As I look out of my windows, I see rows and rows of enormous homes. They are beautiful and unique in their own way. These homes were built by individuals who had the means to make substantial improvements. Time after time, all of the small cottages in my neighborhood were sold, torn down and new homes were constructed, taking advantage of every square inch of the lot. I lived in what felt like a war zone due to the noise and construction. My views have been blocked, the light which is so important to living has changed dramatically as I now live in a tunnel under the towering neighbors’ homes. Our streetscape has been completely altered. I accepted this. Every property owner had the right to enjoy their land, their space. We live in an old, small cottage of 1000 square feet that I first rented in the early 1960’s and few years later bought. When I acquired it, this tiny cottage was completely neglected and the entire lot was covered with huge trees, shrubs and vines* Over the next five decades with very limited funds we rescued this cottage. Sure, the cottage looks quaint from the street, almost doll house sized, but let me tell you what you would discover if it were yours. Its walls are paper thin. I hear every noise and conversation from my surrounding neighbors and the nearby streets. The floors shake when we walk. It is not sturdy. Termites love to live in it too. I doubt that any of you would want to live in it. You would tear it down as quickly as all of my neighbors have done in the past. So, why should I, someone who rescued this little place with hard work and no money, someone who did not have the means to remodel my home like everyone else in my neighborhood—be forced to live like this in perpetuity? My adult children now have the means to help us, but suddenly our plans of living as octogenarians in a home that we always had hoped to have are being dismantled due to the city of Laguna Beach desiring for us to be the one museum for the world to view on our street. One cannot say that this cottage any longer contributes to the neighborhood because the streetscape has been entirely altered. Let me reiterate, this museum of a cottage is nothing any of you would ever purchase and live in considering its current state. You too would only purchase it if you could start over. Hence, the proposed non voluntary historic preservation ordinance would brand my cottage not fit to be sold. IS THAT FAIR? I suspect we all know the answer to that question.
Written by Barbara Smith and presented at the March 15, 2017 Planning Commission Meeting as a public comment