Artists’ Live/Work in Laguna Canyon

The construction of a 30-unit artists’ work/live facility on Laguna Canyon Road has survived an appeal to the City Council and then to the Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission added the requirement of an increased setback from the creek, restoration of the riparian area, and dedication of the restored area as open space. Village Laguna opposed the project because it violated the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan, which requires that development be small-scale and rural in character, and because it will place at least 30 new residents and their belongings at risk during the area’s inevitable floods.

Village Laguna’s letter to the Coastal Commission on the project:

The Specific Plan for the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area calls for “retaining the unique natural setting and rural atmosphere of the canyon,” and this project is urban—compressing at least 30 new residents into a single big building and introducing 47 additional cars to a quiet neighborhood of one-story single-family residences.

The Specific Plan calls for small-scale development, and this project is massive. There’s no way that this project can be considered neighborhood-compatible and in conformity with the Specific Plan.

Commission staff recognizes that the project isn’t small and would set a precedent for larger structures in Laguna Canyon but concludes that this doesn’t raise issues of neighborhood character. This conclusion overlooks the facts that 36 feet is the maximum height for any new building anywhere in the city and that the neighborhood has no multi-story or multifamily structures. The City’s design review process ordinarily gives substantial weight to residents’ input in determining what is consistent with the character of a particular neighborhood, but in this case the desire of Planning Commissioners and Council members to make life easier for at least a few local artists seems to have overridden the protests of residents and others.

More than this, the building is squarely in the floodplain. The idea of putting dozens of new residents and their work—some of it stored or displayed on the ground outdoors—in harm’s way flies in the face of the recent experience of this very neighborhood with Laguna Creek’s periodic floods.

This project is wrong for the canyon and wrong for the neighborhood. We hope that you’ll agree and send the applicant back to the drawing board to prepare a more neighborhood-compatible proposal.