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Orange County Focus

LAGUNA NIGUEL : War Rages Over Mall's Purple Hue

September 27, 1993|RICHARD CORE

"The Color Purple."

It may not be quite the story told by Alice Walker, but that's what some are calling the saga playing out here between the developer of a commercial center on the south edge of the city and surrounding residents.

The story's villain, as residents tell it, is Shea Business Properties, which is putting the finishing touches on the main portion of a 185,000-square-foot center called Ocean Ranch Village II. Shea, on the other hand, claims its intentions have been misread and vows it will emerge the hero when the final page is turned.

At the heart of the plot is the decoration Shea has chosen for its creation at the corner of Camino del Avion and The Street of the Golden Lantern.

The center, to open next month with a seven-screen movie theater, restaurants and retail outlets, is bedecked with a distinctive circle of 20-foot columns, a facade of bouquet canyon stone and a courtyard crowned with a metal water sculpture. And right in the middle of it all is a coat of deep purple paint on the movie theater's outside walls.

James Yoder, Shea's marketing and leasing manager, says the color--"Prairie Purple"--was chosen to complement the center's urban feel, draw out the violet tones in the bouquet canyon stone and set the center apart from all those other drab South Orange County strip malls.

"If you drive anywhere around here and look at all the shopping centers, they're all stucco and red-tile roofs," Yoder said. "We're trying to create something that is vibrant and different and aesthetically stimulating. We want something long-term that will enhance surrounding developments."

Residents like Rod Eide have been stimulated, all right, but not quite in the way Shea intended.

"We think that purple should get out of there," said Eide, who lives in the Bear Brand subdivision on the opposite side of Golden Lantern. "We don't like it. That color is going to make that place look trendy and cheap. . . . We have a classy corner over there. We don't want that place to be looking like Coney Island."

Eide and other residents have taken their complaints to the city Planning Commission and sent a petition to John Shea, president of the developer's parent company, begging for a change.

Four out of five Planning Commission members side with the residents. They don't like the purple, either. There's just one problem: They approved it. Sort of.

When Shea showed its plans to the commission in 1991, it called the purple on the wall an accent color. Commission members figured there was nothing wrong with a little purple here and there and said OK. Now they're aghast that the accent has turned into what they consider a dominant feature.

Commissioners have asked City Atty. Terry Dixon to investigate whether they have any power to dictate a change, but Dixon has given them little hope. So the commission has gone on record as "encouraging" Shea to find a more palatable color.

Shea says it won't change. But the company has agreed to check back with the commission before two other buildings proposed for the project are built and painted with the same color.

Yoder said his company is confident that when the entire project is complete, its neighbors will appreciate the color purple.

"We want to get this thing open and let people see the final product," Yoder said. "If there's still opposition at that time, then we'll have to take another look at it."

Eide, who compared the color scheme to the wild tones of the Tustin Marketplace, said there may be some hue and cry to come.

"We aren't just a bunch of malcontents with weird tastes," Eide said. "There are a lot of people in the county who don't like these colors."

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