Laguna resident Shaheen Sadeghi, founder and creator of The Lab, The Camp, the Anaheim Packing District and more, shares his favorite aspects of the OC, how to expand our cultural footprint and his take on the future landscape—from restaurant and retail industries to community living.
By Tess Hezlep and Laguna Beach Magazine Staff
Like the rest of us, Shaheen Sadeghi has spent a considerable portion of last year at home. He adapted to pandemic living by dining and unwinding in his north Laguna backyard, writing and making music and taking a lot of walks and bicycle rides in Crystal Cove.
Sadeghi moved to Orange County from Brooklyn, New York, in the 1970s, a place where he says “a neighborhood was a real neighborhood. People dropped in at my place [in Brooklyn] and hung out or stopped by for a casual dinner. Neighbors looked out for each other.
“It was the same way in Michigan where I grew up. I always joke how in Orange County, no neighbor has ever brought me a pie. But in other places, the local culture is different.”
His solution? “It would be great for communities to make more of an effort to connect, have a bonfire, share life and take care of each other. Everyone here lives behind gates
and in the isolation of big giant homes. It’s hard to create the love.”
Sadeghi believes that building a viable and abundant life has become impossible for the next generation due to a lack of affordability. “The old guard has a grip on creativity and responsible growth,” he says.
“The mentality that ‘I built mine, but you don’t get to build yours’ has to change. If this community grip loosened its binds, new generations of entrepreneurs would bolster our culture with new design, art and business ventures.”
Here, Sadeghi shares his thoughts on life in Orange County and beyond.
When the world isn’t in the midst of a pandemic, what are you doing?
Shaheen Sadeghi: [I’m] on a race to get to indigenous places around the world before Starbucks and international chains get there and the authentic culture is compromised.
What do you think good design helps to create?
SS: Love and quality of life. It should bring people happiness and inspiration. This is not limited to buildings, but to all aspects of our lives. It can be food or furniture or anything else that we live with, such as our iPhones. Why settle for mediocrity if it can be fantastic and make your life more joyful?
What is you favorite building?
SS: The Anaheim Packing House, which is now [listed] on the national registry.
If you could change something about Orange County, what would it be?
SS: [I’d] focus on diversity and creative freedom to combat our vanilla reputation. Years of overregulation and policy has had a significant impact on the quality of life here. Why can’t we have 50 restaurants on the beach and on the sand? Why do we have to go to Italy or Greece for this? The only place we can dine on the sand is owned by the county.
Our building codes and regulations are from the past and, therefore, obsolete, yet they have reshaped architecture and the way we shape the environment around us. The results have not only deprived people of simple enjoyments but have also given way to the notable monotony that has shaped
What do you think local leaders should do?
SS: Do a better job connecting our businesses and leaders together to create a greater impact in our communities. Each city [in OC] works in isolation, when we should all be one community in order to have more influence in Sacramento and better policy outcomes.
Post-COVID-19, what do you see happening?
SS: The integration of life and the way we live. Our home, work space and retail to business space will be one. There will be a consolidation of the traditional division and formats.
These changes will bring friends and family together and improve quality of life. There are many positive aspects about [this time during] COVID, and bringing people and families together is for sure a significant one.
What do you like about living in Laguna Beach?
SS: Laguna, for me, is the perfect place where community, art and culture meet. Of course, the beautiful topography and the undulating hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean make this a very special place. For me, it’s the jewel of Orange County.
What are some of your favorite places to visit in Laguna?
SS: My favorite things about Laguna are definitely the beaches and … Crystal Cove [State] Park. I cycle [at] Crystal Cove every day. I have driven by Crystal Cove for decades and I never get tired of it.
My favorite breakfast spot would be John [Secretan]’s cafe, Zinc. It’s been part of the Laguna Beach community for so many years. I do [also] love our farmers market on Saturdays.