canyon creek behind sculptor Louis… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

A proposed 30-unit, live-work space for artists in the canyon would provide environmental benefits, according to the sculptor who wants permission to build the development.

Louis Longi said his project would include a way to capture storm water runoff from Laguna Canyon Road before it reaches Laguna Canyon Creek, which borders the eastern edge of his property.

Plans call for several bioswales — ground depressions where water would gently seep into the soil and be filtered before it runs into the stream — surrounding the two, two-story buildings. The buildings would span 11,000 and 7,000 square feet, respectively.

Peer-reviewed studies from geologists, biologists and water-quality engineers — filed with the city — show that the project meets environmental and zoning requirements. Nevertheless, opposition has been strong from those who believe it will change the rural, low-density nature of canyon life and potentially add traffic and pollution.

The project's fate rests with the Laguna Beach City Council, which will vote to affirm or deny an appeal from John Albritton, president of the Laguna Canyon Property Owners Assn., at a future public hearing.

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The Planning Commission voted 3 to 2 in favor of the project Jan. 8, but the vote was appealed to the council.

Albritton, who has lived in the nearby Sun Valley neighborhood for 25 years, says the project would double the neighborhood's population and is in stark contrast to the specific plan that canyon residents drafted more than 20 years ago.

That plan, he explained, emphasizes that buildings and homes maintain the area's small-scale, rural character.

The two parcels, at 20412 and 20432 Laguna Canyon Road, respectively, sit near the Canyon Animal Hospital and Laguna Koi Ponds and are zoned for light industrial uses, including mixed live-work spaces. The proposed 36-foot buildings also meet the city's height and flood requirements.

Resident: Out of character with plan

Albritton said the development violates the intent of the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan.

"We consider light industrial as one [family] working out of a home," Albritton said. "This is exaggerated beyond anything allowed."

It was difficult for canyon residents to work out of their homes at the time the specific plan was written, thus allowances were made, Albritton said.

Longi said he purchased the property in 2008 from John Hamil, former owner of Canyon Animal Hospital, for $1.65 million.

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