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Hansen: Live-work naysayers, back off

March 20, 2014|By David Hansen
  • A supporter signs a petition Friday at the live-work event hosted by artist Louis Longi, who is gathering signatures before a City Council vote on April 1.
A supporter signs a petition Friday at the live-work event… (David Hansen, Coastline…)

It resembled a midterm election rally in the old Boom Boom Room: red balloons, smooth jazz, refreshments and heavy-duty political talk.

But instead of election maps on the walls, there was art.

Artist Louis Longi invited people to an event March 14 to gather signatures supporting his live-work project in Laguna Canyon. The issue is supposed to go before the City Council on April 1.

What started last year as a routine 30-unit live-work housing proposal has turned into a heated battle, pitting some neighbors against Longi. A few have complained about potential traffic, the building's size and compatibility with the surrounding environment.

As a result, Longi and architect Horst Noppenberger have made some adjustments, which satisfied the Planning Commission. Nevertheless, debate continues, including rather nasty letters to local media.

It's become a common refrain in Laguna Beach. If you don't like something — even if it abides by the rules — squeak that wheel loud enough until the City Council cries uncle.

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In most cases, it's not hard to do.

"The council members are saying, 'Make sure you have more numbers than the squeaky wheels,'" Longi said. "That's crazy. The squeaky wheels are the same squeaky wheels every single time. Let's call them out."

Longi admits that he's in a difficult position with the council because his vote is coming up. He doesn't want to say anything to jeopardize his standing.

But this is not how projects should fall into place. Longi has played by the rules. It's his land and a good use for the zoning.

What's interesting to me is that the opponents are using the "rural" card, saying the project is out of character for the canyon.

Have you been in the canyon lately?

Let's ignore for a minute the fake cow rugs that are sold on the site during the weekends like a bad swap meet.

The few residences nearby include imposing fortresses — literally. One compound has 8-foot-high solid walls surrounding the entire property.

Right next to Longi's land is every sort of business you can imagine: commercial koi ponds, a landscaper, a small apartment, a barking-dog ranch, a Hindu temple and an animal hospital.

But wait, there's more.

Just a couple hundred yards down the road, there's Laguna Self Storage, a massive, nearly 50,000-square-foot block of concrete.

While all of these businesses are fine, useful establishments, this is not some quaint, "rural" Laguna Beach with apple harvest tours and pony rides.

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