Residents Oppose Self-Storage Development in Laguna Canyon, CA

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A proposed self-storage development in Laguna Canyon, Calif., faced opposition from Laguna College of Art + Design (LCAD) students and board members during an April 9 city planning-commission meeting designed to get feedback from community members. The proposal by Doug Simpson of Resco Development Inc. includes a three-story facility encompassing 97,025 square feet of storage space and 630 units. Opponents are concerned about a variety of issues, including potential traffic, the size of the facility and the environmental impact it would have on the Big Bend area.

It’s not the first time a development project in the region has faced opposition. A proposal for a 30-unit, artist live-work project recently came under fire, but was ultimately approved by the city council last week.

The proposed site at 2851 Laguna Canyon Road is between the LCAD’s visual-communication building and a habitat-restoration area managed by the Laguna Canyon Foundation. Students told planning-commission board members the facility and its construction would cause parking, traffic and safety problems. Katie Hendrickson, a LCAD junior, collected 305 signatures of people opposed to the project. She and other students told board members a draw to the campus is its outdoor environment, which includes trees, hills and wildlife. The development of a self-storage facility would take that away, she said.

Students are not the only ones voicing their opposition to the storage facility. Hallie Jones, executive director of Laguna Canyon Foundation, told the source while the foundation isn’t “anti-development” it did have concerns about the size of the proposed project. Jones said the Big Bend area is “one of the most biologically important areas in Laguna Beach.”

A city staff report also noted the scale of the project, saying it would be larger than existing facilities along Laguna Canyon Road. The report stated the project had the “potential to degrade the existing visual character and quality of the site and its surroundings, especially as viewed from the publicly owned parcel immediately adjacent to the site.” It suggested reducing the size, scale and height of the facility. The current development plan calls for a structure 36 feet tall with a saw-tooth roof line.

Although the property is currently zoned for light-industrial development, Commissioner Norm Grossman told Simpson during the meeting the size of the building should be reduced so it will “look like it belongs.”

Simpson, a Newport Beach, Calif., resident, has developed other California office and self-storage facilities in Costa Mesa, Irvine and Laguna Niguel. He told board members Laguna Beach is a good candidate for self-storage because there’s a demand for it. The next closest facility, Laguna Self Storage, which is north of the proposed project site, doesn’t meet the area’s storage needs, Simpson said. He told board members the area could easily accommodate another 120,000 square feet of storage space.

The proposed faciliyt would be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and would not have an onsite resident manager, according to a city staff report. An existing driveway used by the college would also access the storage facility. Simpson told board members he paid between $1 million and $2 million for the land, and construction would cost $9 million to $10 million.

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