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The Baltimore Sun

Mailbag: Let's fix canyon road before more lives lost

I know many hearts are broken over the loss of Laguna College of Art + Design student Nina Fitzpatrick, a pedestrian who died after being hit by a car in a crosswalk. But sympathy, while heartfelt, is little consolation for her friends and family.

I wish tragedy was not a prerequisite for learning how precious and fragile life is, but it seems we have a difficult time with this lesson.

If we as a community had learned this lesson, then a bridge might have been built for the student body. Or perhaps, short of a bridge, a proper street light might have been installed. Short of a proper street light, maybe a little extra signage would have helped, something indicating to drivers that they are entering a school zone, that students are crossing the street night and day.

But instead we installed this idiotic contraption, a crosswalk with flashing lights on the asphalt, which appears to confuse even well-intended drivers. We do not need to see the statistics to know that this contraption has never worked.

It doesn't prevent accidents. It doesn't prevent students from getting run over. It doesn't even facilitate a smooth flow of traffic. Rear-end collisions at this location are commonplace. Near misses, whether between cars or between cars and pedestrians, are accruing.

The pathetic truth of this matter is quite simple — the loss of life at this location was an expected outcome. Laguna Canyon Road is a nothing short of an engineering failure, and this tragedy is only another example of how poorly this road serves its users.

Unless we take responsibility and action, this horrific outcome will be repeated.

Mark Garry

Laguna Beach

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Unite to make road safer

Our family is devastated by the tragic death of Laguna College of Art + Design student Nina Fitzpatrick. Our prayers are with her family and the LCAD community coping with this tremendous loss.

Our son, a classmate, witnesses crashes often and continues to face personal hazard in getting to his classes. On our occasional visits to the community, we have found Laguna Canyon Road hazardous to drive and downright frightening as pedestrians.

In our city, we live near a university campus located on a state-governed roadway within city limits. Cars traveled too fast along this road and, for many years, we witnessed countless accidents. Our neighborhood council pleaded with state traffic engineers and elected officials to reduce car speed and improve safety.

Time after time, state and local officials patiently presented their traffic studies and smoothly articulated reasons for doing nothing.

Eventually, a well-liked member of our community was senselessly killed by a car traveling too fast on this roadway after a football game. The same traffic engineers and elected officials amazingly found ways to work together to get things done.

I am happy to report that it has made a huge difference in the quality of life around campus. Car speed is reduced at least 15 mph, and the safety enhancements installed make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate the road. The solutions were easy once everyone decided to solve the problem.

We ask that your regional traffic engineers and elected officials work together, right now, to solve the problems: cars traveling too fast and lack of safety enhancements for pedestrians and bicyclists. The technology is easy. The difficulty is deciding to work together to overcome the hurdle of inertia.

Lisa Hill and Terry Barker

Reno, Nev.

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Streamline view preservation enforcement

Laguna's famous and unique view sheds of the ocean, islands, hills and valleys are part of what makes living in the city a pleasure and adds dramatically to the value of homes and neighborhoods.

Sadly, for a very long time, these precious public- and private-view sheds have been destroyed by overgrown, non-native trees and shrubbery.

For more than 20 years, concerned residents have worked to create a fair, economical, effective, city-enforced view- and safety-preservation ordinance. However, certain elements in town have prevented the enactment of a needed ordinance with silly accusations, such as that all of the trees in Laguna will be cut down.

The result is that with each passing season, more view sheds are destroyed as the vegetation grows evermore destructive and dangerous. The people trying to save Laguna's once-beautiful open views have always maintained that the right tree in the right location is a blessing, but that the wrong tree in the wrong location is a disaster for public and private views.

In attempting to create a fair and effective ordinance, one of the big mistakes that the city and various committees make is allowing the involvement of expensive and biased arborists and mediators and getting wrapped up in all the administrative tasks, paperwork and related nonsense of which bureaucrats are so fond.

