More artists could be coming back to Laguna Beach as city leaders voted to move ahead with researching options for affordable housing for artists. 

Most of the council’s discussion at last Tuesday’s meeting focused on the city’s history as an art enclave in Orange County, and that due to rising property values in the city, many of the artists who once lived there were being pushed out. 

“For years, we have talked about this issue and taken no action,” said Councilman Mark Orgill, who brought the issue up for discussion along with Councilman Alex Rounaghi. 

“What we’re simply asking here is to research different models,” Orgill said at last Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Rounaghi called artists part of the city’s “infrastructure,” and said investing in them was essential for the city’s future. 

“If this project was going to be solved by a private citizen, that would’ve happened,” Rounaghi said. “These problems should’ve been addressed 25 years ago, but the second best time to do it is today.” 

City council members unanimously agreed the issue was worth examining, but pointed out that the city needed to find a way to make it sustainable. 

“The city can’t fund everything, that would get old very quickly,” said Councilman George Weiss. “There has to be a continued revenue source.” 

While council members directed staff to study the issue further along with Rounaghi and Orgill, council members had one idea that came up repeatedly on the dais: a public-private partnership. 

“I’m very interested in not just talking about this issue and studying it, but coming up with some actions to make it happen,” Rounaghi said. 

There’s no information yet on who that partnership might be with, and other ideas at the meeting included a potential land trust, philanthropy or leaving it entirely to the private sector. 

Orgill also brought up the idea of making it easier for developers to move forward with projects if they offer artist housing.

“I’m not insinuating this is something we’ll be able to run out and do tomorrow,” Orgill said. “It’s really just taking those studies a bit further and putting together some strategies so if the opportunity presents itself, we’re ready to jump in and do something.” 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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