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Agency: House can be razed

The Coastal Commission weighs in on the historical significance of the home and decides remodels have destroyed its essence.

March 24, 2014|By Bryce Alderton
  • The Coastal Commission decided a property owner can demolish this rundown home on the city's historic inventory. It's located on Coast Highway, just south of Aliso Beach.
The Coastal Commission decided a property owner can demolish… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Property owner John Meehan can demolish a house on Coast Highway in Laguna Beach that has fallen into disrepair and build anew.

The California Coastal Commission sided with previous Design Review and City Council determinations that the single-family house at 31381 Coast Hwy., referred to as Stonehenge, had not maintained its historical integrity and unanimously denied an appeal by preservationist groups South Laguna Civic Assn. and Village Laguna at a hearing in Long Beach last week.

"[Commissioners] agreed with the position we've taken all along, that this house was not the house built in [the 1920s]," Meehan's attorney, Larry Nokes, said of the 12-0 vote.

Commissioners agreed with the agency staff's recommendation that the residence, which also includes a guest house, detached two-car garage and beach access stairs, has lost its architectural integrity and is not historically significant, the staff report said.

The house, listed on the city's historic inventory, endured several remodels through various owners before Meehan purchased the property in 2011, and no longer depicts the original structure, Nokes said.

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All that's currently left of the house are wood frames — inside furnishings and walls were illegally removed within the last five years. Police do not know who performed the unpermitted acts, though officers were called to the house 16 times since 2007 for reports of loud drumming and trespassing, Capt. Jason Kravetz wrote in an email.

South Laguna Civic Assn. and Village Laguna representatives claim the house, which they say was built by Guy Skidmore, who helped dedicate nearby West Street and Camel Point beaches, still has enduring qualities reminiscent of yesteryear.

"The steep pitched roof ... and chimney that appear in the 1920s photographs and that are characteristic of the period revival style in Laguna are still there," according to a March 10 letter from Bill Rihn and Ginger Osborne, presidents of South Laguna Civic Assn. and Village Laguna, respectively. "The form and shape, the framing and foundations of the house also correspond."

Members of the city's Heritage Committee said they were saddened by the Coastal Commission's vote, but not surprised.

"If people don't do what they're supposed to be doing to keep the historical character, there needs to be consequences," Heritage Committee member Anne Frank said.

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