Protect Historic Los Rios Neighborhood from 60,000 sf Mall

                                                                        Guest Column
                                                                           By Michael Laux

There is a proposal in front of the City Council to permanently change the fabric of the Los Rios Historic District. A developer is trying to build a mall with 60,000 sq ft of retail, office, restaurant, and drinking establishments on the nursery property located between Los Rios St and Paseo Adelanto. It will also include 300 parking spaces, with the accompanying traffic congestion, noise, and pollution. It will put dumpsters, delivery trucks, AC and refrigeration compressors, grease ducts, and swamp coolers in the backyards of a substantial number of the homes. It will exacerbate the Del Obispo traffic gridlock that we already experience on a daily basis. This is a project that does not belong in the oldest residential neighborhood in California.
Proposed mall in the historic Los Rios neighborhood located on the Nursery property would add 60,000 sf of retail, buildings up to 45’ high and 300 parking spaces. Del Obispo is at lower left of photo; train tracks and Los Rios street are at bottom right; creek channel is at upper left.

This is the only property in town zoned Low Density Commercial, which states: “Purpose and intent: To provide for low intensity commercial uses that reinforce the rural character of the Los Rios area and will not alter the existing topography. Such uses will require minimal, permanent structures, low lighting intensities, and will generate minimum traffic and parking demand. Principal uses permitted: Retail sales and storage of plants, trees, shrubs and other nursery items; farmers’ market items such as fruits and vegetables sold from temporary open air stands; arts and crafts display and sales; outdoor ceramics. Non-retail uses such as greenhouse, crop and tree farming, wholesale nursery. Park and recreational uses that are passive in nature such as picnicking, arts and crafts workshops, cultural performances, etc.”

It is zoned for a nursery, not a High Density retail mall… This project should have been stopped at the Building Department counter when it was first brought in for review, as it violates and disrespects the Los Rios Specific Plan in every way.
There is not one part of this project that complies with the result of years of hard work by the residents of SJC who crafted the Specific Plan. When this proposal was presented to the City Council, the Staff Report recommended a study to amend the Specific Plan. Instead, they should have been telling the developer to design something that fits the neighborhood and the current zoning. The staff seems to think the developer should be able to rewrite the rules.

When the council members were elected there was a slate of Reeve, Ferguson, and Patterson who all ran on a slow growth/no growth platform. Pam Patterson is the only one of those three who has remained true to their campaign. Recently elected, Sergio Farias is another one that has flipped on his positions, as he was totally opposed to this project before he was elected, and now he’s for it. He also abandoned his constituents on opposing the SDG&E sub station, which he now accepts. If this mall project gets Council approval, there will be a referendum and that decision will likely be overturned. Currently the only two that oppose this project are Brian Maryott and Pam Patterson, and we thank them for their support.

This neighborhood is sacred, and it needs to be treated as such. The tree lined streets, the historic homes, this oasis in a sea of development needs to be honored, not sold out.

Michael Laux lives with his wife Holly on Los Rios Street. He is a builder in Laguna Beach, and proud to be a Rotarian.


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Courtney Maas said...

I hate when historical areas are destroyed for the sake of building a horrible looking mall! As A writer for, I try to express the opinion of local society so that local government could act properly.

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