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Mailbag: Live-work project could improve look of canyon

My father was visiting me from Texas for the first time since I moved to California.

I decided to drive down Laguna Canyon Road to show him the artists' areas such as the Sawdust Art Festival and Pageant of the Masters.

His comment as we were near the proposed artist live-work site was, "It's a dump." He pointed out the many ugly buildings, old unkempt houses and undeveloped abandoned-looking properties along the road.

Laguna Canyon Road is home to a lot of eyesores, and it's time to add fresh, new and well-thought-out buildings along the road to the village. The artists' work-live buildings will be beautiful.

We will be proud to point out the site to visitors and brag about how artists live and work there as a community. The size and scale do fit the area, on the two parcels of land zoned for this type of structure. The design and landscaping will be good for the community.

It's time to support a development that will enhance the area, that is beautiful and functional and works for the community of artists and for Laguna Beach.

Stacy Santiesteban

Newport Beach

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A noble idea but the wrong project

I am a long-time resident and artist living in the canyon along Laguna Canyon Road. I know how hard it is for artists to find housing let alone work space in this "artists colony."

The canyon has always been home to artists because of its affordability and creative spirit. But I cannot support this live-work project proposed for the Louis Longi property.

In reality, it only has eight affordable units and for that small number the Planning Commission was willing to set aside the neighborhood's specific plan.

Since when has our city become more concerned about a developer's bottom line than enforcing a neighborhood's specific plan? That's really scary.

Visualize 30 units (eight affordable) in buildings perhaps as high as three stories, not to mention parking for 47 cars. Oh, and let's not forget the lighting that these structures will require and it's effect on the Canyon Road and the adjacent neighbors.

Now does that sound like something that belongs in this rustic and charming area? I think not.

Regumbah Connolly

Laguna Beach

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Live-work building supports artist heritage

I support the proposed artist live-work project in Laguna Canyon.

The project's plans show this is not a "giant apartment building," but a number of 400- to 600-square-feet studios with roughly one-third of the space dedicated to living and two-thirds to work areas.

It is built above the flood plain as it has to be to protect the lives and health of the residents. With NOAA predicting the return of El Nino conditions in 2015-16, it would not surprise me at all if some Canyon residents didn't end up finding refuge with their neighbors in the new building.

When the City Council enacted the live-work ordinance, it saw the need to promote housing and work space for local artists. I applaud their efforts because it is a proactive approach to encouraging the arts in Laguna Beach.

Over the years, constant vigilance has been needed to protect the town's artistic heritage from erosion — for example, the high school teams are no longer "Artists" but "Breakers," and the city had to fight two horrible battles to keep the Laguna Art Museum and the Pageant of the Masters in town.

The proposed project is a great way for the community to promote its artistic heritage and the arts in a positive way instead of fighting a rearguard action to prevent our art and artists from leaving town.

The Canyon is a dynamic place. From the Sycamore Flats Christmas Happening to the Church of Religious Science/Rajneesh Meditation Center to the horse corrals that used to wash the stinky horse poo out to Main Beach, the Canyon has always been a place that evolved, yet has always been fiercely conservative in a liberal sort of way.

There was the same type of concern when the Boys and Girls Club moved from Main Beach to its present location, and that project has worked out pretty well. The live-work project's plans look good to me; in fact, I think they look pretty cool.

Without intentionally marginalizing the genuine angst and concern of Laguna Canyon's Sun Valley Drive residents, I think this project will be a benefit to the city as a whole and the Canyon in particular. The Council should approve this project — it's a great benefit to the city.

Carter A. Mudge

Laguna Beach

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Live-work will support the artist vibe

My connection to Laguna Beach goes back to the 1970s when I absorbed copious amounts of green paint in the service of the Pageant of the Masters posing as a statue from Gettysburg.

Later in that decade, my UC Irvine girlfriend introduced me to the splendors of life on Cliff Drive and, still later, burnished with a teaching credential, I spent a year coaching swimming and water polo and teaching part time at Laguna Beach High School while waiting for a coveted full-time position that never quite materialized in the local school district.

I recall fondly the distinctive mascot of the high school — the Artists. Perfect! I thought then, was there any other place in the whole United States — even world — so enlightened as to refer to themselves as artists?

What, I wondered, must people infer about a town whose children aspire to be artists rather than bears, falcons, wolverines and various other rapacious creatures, most of which don't even exist in Southern California.

Given the lack of local teaching opportunities, I soon moved on and honed my teaching skills with the Capistrano Unified School District. After more than 30 years there. I nevertheless look admiringly on each generation of LBHS Artists (Breakers now), outsized but still stubbornly fighting to hold onto their precarious identity in a world full of bears and falcons.

I believe this to be an apt analogy given my understanding of the state of affairs with regard to a beautifully designed and articulated work-live facility designed for, of all things, artists, right there in the canyon and within walking distance to various art venues, including the place where I slathered on all that green paint so many years ago.

I am not one who believes in change for change's sake. In fact, I am a bit of a Luddite and have managed to survive to the present time without the benefit of a cell phone. I have to be convinced that the advantages of something new will outweigh the disadvantages that come with the change.

On the other hand, as a teacher and coach, the most important quality I can bring to a classroom or a team is vision. I need to see students not as they are now, but as the striving and successful individuals they surely will be in the future as we work each day to make small improvements.

With this thought in mind, I urge the city of Laguna Beach and the City Council to remain vigilant in their vision, to make art paramount, to keep a vision of artists and the art of vision as a defining statement for this fair city.

Let other locales wallow in their mediocrity. Let them have their bears and more bears, tigers and more tigers. I say, stay stubborn Laguna and keep the Artists by keeping the artists in Laguna. Save Laguna for the artists and the artists will save Laguna. That's the vision. Only now, give them a place to live and work in the canyon.

Gary Keene

Mission Viejo

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