A proposal to construct a roof deck on top of the recently reconstructed Heisler Building, across the street from the Hotel Laguna, was approved last summer. Village Laguna opposed the addition to a structure designated “historic.” 

Village Laguna’s Oct. 21, 2014, letter to the City Council reads as follows:

 The Secretary of the Interior’s standards are clear that a rooftop addition to a historic structure should not be highly visible from the street, and the historian’s approval of the project depends both on its not being visible and on its not being permanent. However, contemporary glass railings instead of something period-specific were chosen to reduce their visibility, implying that we’re going to be able to see the railings. The umbrellas are in fact going to be fixed in place, and a section of the roof is being removed. The steep roofs on the north and west sides of the building imply a complete highly pitched roof, and putting umbrellas behind them will emphasize the fact that the roofs are a kind of false front. The staff report says that the umbrellas and human activity will be visible from the street below and from the Main Beach, and our photos confirm it.

The project also blocks a significant view of Bird Rock from the parking structure behind it, where public events are held and visitors heading for the stairs may pause to take in the view. It compromises the privacy and peace of the guests in the hotel across the street. Finally, the fact that it requires raising the roof by 3.5 feet to give patrons a view while seated is a measure of its inconsistency with the historic character of the building.

The Mills Act, from which this property benefits financially, is designed to preserve historic buildings, and in our opinion this proposal will damage this building’s integrity. (Incidentally, when the ten-year maintenance plan for the property was created in 2010 it said that no additions or alterations were proposed.)

In addition, a variance to allow it can’t be justified. The circumstances of the two existing roof decks on the Coast Highway are different from the Heisler Building case:  the Hotel del Camino’s deck was part of the original building and the Mozambique’s building is not historic. ‘Enhancing the visual balance of the building,’ if anything like this could be demonstrated, is not a legal justification. The existing variances for roof height on the building all had to do with trying to recreate a historic structure. This one would allow a violation of the height limit to create something that was never there and to intensify the use of the building.

Village Laguna’s March 11, 2015 letter to the Planning Commission reads as follows:

We opposed the rooftop deck on the Heisler Building when it first came before you because of its inconsistency with the historic character of the building, its potential for blocking public ocean views, its effects on the peace and privacy of hotel guests across the street, and the lack of justification for the variance it required. Intensifying the use by adding another 20 seats will only make things worse, and we hope that you won't allow it.

Sincerely,  Johanna Felder, President, Village Laguna