Laguna College of Art & Design will add a second story atop an existing building to increase student housing.

The City Council approved on Tuesday a proposal to add six residential units with bedrooms of varying sizes to the student housing inventory. The council is required to vote on projects that exceed the normal height limit of 18 feet for one story in the Downtown Specific Plan area, of which the Civic Arts District is a part.

"[Projects] in the Civic Arts District can exceed the limit if certain findings are made," said John Montgomery, community development director.

"Those findings are: public benefit, such as LCAD student housing; minimizes massing; contributes to the diversity and building styles and heights; has a pedestrian orientation, village character and doesn't exceed 36 feet."

The proposed loft addition at 775-793 Laguna Canyon Road will be 24-feet, 1-inch at its highest point. It will be located in one of four commercial buildings primarily occupied by LCAD for student housing, exhibition and studio space.

Mark Orgill, owner of [seven degrees] in the canyon, was the applicant for the permits. Dee Mark Partners LLC is listed as the property owner.

Orgill thanked the council for its approval after a short hearing with no public opposition to the project.

The application had been unanimously recommended for council approval by the Planning Commission.

Commissioner Linda Dietrich said she had no problem with the addition because most of it was disguised by an existing second story.

However, at the beginning of the council meeting, Heritage Committee member Bonnie Hano railed against the notion of tampering with height limits, even for artists.

She was among the residents who successfully pushed for a 36-foot height limit to a recalcitrant council in the 1970s.

"Up until a couple of weeks ago I thought the 36-foot limit was sacred," Hano said. "But apparently it has disappeared into the ether. If 36 feet has disappeared, we should have been told."

Hano said the Planning Commission discussed a variety of height limits, including 48 feet, during a recent hearing on a revamped artist live-work ordinance.

She was incensed that one of the commissioners was absent for the hearing.

"Something this important should have been discussed by all five commissioners," she said.

Arnold Hano echoed her sentiments.

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