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Design Review

By By Barbara Diamond | January 27, 2006
Changes mean more staff, new code of conduct to reduce contentiousness in development approval process.The City Council adopted a plan Tuesday that it hopes will make the development approval process less adversarial and contentious. A key change will be the elimination of de novo appeals -- in which decisions by the planning commission and design review board that are challenged are reviewed by the City Council as if never considered by another body. The matter was discussed at a lengthy Jan. 10 council hearing.
October 28, 2005
Win some, lose some. That's the message this week, with the refusal of the Coastal Commission to overturn city approvals of the "dip house," which will be built in a low-lying lot that residents say often has water running through it, and the City Council's rejection of a previously approved 8,000-square-foot-plus hillside residence. Why one project that was loudly criticized will be built, while another one that sailed through the design review board was assailed by the city manager as "against the city plan" is something of a mystery.
October 21, 2005
The City Council will meet with the design review task force and the design review board from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday to discuss the task force report, released Aug. 2, regarding recommended changes to the design review process. The task force report is available for review at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave., and on the city's website, Also on Saturday, the council will meet with the design review board for a lunchtime bus tour of the city, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a joint meeting of the council and the planning commission from 1 to 2:30 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., the council will review the proposed Village Entrance project.
June 18, 2004
Barbara Diamond The time has come once again to scrutinize the city's design-review process. "I've been in city government for 10 years and every couple of years we take a look at design review," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson. "Each time, it has gotten better, but as long as it is subjective, it's going to be difficult." The City Council voted 4-0, Councilwoman Toni Iseman was absent, to create a five-member task force to review the process -- hopefully to make it more peaceful.
By Steve Kawaratani | August 29, 2008
One of the pleasures of being a gardener is greeting fellow gardeners in town. From the Farmer’s Market to walking Buster and Blondie on the village streets, conversations invariably move directly to the latest control for thrips or exchanging lies on the quantity and quality of cucumbers harvested. It’s not that we’re struck solely by the lure of gardening — the lore is equally important. To escape from gardening for a moment, I decide to relax by sitting in at a Design Review hearing.
By Barbara Diamond | March 30, 2007
The City Council held freewheeling discussions with the planning commission and the design review board Saturday. Council members met jointly with the commission for 90 minutes in the morning, broke for a bus tour of new or renovated projects and reconvened for a 90-minute session with board members, also attended by representatives of the design review task force. Senior staff members participated. "It was one of the better joint meetings I have attended," said Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman, who stayed for the afternoon session.
By Anne Caenn | March 17, 2006
Village Laguna is very concerned that the normal process of city review has not been followed for the recent changes to the Laguna Beach Library. Projects that have gone to Design Review must return to Design Review for changes (Section 25.05.040 b.1.V.) Such changes include alterations to the color of the building and landscaping. Community Development Director John Montgomery was quoted in the Coastline Pilot as saying that the city does not have jurisdiction on the library project because it is a county-owned facility.
December 19, 2003
Andrew Edwards City Council voted Tuesday to approve stalled plans to build a residence in Irvine Cove that some neighbors worried would obstruct their ocean views. After considering comments from property owner Ron Loder, several neighbors, attorneys and architects, council members voted 3-1 in favor of Loder's request to appeal the Design Review Board's Nov. 6 decision. On that date the board voted unanimously to reject Loder's building plans.
August 19, 2005
MONDAY The City Council will meet at 9 a.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave. The arts commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave. The design review task force will meet at 6:30 p.m. in Conference Room A at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave. THURSDAY The board of adjustment/design review board will meet at 6 p.m. in the City...
August 12, 2005
Bette Anderson The current trend of building big houses on small lots may appeal to some property owners and to real estate speculators, but it is incompatible with the neighborhoods and village character of Laguna Beach. If not checked, such development will forever change our city's appearance and character. Proponents believe they should be able to do whatever they want with their land, but this is true only when their actions don't interfere with the rights of others or run contrary to the law. The problem in Laguna is that we have not had clear standards for development, and enforcement of the existing "rules" has been inconsistent.
