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Proposed storage facility met with opposition

Students, residents speak out against plans for 97,000-square-foot building in Big Bend area of canyon.

April 10, 2014|By Bryce Alderton
  • A rendering of the proposed self-storage facility in Laguna Canyon.
A rendering of the proposed self-storage facility in… (Wallace Design…)

The prospect of a self-storage facility being built in Laguna Canyon took center stage at Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting, but the reception was less than welcoming.

Several residents and Laguna College of Art + Design students raised concerns — from safety and traffic to environmental and area compatibility — about developer Doug Simpson's plan to construct a three-story, 97,025-square-foot, 630-unit building in the Big Bend area.

The property at 2851 Laguna Canyon Road sits between the college's visual communication building and a habitat restoration area managed by the Laguna Canyon Foundation.

The purpose of the meeting was to give Simpson feedback. The commission did not take action.

Simpson, a Newport Beach resident who has developed office and self-storage facilities in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Costa Mesa, said Laguna Beach is a prime candidate. He said Laguna Self Storage, in Laguna Canyon north of Simpson's proposed project, doesn't supply enough storage space for the city.

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"Statistically, you need 5 square feet of storage space per capita," Simpson said. "Laguna Beach could use 120,000 square feet of storage."

The facility would be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, according to a city staff report.

No one would live on-site. An existing driveway used by LCAD would also serve people needing access to the storage facility.

Students said they are worried that the proposed self-storage facility — and its construction — would generate parking, traffic and safety problems.

"We walk to our cars when it's pitch black outside," first-year student Madelyn Foster said. "Construction workers are mostly always men.... I like to think the best of people, but my safety is a huge concern."

Foster added that art students have computers with expensive software, making them vulnerable to thieves.

Other students said they were lured to LCAD by Laguna Canyon's lush hillsides, trees and rock outcroppings and fear that the storage project would impinge on those natural features.

LCAD junior Katie Hendrickson said she collected 305 signatures of people opposed to the project.

"The proposed building does not stimulate, nor enrich, the community," Hendrickson said. "I came to school for the environment, and possibly I would leave school for lack of inspiration from the surrounding environment."

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