Anyone can take a quick look and see whether a view has been destroyed by overgrown vegetation. You don't have to be a specialist in anything to know the cure is to require that the vegetation owner be required to remove the portion that has destroyed the view. Very much like the longstanding weed abatement ordinance, if you allowed it to grow, you remove it or the city will do it and bill you.

View destruction, both public and private, should be treated like any other nuisance.

Dave Connell

Laguna Beach

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No big box at Big Bend

I would like to bring to notice a dire prospect faced by the community of Laguna Beach.

In regard to the proposed destruction of Big Bend greenery and construction of a three-story, 97,000-square-foot self-storage facility, this giant cement box could become the future welcome symbol into Laguna Beach unless we stop it now.

We must stop the box.

Laguna residents have spent countless hours and $65 million to preserve the open-space hillsides to create a special pathway into this land of art. The unique ambience would soon be replaced by tall, urban structures — swallowing the greenbelt, irreversibly altering the characteristics of the canyon and crushing the dreams of every individual who ventures to Laguna seeking sanctuary from the colossal gridlock of big box retail stores.

To preserve Big Bend, we must come together. The close-knit student community within Laguna Beach has begun petitioning to stop its destruction as well as the unnecessary conformity taking place in the canyon.

We stand in the belief that building a self-storage facility does not stimulate or enrich the community and does not preserve the rural features. Instead, it adds to the ever-engulfing urbanization along the coastline.

Katie Hendrickson

Student, Laguna College of Art + Design

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Live-work bound to cause traffic issues

A traffic alert was sent to me on Monday letting me know there was a traffic jam because the Montage Laguna Beach was trimming its trees.

Expect traffic delays until approximately 5 p.m., it warned me.

Less than a week ago at a City Council meeting, Councilman Kelly Boyd made a speech regarding complaints that building the artist live-work project in Laguna Canyon would cause traffic problems. Boyd compared these traffic complaints to similar ones aimed at the hotel, stating traffic problems do not arise because of the Montage Laguna Beach.

As you can see, the Montage causes traffic tie-ups once in a while. In front of the Montage is a four-lane highway. The artist live-work project would be off a two-lane road with a turn lane in the middle. The Montage has two exits with a traffic light at each. The artist live-work project would not have a traffic light.

I've tried heading to Albertson's and CVS in horrific traffic caused by events going on at the Montage. How the hotel's traffic can be compared to the traffic that this artist live-work project might generate is mind boggling. You can't compare a four-lane highway to a two-lane canyon road.

My mother was a Laguna Beach native and art director of the Pageant of the Masters in 1958. My grandmother and grandfather put out a local magazine, "The Racket," in the late 1920s and '30s, using block printing; they were also artists of Laguna Beach. My father did cartoons for the local papers, capturing Laguna Beach better than most cartoonists have.

My mother also fought for low-cost housing and civil rights in the 1960s, so I understand the need for an artist live-work here, but this project is massive. From what I understand, it will only have a few units at low-cost housing rates, as if there are only a few starving artists in Laguna Beach.

Liza Interlandi Stewart

Laguna Beach

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Live-work approval was short-sighted

Thanks to all who spoke out against the massive Longi project planned for the canyon. The testimony showed clear opposition to the size from all over town, despite statements that only a few neighbors objected.

We didn't ask for articulation or for rustic siding. All we asked for was downsizing. We heard no response to our position that by taking away one floor and reducing by half the project's density, that many objections would go away. We challenged those behind the project to offer any compromise.

The city should put its money where its mouth is and make it better — not lay the burden on the backs of the residents. There's no local bus out here, no picnic bench, no boardwalk to the beach.

Why wasn't the idea of funding to help create a compatible project explored further?

What about the suggestion of an environmental impact report so nothing is missed?

It's not our neighborhood's fault that only 12 work-live buildings have been approved in 12 years. But now we have to live with the consequences of the one that has been.

John Albritton

Laguna Beach

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