By David Hansen | February 7, 2013
There are a few ramshackle stretches of Coast Highway in Laguna Beach cluttered with tired buildings and bad imagination. You become immune, driving by in a daze because there's nothing much to look at. But then you notice the curve. It's an organic, perfectly undulating S shape that takes your breath away. Located at 883 S. Coast Hwy., the building is the latest creation of Laguna architect Horst Noppenberger, and it will be the home to Obagi Skin Health Institute, set to open later this spring.
By Barbara Diamond | October 22, 2012
One seat on the Board of Adjustment/Design Review Board is still up for grabs. The City Council on Oct. 16 appointed Monica L. Simpson and Robin Zur Schmiede to the board for terms to start Feb. 1 and run through Jan. 31, 2015. Councilman Kelly Boyd has proposed delaying the appointments and extend the application period because two incumbents who had been expected to reapply didn't. However, the council voted 3 to 2, Boyd and Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson opposed, to proceed with the interviews.
By Joanna Clay | August 9, 2012
The first olive branch - or, in this case, a bamboo shoot - has been extended to a neighbor of a Bluebird Canyon home who hosts monthly sweat lodges. At a meeting last month, the Design Review Board voted 4-1 in favor of Andrew Soliz's sweat lodge on the 900 block of Meadowlark Drive, as long as he does more to shield the lodge from neighbors by expanding his bamboo hedge with additional shrubbery. Soliz, who lives with his wife, Carrie Woodburn, started the sweat lodge when he moved to town late last year.
By Barbara Diamond | May 3, 2012
The City Council agreed Tuesday to permit the demolition of a derelict cottage, overturning a Design Review Board denial and outraging some South Laguna residents. The council split 3-2, clearing the way for the cottage demolition at 31762 Coast Highway. South Coast Water District officials claimed the demolition was essential as part of its planned five-year, $50-million project to stabilize a sewer tunnel and pipeline replacement. It was the third demolition permit for structures on the city's historic inventory that has been opposed in recent months by South Laguna residents.
By Barbara Diamond | March 8, 2012
A well-scripted presentation failed to convince the City Council to overturn the Design Review Board's approval of the demolition of a ramshackle South Laguna house on the city's historic inventory. The council voted 3 to 1 to uphold the board's approval. Councilwoman Toni Iseman participated in the appeal and was barred from voting on the fate of the house known as "Stonehenge. " Both the vote by the board and the council were swayed by the testimony of two historians that the house no longer had the architectural integrity to make it eligible for the inventory, due to illegal demolition by a previous owner and subsequent deterioration.
By Barbara Diamond, | July 21, 2011
The Planning Commission wants to take on nonresidential design review duties in the South Laguna Village, commercial, industrial and institutional zones in town. On July 12 the City Council tabled a draft ordinance that would give the commission broader powers to get feedback from the Design Review Board, which reviews designs in those zones while the commission rules on use permits. "This came out of conversations at the Business Task Force meetings," Commissioner Anne Johnson said.
By Leslie LeBon | February 24, 2011
The Laguna Beach Design Review process has been a mystery to many residents for decades. Most have heard stories about various projects that went awry during Design Review hearings: projects taking years to get approved, neighbors ganging up on unsuspecting applicants, or applicants being told their dream house failed to meet certain criteria. Unfortunately, far too many of these stories are true. That said, what people don't hear enough about are the successful projects — those that are well-prepared and well-designed.
By Barbara Diamond, | August 19, 2010
The city acquired some downtown spaces for public parking and non-profits' event notices in exchange for some added height in a project underway at 580 Broadway at a site formerly owned by the Laguna Playhouse. A provision in the Downtown Specific Plan allows heights to exceed the plan limits in the Civic Arts District of the public benefits, such as parking, is offered. The additional height was requested by the developer of the building at 580 Broadway and approved Tuesday by the City Council.
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